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With Singapore announcing more places eligible for the vaccinated travel lane in mid-October, Italy is going to enjoy an influx of tourists from East Asia. Milan definitely deserves more than a day to experience everything that it has to offer, but sometimes your budget or travel itinerary doesn’t permit it. Hence, here’s my 24 hours in Milan travel guide, detailing everything you need to see, do and snack on and make the most of your day there!
Getting into Milan
The biggest city in Northern Italy is home to three airports: Malpensa (MXP), Bergamo (BGY) and Linate (LIN). Most of the international flights arrive in Malpensa, while Bergamo and Linate serve low-cost carriers and regional flights and few international flights.
From Malpensa Airport
The distance between Malpensa Airport to Milan is 42km. It’ll take you approximately 30-60 minutes to get there by your chosen mode of transportation as detailed below.
There are two routes to choose from – Malpensa Express and the local Trenitalia. Both trains take you directly from the airport to Milano Centrale, Cadorna or Milan Porta Garibaldi, the stations in the city centre. They run every 30 minutes and the cost for a one-way ticket is around €13.
Autostradale is a permanent bus service that connects the Malpensa Airport to Milano Centrale. It’s a good alternative when you want to secure a seat for yourself and not worry about transferring trains. Buses leave every 20 minutes and the journey will take about 1 hour to reach the city centre. One-way ticket costs €8 or €14 if you buy a return ticket.
As the airport is pretty far away from the city centre, a taxi ride wouldn’t be cheap. Taxis charge a fixed price of €95 to get to your hotel in the city, and the journey takes about 50 minutes, barring any traffic.
From Bergamo Airport
There are no train stations in Bergamo Airport, therefore buses are the most convenient and cheapest way to get to the city centre.
During my trip to Milan, we arrived at Bergamo Airport and took the Orio Shuttle, direct to Milano Centrale. The stations are located right outside the terminal and are not quite sheltered from the weather. Our ticket cost €10 and it was a smooth 1-hour journey from the airport to the city centre. I would recommend that you book the tickets beforehand as the queues for the bus can be really long and priority was given to those who purchased their tickets online.
Things to do in 24 hours in Milan
Duomo Di Milano (Nearest station: Duomo)
The icon of Milan is an obvious must-see when you’re in the city. It has been named the largest church in Italy, second largest in Europe and third largest in the world. I mean, it did take 6 centuries to build the cathedral, so it deserves all the accolades it can get. Plus, if you squint, you can spot the golden statue of the Virgin Mary, La Maddonina perched regally on the top of the cathedral. It doesn’t cost a thing to walk around the perimeter of the building and take beautiful photos on a sunny day, but if you’d like to go into the cathedral, roam around the rooftops and explore the museum, skip the queues and purchase the tickets here! Trust me, it’s worth pre-booking as the lines to get in were snaking long.
If you’d like some refreshments while marvelling at the Duomo, grab a seat at the surrounding cafes and bars. We went to Obicá Mozarella Bar on the top floor of the Rinascente Milano Duomo for cheese platters and refreshing cold drinks.. and a great view of the Duomo that was under construction at the time.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Nearest station: Duomo)
If you’re facing the Duomo, on the left is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Completed in 1877, it is the oldest shopping arcade in Italy and probably one of the oldest shopping malls in the world. It houses the most luxurious brands like Prada, Louis Vuitton and I mean, two Gucci megastores – one for the ladies and the other for men. It’s a total luxury shoppers’ paradise there. I was privileged to gift myself a Gucci Velvet Marmont when I went the first time, however, recently, I just walked around and soaked in the atmosphere with a Savini Gelato in one hand and balancing a pizza from Spontini on the other.
Teatro alla Scala and the Leonardo Da Vinci Statue (Nearest station: Duomo)
The Teatro La Scala is a world-class venue for Opera and Ballet, and scoring a ticket to see a performance in the historical theatre would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Unfortunately, nothing was showing while we were there, but if we went in mid-October, there’ll be a showing of Macbeth. I’d love to slip into my best dress and squeeze my toes into my finest heels to watch Lady Macbeth work her charms with her husband on his way to be King.
Right in the piazza sandwiched in between Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II and Teatro alla Scala is where a marble statue of the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci looms over his four disciples. His famous artworks include the Last Supper (currently in Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan) and Mona Lisa (The Lourve, Paris).
Bonus Attraction: L.O.V.E. (Nearest station: Cordusio)
The mother of all middle fingers is located right here in Milan. L.O.V.E. stands for Libertà, Odio, Vendetta, Eternità (Freedom, Hate, Vengeance, Eternity). Created in 2010, the sculpture is in the form of a human hand with all the fingers except for the middle one chopped off. The artist never revealed the meaning of the artwork, so it’s up to the interpretation of the people. It is though, erected right in front of the Italian Stock Exchange building.
Sforzesco Castle and Arco Della Pace
Built in the 15th Century by Milan Renaissance Lords, the moated castle now houses a museum and elaborate art collections. The distinctive Torre del Filarete stands at a whopping 70-metre tall and can be seen from all over Milan. You can take a nice, free walk around the castle courtyards, or go for a tour of the historical castle and then through the Porta Semione to see the Arco Della Pace, or the Arch of Peace – one of the many city gates into Milan.
By now you’re probably in need of a break and looking for a place to sit and chill. During the day, the Navigli area would be a place to escape the chaos of Milan City. Walk down the canal, soak in the sun and explore the little independent shops that lined the alley. I scored 2 beautiful vintage dresses for €20 at a nearby store. However, after 5 pm, the sleepy neighbourhood will transform into the local’s to-go place for aperitivo. Aperitivo is an Italian local’s way of winding down after a long day at work. Order a drink, and enjoy complimentary bowls of snacks (chips, olives, vegetable sticks etc.). Some places offer an aperitivo buffet where you pay €10 for a drink and all-you-can-eat hot and cold bites that could probably substitute dinner (not recommended).
Tips to explore Milan in 24 hours
1. Book your tickets in advance
From bus/train tickets to attractions, booking them in advance saves you a lot of time, money and effort. You can skip past the snaking long queues and spend more time in the attractions themselves. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, we booked the tickets for our bus from the airport to the city online and got on easily, leaving a queue of people waiting for an available seat.
We would recommend the Milan City Pass, if you’d like free admissions to attractions, or just the 24-hours in Milan travel pass (€4.60) for ease of getting around the city. The 24-hour travel pass works from when you validate it i.e. if you bought the ticket at 10 am and validate it today at 1.30 pm, it will be valid till 1.30 pm the next day. You can easily purchase the 24-hour travel pass at the ticket machine in the train stations.
2. Plan your trip wisely
You only have 24 hours in Milan, and there’s just so much to do, so many things to eat! You’ll have to pick a few and plan your day around them. It’s not unusual to have a plan and get sidetracked later on, maybe you found something more worthwhile to do! The idea is to have a few places in mind, plan your route and just enjoy yourself!
3. Use Google Maps to get around + pack your charger
Truth be told, I don’t remember what it was like when data roaming was expensive and we had no smartphones to depend on for directions. Google Maps are godsent and I’ve used it extensively during my travels. So far, it rarely failed me, but do have alternative maps handy just in case Google Maps refuse to work. And yes, while smartphones are reliable, their batteries are not quite so. Do remember to pack your portable charger, just in case your phone dies halfway during the day. Oh, and do check out my packing lists for carry-ons and COVID travel.
4. Dress appropriately – wear comfortable shoes
People in Milan are super trendy. Think thigh-high boots (it’s early autumn in October), made-up faces and perfect hair. I explored Milan on the first day in my travelling attire (jumper, sweat pants.. sans make-up) and felt rather out of place. After a good sleep and a shower, I was refreshed and ready to take on the city… in my Nikes. You’ll be walking a lot, so I am not sure if boots and heels are the most practical. I have yet to master the art of walking in heels on cobbled streets. However, if your boots are super comfy, why not?
Most places don’t usually require a dress code unless you’re headed to a show at the Opera house. But when visiting the inside of churches and cathedrals, it’s best to have something in your bag to cover up if you’re wearing something cute, sexy and.. erm, summer-friendly.
5. Post-COVID travel: Have your documents handy
Travelling during a pandemic means wearing masks, and having your digital vaccination certificate handy. Every EU resident who has been fully vaccinated were issued a COVID-19 Green Pass. This Green Pass is required to enter many establishments in Italy, and those without it will be turned away. Even dining in at McDonald’s requires a Green Pass. At the time of writing, travellers from Singapore are anticipating a vaccinated travel lane (VTL) into Italy in mid-October. So, my fellow Singaporeans, keep your vaccination certificates (both digital and physical) with you at all times when you travel.
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