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Milan and nearby places

acidboy

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me and the wife got free business class tickets to Milan, which we'll probably be using next spring. but she's egging me to plan the trip this early. we'll probably be staying there a week or so. any suggestions on where to stay, what to do, traps to avoid?
 

mauser

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There are lots of great places nearby, say within an hour's or an hour and a half's reach of Milan. Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, Lake Orta (the village of Orta San Giulio is especially nice), Lugano on the Swiss side, Bergamo, Bologna, even Genova's pretty close. Very easy to do day trips. If you go to the lakes, a car is mandatory but the larger cities are easily reached by the train. It can get pretty jammed on Italian roads though.

In Milan shopping's quite nice, and it's great to just wander around and also break off from the center of the city. I am not familiar with the top end restaurants but have found the mid-range Trattoria Milanese very nice on a few occasions there (plus it's frequented by locals - not touristy at all). Al Bazar is worth the hype and the little detour it takes to get there.

I'd say, if you have a week's time, use max 3-4 days in Milan and do a little day-tripping for the rest of your time.
 

foodguy

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i've never been a huge fan of milan, but i spent a week at lake como last spring and really loved it. gorgeous area, north and mountainous but still italian (as opposed to trento, friuli, etc., which seem more austrian). in the opposite direction (south of garda), i have some friends who have a very fine restaurant: dal pescatore. worth a splurge.
 

globetrotter

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bologna. Milan is nice, but bologna is the heart of Italy. or at least the heart of northern Italy, or, at least, the belly of northern Italy. but great food no tourists.
 

countdemoney

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I spent a weekend there about a year ago. I quite liked it. I would agree that the midrange places tend to be very good - the two I visited were excellent. I didn't research any of the restaurants, just walked until I found a place that looked like it might be good. Milan can get quite warm. So if you're going to do something like visit the Duomo (a marble church that takes up a city block), you should try to do it when you won't be baking in the sun - unless you enjoy that sort of thing.

I got lost a few times on all the twisty streets, and didn't get to spend as much time in the fashion district as I would have liked. The parts of the fashion district I did get to see, I enjoyed.

I didn't get to do the lakes, but they sure looked great going by.

Hope you have a great trip!
 

acidboy

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Thanks guys... Keep the help and suggestions coming, really appreciate it. Specially the non touristy stuff.. Btw.. Would you recommend getting a car to go around? How hard is it for a tourist who can't speak eye-talian to maneuver the streets and countryside?
 
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Gus

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I really like Milan. But a couple of days will do it. To me, the city has a lot of urban style and energy. We have stayed several times in the area within walking distance of the Duomo. Every day we would just take off in different directions and explored various neighborhoods.

If you head over to the Duomo, a nice way to see it is to skip past the crowds in the center and head directly to the 7th floor rooftop outdoor restaurant at this department store http://www.rinascente.it/foodandrestaurants/. They have a deluxe food court inside, a sushi bar, etc , but what you want is the outside terrace to enjoy the view, a nice bottle of wine and some good food.

When shopping in Milan, we would ask someone at a nice store where they recommend. We would tell them we wanted someplace for a relaxing lunch and some good wine. They would always send us to their favorite little white table cloth place around the corner. They seemed to take pride in offering such an important recommendation. It was quite nice.

When over in the fashion section be sure and stop in the Grand Hotel for coffee or a drink. http://www.grandhoteletdemilan.it/themes/emotion/eng/index.php#

Here are also a few other assorted ideas. http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/travel/36-hours-in-milan.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Take Globetrotters advice and head to Bologna after a few days in Milan. It isn't far by train. This ancient city also houses the oldest university in the world so there is a great mix of classic Italian style and a youthful vibe. I loved walking around, looking in the small shops and seeing the city. We took a food tour (set up through our hotel) and went around the countryside to visit cheese, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and wine makers. That was a fun way to see beyond the city. I don't know if you can get a bad meal in Bologna.

And some assorted ideas for things to do in Bologna http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/travel/36-hours-in-bologna.html?pagewanted=all

In both cities, take time to enjoy a long, relaxing lunch each day. They do a really good job pampering you.
 

chobochobo

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Just back from Italy with a couple of days in Milan as the last stop. From previous visits - go to see the Last supper but reserve your place beforehand, go up the Duomo roof for a superb view. You could spend a few days relaxing around Lake Como but make sure it'll be a warm time of year. I've not been to Bologna yet but that's on the list for next time.

Had a nice meal at Degli Orti; repeat meal at Abele Temperanza was a touch disappointing. Excellent gelato at Massimo. Went a bit mad buying stuff in Peck; nice pistachio gelato too.

We had decent luck asking people in shops etc for their recommendations. Stayed in AirBnB places and all were pretty decent.
 

globetrotter

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one other thing - visit the train station. as a matter of fact, go to the duomo, and walk to the train station, or vice versa. the last supper is on the way, and the duke's castle is just off the path.
 

foodguy

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yeah, that train station is really cool. and there's a hotel right around the corner i stayed at once ... can't remember the name, but it had painted putti on the ceiling in the bathroom. also, surprised nobody's mentioned it, but the galleria is a pretty cool building, too. as for driving ... if you can avoid it in the cities, do. it's cool when you're in the countryside or on the autostrada, but the cities are pretty nightmarish ... lots of winding roads and the street markers are embedded in the walls at varying heights, very hard to spot when you're lost (ask me how i know). parking can be a nightmare as well. i think the closest my wife and i have ever come to divorce was driving into some small city ... bologna? parma? parked our car in the garage and didn't get back in until we left. did eat very well, i do remember that.
 

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