With so many historic and beautiful cities in Italy, is a trip to Milan worth it? My answer is absolutely! Here’s why, and how to make the most of a two day visit.
Milan isn’t just a big city, and it’s not only for shopping. Mind you, not that there’s anything wrong with shopping. If you want to experience the best upscale shopping in Italy, Milan should most certainly be on your itinerary! But that’s not what this article is about. This is about how to turn two days in Milan into an experience you’ll never forget! When planning my trip to Milan, I was a little overwhelmed at first. Where should we stay, how do we plan out our visit, and what else is there to do besides see Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper fresco? Here are the answers to those questions, and how to plan a perfect visit to Milan.
How to get around
Do NOT rent a car in Milan. You don’t need it. The public transportation system in Milan is clean, efficient, and easy to navigate! You can buy single ride tickets, as well as 24 or 72 hour tickets that cover all Milan public transportation. You can also buy a 1,2 or 3 day Milan City Pass, which includes all public transportation as well as discounts on museums and other attractions in the city. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks or cashiers inside metro stations. For more detailed ticket prices, see their official website.
* Children up to 10 years old ride all public transportation in Milan for free!
Most flights into Milan arrive at Malpensa Airport, which is about 50 kilometers from the city center. That being said, there are two very easy ways to get from the airport to the central train station.
1. Take the Malpensa Express Train, which runs between the airport and Milan central train station from 4:00 am to midnight every 30 minutes. The train takes about 50 minutes and stops at both terminals. Tickets from Milano Centrale to Malpensa Airport cost 13€ and can be purchased on their official website, or on the Trenitalia app. Keep in mind that there can be occasional strikes that affect this train line. I know because this happened to us while we were there. We had purchased train tickets in advance and did not find out that the train to the airport was canceled until we got to the train station. Luckily we had given ourselves room for error and had time to catch the bus instead.
2. Take the Malpensa Express Bus that runs between the airport and Milan central train station. The bus also runs every 30 minutes from 4:00 am to midnight. Tickets cost 10€ and the ride takes about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. You can buy tickets directly from the bus driver or online in advance.
Where to stay
My advice is to stay near the Duomo. We walked all around this area and felt very safe the entire time. The Duomo is right next to Milano Centrale train station, as well as the Duomo Metro stop. We also loved staying near the Duomo because we were able to walk almost everywhere we wanted to go. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele shopping arcade is right next to the Duomo and there are great restaurant choices, whether you want to eat somewhere on one of the main streets or wander into a nearby neighborhood. We did a little of both and were happy with all of our choices.
There are a multitude of hotel, bed & breakfast, and AirBnb options all within a few blocks of the Duomo that range in price and quality. Hotels in this area are a little pricier than other parts of town, but you are paying for the convenience, and the location can’t be beat! We chose the Hotel Rio, a moderately priced small hotel half a block from the Duomo and loved it. There are many other options in the area to accommodate your taste and budget, I always use booking.com because it’s easy, you can get reduced and “mobile-only” rates when you build up your booking genius level, and their customer service in my experience can’t be beat.
How to plan your visit
Morning: “The Last Supper”
You can not visit Milan without viewing one of the western world’s most recognizable and influential works of art. The 15th-century mural painting by Leonardo da Vinci can be found in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and it’s truly remarkable. The angles, perspective and light in the work are testaments to da Vinci’s genius. And it’s actually a miracle that it even still exists! The world’s most famous painting has survived over 500 years of deterioration, as well as damage to the monastery due to reconstruction, occupation by Napoleon’s troops, and bombing during World War II.
The number one thing you should know about seeing The Last Supper is to buy your tickets in advance. If you risk waiting until you arrive in Milan, you may leave the city without seeing the most famous fresco in the world! Or you may end up with a ticket time that isn’t ideal or doesn’t fit your schedule. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Last Supper.
Buy your tickets in advance on their official website.
There’s a metro stop just a few blocks away. If you’re coming from the Duomo, take the red Metro line in the direction of Rho Fieramilano and get off at the Conciliazione stop. From there it’s an easy walk down Via Giovanni Boccaccio and a right turn on Via Fratelli Ruffini.
Arrive at the ticket office 15 minutes before your visit to check in.
There are no bags allowed inside, but they do have lockers you can rent.
You’ll have 15 minutes inside to see the painting. Make sure you take time to see the fresco at the opposite end of the room as well!
Time your visit so you can also go inside the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie next door. They are closed from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday, from 1:00 until 5:45 on Saturday and from 12:30 to 5:45 on Sunday. If you want to have time to see the church before these times, be sure to schedule your Last Supper tickets in the morning.
There are several nice locations for a quick lunch right here. Bar Ruffini on Via Fratelli Ruffini, and Caffe Le Grazie in the Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie. Grab a couple of panini, an Aperol spritz and/or an espresso and head on to your afternoon destination!
Afternoon: Castello Sforzesco and Fontana di Piazza Castello
The Sforzesco Castle is just a 10 minute walk from the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. This is a beautiful walk because it gives you a chance to admire some of Milan’s gorgeous architecture along the way. The Sforzesco Castle looks like something straight out of the middle ages! It was originally built in1368 by the Visconti family, then rebuilt in 1450 by the Sforza family, who ruled Milan from 1450 to 1535.