8 lesser-known sights of Milan you need to visit
If Italy is the land of dream destinations, then Milan is surely its capital; the fair city boasts all the religious history of Rome, all the fashions of Paris, and the bustling metropolis feel of London, all in one convenient package.
But instead of sticking to the tourist paths that lead straight to Duomo di Milano or the Sforza Castle, head off the beaten path for a visit away from the crowds and deep into Milanese history.
While it’s not Eiffel, the Torre Branca is a great place to take in the Milano sights. Built in 1933 in just two months—take that Alexandre Gustave Eiffel—you can take the lift all the way to the top (another bonus!) and get a beautiful 360 degree view of the city from Parco Sempione. If you get lucky and have a clear day, you can see the Alps, the Apennines and even the Po Valley from this bird’s eye panorama.
Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Celso
Chiesa di Santa Maria has one of the earliest examples of Renaissance art and architecture in Milan, and for religious junkies, history buffs and art fanatics, this is a church to check out. It’s a Milanese favorite, and has a bit of legend to go along with its most famous painting of the Virgin Mary. According to local tales, newlyweds from the area offer their floral bouquets as a request for a happy, long marriage. But for those who aren’t moved by the Virgin Mary’s purported powers, the church has recently gone under extensive renovation and the beauty of the dome has been restored to its former glory, so if you have an afternoon to spend gazing, I suggest taking a trip here.
If you’re into a relaxing afternoon, grab a picnic and head to the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli for a nice walk and even nicer ice cream. This park is where a lot of locals bring their dogs for the afternoon and it also has lots of play areas for the kids so if you’re on a family vacation, bring them here to let them run around and get some of their energy out. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also take part in horse drawn chariot rides, but it’s also perfectly fine to pick a place in the sun and cloud gaze the day away.
At one time, Milan was linked much like Venice and while most of the canals are now gone, the old historic Navigli still sports the ancient waterways and provides an amazing view, clubs, cafes, and plenty of vintage shopping. Definitely the king of the art scene, don’t be surprised to see writers, artists, and students lounging around having an espresso, it’s a hipster chill out area. And for fans of Da Vinci, you can head over to the Science and Technology National Museum to check out the inventions of the genius himself.
How can you even think about going to Italy without taking in some of the residential finery? High fashion at affordable prices is what awaits you at Via Torino, and even if you’re not planning on taking home a new wardrobe, this street is perfect for window shopping and people watching. While it may not be packed with the big designers, it is home to local fashion favorites and ingenues. Once you’ve been laden down with bags, take a break at the nearby park or grab a coffee at one of the many cafes; here it’s certainly a full day affair and you’ll need the extra caffeine!
If you’re a foodie fan, you definitely want to check out this cafe that’s got a mention on the Michelin Guide. With a garden and outdoor seating al fresco, La Brisa the perfect place to enjoy risotto, fresh fish, or their specialty, Iberian suckling pig. Take note of the extensive wine list and be sure to keep going back to taste their seasonal menu which changes every month.
Maybe you like lake vistas and maybe you’re just dying to catch a glimpse of George Clooney, either way, visiting the Lombardy lake district is a perfect day trip, or even weekend getaway from your city vacation. Lago Maggiore has long been the home to wealthy Italians seeking a reprieve from the city and Stresa is a beautiful town along the lake and mountains that begs for evening strolls and glasses of wine on the terrace as the sun goes down. For fans of the fairytale, head to Isola Bella to check out the Borromeo Palace, or for those who really are out to catch a celebrity sighting, Lago di Como boasts some gorgeous views and the opportunity to experience is all far from shore by boat.
For guides on how to get the most out of the lakes, download the TripAdvisor app to get to the best places when there are so many to choose from.
Take in the streets
It’s not a particular monument, it’s true, but with Milan, any wanderings down a cobblestone alley is an occasion to pop out your camera for a photo op or sit down for an espresso and a glass of water. Between endless Messi jerseys to open-face fresh flower shops that beg you to grab a bouquet, the true beauty in Milan’s neighborhoods is just the local flavor of the people who live there and there’s no better way to experience that than to shake off the tourist traps and to following your wanderlust down a lamp lit street.
Any suggestions on where I should head on my next Milanese adventure? Leave your favorites and comments just below!