Milan City Profile Part 1

CityProfile: Milan, Part 1

Milan is a city I learned to love only recently. In 2002 I was sent there for my first assignment as a first year associate: the due diligence of a large corporation. Needless to say, the long hours and the fear of messing up made me quite insensitive to the charm of this northern city. I was (and still am) a Rome kind of gal, keen of ancient ruins, cobblestone streets, colorful buildings and carbonara. Only after many years I discovered Milan through many friends I made there or who moved north from my hometown. So this city profile (the first after a long hiatus) is a little different: I have interviewed my Milanesi (adoptive or not) and asked them to give me their recommendations. Let’s start with a category that is near and dear to my heart…Milan seen through the eyes of an attorney. But before we begin, let’s talk about the basics, where to stay and how to get to Milan.

How to get to there & Where to stay in Milan

I travel to Milan on business mostly but over the years I have tested accommodations and airlines and found what I think are best. Even if Alitalia/Delta and American Airlines take you from New York to Milan, my favorite airline to go across the pond is Emirates. They started flying from New York to Milan last year and I have flown Emirates quite often, it is a great experience even if you are in coach! The aircrafts are new and very well maintained and the personnel at check in and on the plane is very helpful and even cheerful (unlike the disgruntled employees of a certain Italian Airline I won’t mention).

Accommodation can be tricky in Milan if you are going to visit during fashion week. Yes it’s great to walk around this charming city and see models all over but hotel room prices skyrocket in a market that is not exactly cheap to begin with. So my suggestion is to visit Milan when the fashion week and all the related trade shows are over. Depending on the budget finding a hotel is not that difficult nowadays. I usually stay at  Hotel De La Ville, in Via Hoepli, or The Gray, both just 5 minutes from my Milan office in Via Manzoni, or at Grand Hotel Rosa in Piazza Fontana. They are both very close to the Duomo, the large gothic cathedral you probably see in every postcard, and of course to the shopping mecca of Via Montenapoleone. For a more conservative budget I would suggest NH Hotel President, centrally located and a little more inexpensive. What I would not recommend it one of the hotels recently opened by fashion brands. While they are undeniably cool, they are usually very crowded for their aperitivo and thus not suitable if you (like me) get a bit jet-lagged. And who would sleep with people constantly chatting and laughing outside your window?

And now… sit down and enjoy the best part of the cityprofile, i.e. the city seen through the eyes of a local or in this case tow adoptive locals who have only their profession in common. For an interactive map of their picks, click here.

Where to Eat for a Business Lunch in Milan?

I asked my friend Anthony Mascarenhas Jr. a New York expat working in Milan to suggest some cool restaurants for a business lunch. For a formal meeting of closing celebration he swears by the Trussardi Alla Scala Restaurant, inside the famed Scala Theatre, and for a less formal lunch meeting he recommends Caffe’ Trussardi, in the same area. For clients who are not as centrally located he recommends Bruno Ristorante next to Porta Venezia.

One of my favorite lunch places is Refetorio Simplicitas, a delightful restaurant 5 minutes away from my Milan office. It features a very local and seasonal menu and it is really an oasis in an otherwise hectic area. What I like the post, together with the ambiance and the impeccable service is that the menu changes every day and the chef uses the highest quality of ingredients but with moderate prices. It’s a perfect place to catch up with coworkers I usually only see few times a year!

Where to go for Aperitivo?

Stefano Ricciardi and I went to the same high school, in Salerno, and even after Stefano graduated, leaving me as the sole music-loving nerd in school, we always had common friends and ways to stay in touch (Hello Facebook!). So I asked this rock and roll attorney to give me a list of his favorite spots and he was all to happy to oblige. Here are Stefano’s picks for a great Aperitivo.

Terrazze Martini, is a great aperitivo spot. While it may be a little overprices, you truly can’t beat the view. The same applies for the Top Floor at La Rinascente, a wonderful view that is worth the somewhat overprices drinks. For a real Milano experience I would recommend Da Claudio, where the local seafood lovers go for aperitivo and also for quick lunches. If you do go to Da Claudio you really can’t miss their “crudos” and tartare offerings as they are super fresh and flavorful. For the wine lovers I would suggest another Milanese Institution, Cantine Isola. Don’t go there is you are looking for a mixed drink, but if you are looking for a great selection of wines and delicious bites, this is the place for you. If you prefer sparkling wines, El Buscia is the perfect place: you’ll only find sparkling wines, a very large selection of prosecco, spumante and champagne, with a refined but fun atmosphere. One of the trendiest places for aperitivo is N’Ombra De Vin, with a nice and bohemian location in Brera and also some good dishes. Last but not least my favorite aperitivo place is I Chiostri di San Barnaba, the cloisters of a Convent next to Santa Maria della Pace Church that were transformed into a real gem of a restaurant. Beautiful in the winter but really perfect in the spring and summer, this restaurant is refined and charming but you don’t feel like you are in Milan at all (which, in most cases is VERY relaxing)!”

Best Dinner Spots in Milan

Stefano, also shared his 3 favorite dinner spots in Milan.

Fioraio Bianchi, is one of the most famous restaurants in Milan and for several reasons: It is expensive but the food is perfectly cooked and the atmosphere and decore are very refined. If you are planning a romantic dinner, this would be my ultimate pick. Another Milan institution is Al Garghet an excellent restaurant that is perfect for the warm season as the garden has a great atmosphere. The restaurant features traditional Lombardy fare so if you are looking for a cotoletta or gnocco fritto (savory fried dough), in a beautiful setting this is your place.  Finally I love Pizzeria Sibilla, a very democratic pizzeria. Why democratic, you may ask? Well for one you eat at a communal table and brush elbows with people you’ve never seen before, secondly the pizza and other dishes are tasty but well priced.”

What to do in Milan (other than shopping)

Milan is filled with history and art so visiting a museum or an art gallery is always an option (more on that later). Shopping is an option too but why not take advantage of the many parks the city has to offer? Like New York, Milan is very green: Stefano suggests a stroll in Parco Sempione or Giardini di Porta Venezia. If you are missing your CitiBike, you can rent a bike in Milan too. In fact Milan was on the forefront of the “biking-around-town” revolution so the best way to visit the city center and the bohemian Navigli area is by bike.

Next week we’ll have a power couple taking over the Milan city profile and give us their favorite picks.