by Júlia Miranda
Sometimes we find ourselves with the opportunity to explore a city… for a few hours only. This is the article for you.
Let me preface by saying this is not your ultimate guide, filled with cultural references and rich in all things Milan. This is an article for those of you who have a few hours to kill and no idea of what to do in the biggest city of northern Italy.
Some of my friends and I drove to spend a day in Milan to shop and enjoy the nice weather. I will be sharing with you our itinerary, sparing you of the boring details and just focusing of the highlights of what was a pretty ideal day - short’n’sweet!
Firsts things first, coffee.
This was our first stop of the day and also the only thing we did separately as a group. Two of us were really excited to visit the Starbucks Reserve location while the other two were not so keen on a chain coffee shop when there’s a nice little Italian cafe in every other corner. Whatever your preference is, I respect it, but let me just tell you how beautiful this new Starbucks was. I had never been to one of Starbucks’ Reserve locations, but this place truly blew my mind. Not only is it a coffee shop, but it is also a bakery, gift shop, and most impressively, a roastery. They actually have huge machinery, that looks more like an art installation, grinding and roasting coffee right in front of the public. When you first walk into this beautiful historic building there’s staff that greets you at the door - for a moment there I felt like I was entering an exclusive club where had to have my name on the list to get in. Then you step foot, and wow. I must say I was not expecting it to be as grand as it was.
Forget anything you think you know about coffee or Starbucks beverages. This is the place to experiment and the options are pretty wild: I’m talking sparkling coffee, lattes infused with liquid nitrogen, flavour combinations like cold brew with blood orange, to name a few. The options were so overwhelmingly interesting that between the two of us we got four coffee drinks in an attempt to try as many as possible, but also because we were indecisive and a tad fearful of missing out on the options available. And I will tell you right now, I have no regrets.
The beverages were really tasty and different, and we spent little time in line given we went there in the morning. But I must confess that the star of the show was the croissant I got at the counter. For this venture, Starbucks partnered up with Princi, an internationally renowned, Italian bakery. And oh-my-lord-was-this-croissant-delicious! It was the best croissant I had since I was last living in Paris and eating at my local boulangerie. The croissant impressed me so much that later on the day I went to another Princi bakery to attempt (to no success) buying a second one of the day.
Shortly after coffee we met up with the others and started hitting the shops. The first find I need to share was this little vintage shop off Foro Buonaparte, called Madame Pauline Vintage. This is not the place to go for a cheap thrift find. This is where you go when you have been invited to an award show, a movie premiere, or a wedding and you need to find the perfect & unique dress for the occasion. The selection is quite small and every piece is truly one of a kind, with the exception of some small accessories. When you first walk in it’s a burst of colour and an abundance of materials and textures that really require your time to go through each and every piece. The selection varies from very well known designers to nameless tags. The prices are not low but, again, this is a very special little boutique. If you actually go here looking for a special occasion dress, check the rails in the back of the shop and get ready to be amazed.
As we continued walking, we entered a street called Corso Garibaldi in the neighborhood Brera. If you only have a couple of hours in Milan, this is the street I recommend you visit, especially if it’s a sunny day like the one we had. What first seemed like a small little street turned out to be a long road of boutiques, cute cafes, and restaurants. The first place we entered was called Surplus, a small shop with a very talkative & well-traveled owner who will most certainly ask you where you’re from and strike a conversation of just about anything. In front of the shop, you find all basic apparel for a very reasonable price and good fabric. In the back is where you find the vintage section, organized by color & category. Prices weren’t the lowest, but it was very reminiscent of your average vintage shop, worth taking a look for that unexpected find.
We continued walking down the street only to find more restaurants than I could ever try, all very aesthetically pleasing and Instagram worthy. However, before stopping to eat, we had a mission: go to the Patagonia shop.
If you like Patagonia or you just happened to be in the area, I recommend visiting their store. From the street, it seems very tiny, not what I expected from their solo Milan shop. However, as you enter you quickly realize looks are deceiving, and when you think you’ve seen the entire shop keep going to the back, past the cashier to find this beautiful open concept space with a glass roof that welcomes the sunshine. It’s pretty grand, and unexpected from a seemingly boutique front. Inside you will find everything you can expect from Patagonia: sustainable clothing, traveling gear, sports apparel, plus a bunch of books that cover topics that align with the brand’s message. If you have never heard of Patagonia before, which I strongly doubt, I recommend you check them out. Great brand, with great values worthy of our support.
It was now lunchtime, and after walking by all the amazing restaurants, we had seen it was time to pick one for our much-deserved lunch break. What we did not anticipate was the lunchtime rush hour that descended on Corso Garibaldi where every restaurant we entered was packed with a waiting list - especially for those whose criteria was outdoor sitting. Turns out when it’s sunny out everyone wants to sit outside. After much deliberation and many backs and forth my friends opted to grab some food at Princi, which just so happened to have a location on Corso Garibaldi. I, on the other hand, decided to wait a little longer and then grab some tacos from a tiny little bar/restaurant down the street called Agua Sancta.I got two taco options🌮, shrimps & lime and Jamaican flower accompanied by a mezcal margarita. After eating and drinking, we were set (and a little buzzed) to carry on with our day.
Did someone say #food?
One the friends in our group had never seen the Duomo, so she kindly requested that to be inserted in our itinerary. This is perfect for those of you who have never been to Milan before. Yes, Piazza di Duomo is always jam-packed with tourists and at times insufferable to walk by, but there is a reason it will always be a must-see stop recommended by everyone. The Duomo truly is a landmark worth looking at, and right next to it there’s the Galleria Vittoro Emanuelle II, which is the oldest active mall in Milan. It is just as tourist-filled as the piazza, but also very beautiful to see. We did not have time this day, but if you do, inside the Galleria there’s the Fondazione Prada Osservatorio, which is a small extension of their large museum located outside the city.
The required tourists stops.
The last supper
Earlier in the day when we were trying to find a lunch spot, the place we wanted to go to was booked. So while we were eating tacos, we decided to call the restaurant and book it for dinner, just to make sure we would have a table this time. Yes, I know, Temakinho is a chain (gasp!) but don’t write it off just yet. This Brazilian-Japanese fusion restaurant has a few locations around the city, and we went to the Milan Magenta one which is not very far from our first option in Brera. The service was impeccable, the food was delicious, and the prices were very reasonable. One thing that I really like it when restaurants give you a jar of tap water and keep on refilling it without you having to ask at all. If you want to eat traditional sushi don’t go here, it is very experimental, and they violate a lot of most conventional Japanese dishes. I personally recommend the dish Rio Bananal, which is a banana & shrimp roll that blew my mind, and the passion fruit smoothie. The ambiance was very lively, and this was certainly the best ending to our short trip.
I truly hope this article inspires some of you to go visit Milan even if it’s just for a day. This city has so many amazing things to offer that I will most likely be doing a couple more articles in this fashion to cover all the places I have yet to discover (any excuse to keep coming back to Milan!). Hopefully, this was helpful for anyone who needed some guidance!