Sure, you know you should eat all the pizza you can get your hands on, enjoy an aperitivo at the city’s best bars and shop until you literally drop, but there’s much more to Milan than what your average travel guide tells you. So if you visit Milan for your next business trip check this tips to fit into the local culture!
No need to leave extra
If you don’t want to look like a clueless tourist, don’t worry about adding any tip onto your meals. Hourly wages for servers are higher than in the U.S., so gratuities are not expected – giving you more dough to use for things like that extra Aperol spritz.
Never order a cappuccino after lunch
Italians are convinced that drinking anything with milk after the morning will hamper digestion. So, to blend in, be sure to order that cappuccino (or other coffee drinks with milk, see below for more on that) only before 11am, or risk looking like a foreign fool.
If you want a coffee with milk, make sure you order a cappuccino (more foam) or caffé latte (less foam), a caffé macchiato (espresso with a little milk), or a latte macchiato (hot milk with a little coffee) instead of just a “latte” – or you’ll only get a glass of milk. If you just want an espresso, order “un caffé” to avoid strange looks.
Head away from the Duomo at night
Though several of the major sights you’ll want to see will be around the Duomo area, for a cooler nightlife experience, venture out to some of the more local haunts in such neighbourhoods as Isola, Porta Venezia or Navigli. You’ll get away from some of the tourists, save money and likely have more fun.
Watch out for Salone
Though arriving during the Milan Furniture Fair, called Salone del Mobile – which runs for six days in mid-April – can be super fun as there are loads of parties and events happening, the city becomes super crowded and expensive. Hotels jack up their prices to stratospheric levels and get booked up months in advance. Ditto during Milan Fashion Week. Unless you’re a diehard furniture design fan, it may be a better idea to visit at a time when the city’s a bit more relaxed.
Visit museums for free
On the first Sunday of each month, all of Milan’s civic museums – including Museo del Novecento, Sforza Castle museums, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Casa Museo Boschi di Stefano and MUDEC, among others – offer free admission. Though they tend to be more crowded then, it’s still a good chance to squeeze in some more culture without spending a cent.
Go to La Scala on the cheap
Even if you’re not a huge opera-lover, catching a performance at Teatro alla Scala is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The problem is, not only are tickets super-pricey, but they sell out months and months in advance. However, if you visit the box office an hour before a show starts, any leftover or returned tickets are sold at a 25% discount – perhaps not cheap-cheap, but definitely worth the splurge.
Enjoy an aperitivo
No visit to Milan is complete without partaking in the pre-dinner (or instead-of-dinner) tradition of aperitivo: basically cocktails served with all manner of free nibbles, often a buffet with enough food to constitute a meal. Though the Navigli neighbourhood is home to many bars offering aperitivo, you’ll find it served throughout the city – so go ahead, sample a few different kinds.
Embrace discount fashion
Yes, many of the clothes, shoes and accessories on sale in Milan are through-the-roof expensive – after all, this is the home of Prada and Versace. But if you just can’t bear to visit this fashion town without a purchase, head over to DMAGAZINE outlet. You’ll find three locations showcasing discounted Italian and international luxury brands, so perhaps you can head home with those Miu Miu boots you’ve been eyeing after all.
Try a Negroni sbagliato
While a classic Negroni – gin, Campari and sweet vermouth – is always a good idea, when in Milan don’t miss the change to sample a Negroni sbagliato, literally a Negroni “mistake.” It was born at Bar Basso in the ‘70s when a bartender added sparkling wine to a Negroni instead of gin, and you can still try it there (amongst other places).
Travel by tram
Though many of Milan’s trams have been modernised, for a unique experience, the ATMosfera lets you ride a 1930s tram on a sightseeing trip through the city while enjoying a multicourse dinner with wine. It’s a very romantic way to catch a glimpse of Milan’s past inside while peering at the city’s present right outside the windows.
Buy a RicaricaMI card
If you’re in Milan for more than a few days and want to be environmentally conscious, instead of purchasing paper tickets for the city’s public transportation system (the metro, buses and trams), go ahead and get a RicaricaMI card. Like London’s Oystercard, there’s a small initial fee (€2.50), but then you can top up the card as you go along. You can buy it at ATM Points, located inside the metro stations.
Wear your snazziest shoes
The Milanese take their footwear very seriously. Women may want to bring a pair or two of high heels to wear out at night – or even during the day, if they dare. (You’ll see plenty of locals traipsing effortlessly along the cobblestones wearing stilettos.) Men can often get away with cool sneakers. If you happen to catch the locals checking out your shoes, you’ve probably done well.