3 Days in Milan and Lake Como

First of all, you have to know that we are Italy lovers, and we try to visit the country once or sometimes twice a year. We love the food, the architecture, the atmosphere, and we never get tired of it.

On our 2018 summer vacation, we decided to visit new regions such as Liguria with Cinque Terre and Emilia-Romagna with the cities of Parma and Bologna.

When we began to plan our 3-week trip, we added more stops including Milan to get to Lake Como and Florence. That means we were about to cross four regions including Lombardy and Tuscany.

Let's start with our three days in Milan with a day trip to Lake Como.


HOW TO GET TO MILAN?

Going to Milan from Paris is not a big deal and the price is usually cheap because the city is less touristy than Rome, Venice or Florence. We booked our flights in May for a trip planned from July 26th to August 9th. Air France airline offered the cheapest price, 290 euros per person. Not expensive at all for this period.

When we arrived at Malpensa airport, we took the Malpensa Express to Milano Centrale, the best and cheapest way to get to Milan. A one-way ticket costs only 13 euros and the trip lasts 50 minutes. It's very easy to buy a ticket at the train station. Trains in Italy are very clean and it's really pleasant to use them.

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EXPLORING THE EXCELSIOR GALLIA AND THE WESTIN HOTELS

During this long trip, we had some collaborations with hotels, that means we had content to produce for them.

First, we stayed for two nights at the gorgeous and historical Excelsior Gallia, built in 1932. The building is monumental and its facade is amazing. It reopened in 2017 after a few years of renovation. Perfectly located nearby the Central train station, you can enjoy this gigantic and magnificent structure from the top floor where the bar and restaurant are settled. The view really increases the appeal of the hotel.

The Excelsior Gallia, is, of course, a five-star hotel and it is part of the Luxury Collection. It has a spacious lobby and an impressive 25-meter Art Deco Murano glass installation fixed above the grand staircase.

We loved how they perfectly blended the Belle Epoque in the architectural style of this old building with contemporary Italian design interiors.

We were spoiled with a gorgeous and comfortable room with a view of the Central station. It was spacious, including a sofa, a king-size bed, and a big marble bathroom with a bathtub and a shower.

The Gallia has a lot of positive assets such as a great service, a stunning indoor swimming pool with a lounge, a delicious homemade breakfast and a complimentary Maserati service that takes you downtown! What else could we ask for?

After enjoying a wonderful experience at the Gallia, we went to the Westin Palace for the last night. The lobby gives you the feeling that you are in an old 5-star hotel because of the decor and furniture. Their intention was to keep the genuine atmosphere of this historic palace. The Westin is close to the Central station. It can help if you plan to take the train. Otherwise, the Duomo is within 30-min walk.

Despite the old atmosphere of the hotel, the rooms are in a modern style and very comfortable. We were lucky enough to have a 43m2 Junior Suite facing the Piazza Della Repubblica. The room was incredibly spacious, with a contemporary style, featuring all the amenities expected in such a hotel.

One of the highlights of the Westin is its stunning rooftop terrace where you can admire Milan. It is set up with sunbeds and a jacuzzi for those who want to relax. Another great point is the restaurant Terrazza PanEVO, which is situated on a greenery terrace where they serve very tasty Mediterranean cuisine.

The most unfortunate thing was our breakfast experience. Honestly, it was one of the worst breakfasts that we’ve had in this kind of hotel. Everything was industrial and not very delicious. We were surprised because breakfast is the most common hotel meal for guests.


THINGS TO DO IN MILAN

This was our second visit to Milan, so we decided to focus on things we didn't have time to do last time. First things first, we wanted to see Da Vinci's "Last Supper" which is located within the refectory of the convent next to Santa Maria Delle Grazie Church.

To have the chance to see this world world-renowned masterpiece we had to book skip-the-line tickets a month and a half in advance. The access is limited to 1300 people a day, that corresponds to 25 people every 15 minutes. We chose a 45-minute guided tour that cost us 50€ per person. The price was very expensive, but we didn't regret it. The guide gave us all the explanations about the details to help us have a better understanding of the most recognized painting in the world.

After the visit, on our way to the Basilica of St Ambrose, we found a lot of pretty secret courtyards. We didn't know that Milan had so many gems.

The church of St. Ambrose is one of the oldest buildings in Milan. It was built in 379 AD. The central courtyard is quite stunning with its series of arches.

The day after, we wanted to have a different point of view of the famous Duomo. So we went to the rooftop of the department store La Rinascente where you can see it from the side of the restaurant.

Then we had a pleasant walk in the canals of Milan. The Naviglio Grande is a charming place to chill in a Bohemian atmosphere, so different from what you can find in the center of the city. There are a lot of bars and restaurants along the canal where you can get something to eat or drink. Nightlife is more lively than in the afternoon.

This area is also known for the lovely and peaceful alley of the launderer. During our stroll, we found some nice street art too, and we stumbled into gorgeous courtyards that hide unexpected treasures. If you want to enter these buildings you have to be patient, you’ll need to wait for someone to leave the building before you can enter. Milan's courtyards are so pretty with their yellow walls and all the plants set up inside.

Afterward, we went to the Triennale de Milan, the design and art museum located in Sempione park. We spent time in the museum and had a drink on the rooftop of the Terrazza Triennale Osteria con Vista. If you are here, don't miss the view of the park and Milan. It's totally worth it!

This park is one of the largest in the city and it has a lot of attractions such as the Sforzesco castle, a must see we visited one year ago, and the Arc of peace. When we went to Milan for the first time, we didn't have time to see it, so we couldn't miss it now. I was lucky enough to take pictures of it at the golden hour, where the sun hits the top of the arc. Mission accomplished.

That's how we filled our two days in Milan. But there are so many things to do in this wonderful city. Here are our recommendations if you have never been there:

  • A morning stroll to avoid the crowd at the Piazza del Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This gallery is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world.

  • Visit the 15th century Sforzesco castle

  • The Pinacoteca di Brera and its charming district. Closed on Mondays

  • La Scala, the famous Milan opera house. From outside, the building is not extraordinary. We didn't have the opportunity to see the interior but regarding the pictures, it just seems amazing.

  • Enter churches, it's free! Like in all Italian cities, you can find some hidden gems, and we think we found the most exquisite one named San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore. The interior of the church is breathtaking filled with spectacular frescoes and murals. We understand why people call it Milan's Sistine Chapel

  • For the shopping addicts, the quadrilateral of fashion composed of 4 streets: Via Montenapoleone, Via Della Spiga, Via Sant’Andrea and Via Manzoni. Milan is recognized as the capital of fashion.

  • Walk without goals in the streets or use the subway to get around

THINGS TO DO IN LAKE COMO

Visiting Lake Como has been on our bucket list for years and our goal was clear. Visit: Tremezzo, Bellagio, Varenna, and Lenno. Unfortunately, it was a big fail!

We bought our tickets to Como San Giovanni at the Central Station before we left, and it cost us only 10€ for a round trip. So, we left Milan around 10:30 am, and we arrived one hour later. Then we had to walk 10 minutes in 30°C heat to reach the harbor (don't forget your hat and sunscreen). There are many boat options, at different prices, but we chose a one-day ticket around for 30€ each, which gave us the liberty to hop-on-hop-off in different cities. However, we didn’t expect the trip between cities to be so long and slow. The last boat leaving Bellagio was at 6:20 pm and the last train to Milan was at 8:23 pm. That meant we only had less than 6 hours to visit all the main cities.

We began with Tremezzo to visit the Villa Carlotta. The property is gorgeous, nestled in a stunning garden where I was able to fly my drone. But the weather changed quickly, and we decided to leave Tremezzo to reach Bellagio.

The next boat had some damage, and they canceled it, so instead of waiting too long for the next one, we walked to the next stop to take another boat.

On the way to Bellagio, a storm was coming, the sky turned black, was full of water. We barely arrived before the storm began, and we had to wait 30 minutes under the harbor deck until the rain stopped a little bit.

We were stressed because we had to get another boat ticket. The express boat that went to Como in only one hour, that left at 6:32 pm. We couldn’t miss the last train to Milan.

Time was flying so fast, and we only had less than one hour to spend in Bellagio under showers. Daisy decided to shop while I ran all over the city to take pictures.

Bellagio seemed so pretty but unfortunately, we didn't enjoy it because of all these misadventures. We were so disappointed with this trip, but that happens sometimes.

We should have planned this visit in another way. Leaving Milan earlier, checking the schedule of the boats, maybe skipping villa Carlotta. Next time, we will stay for 2 days to have enough time to visit this lake and its ravishing cities.

HOW WE MANAGED BEING VEGAN IN MILAN

It's not easy to be vegan in Milan but you can find some options in restaurants such as pizzas without cheese for examples or with vegetables. We can't say that we ate vegan, but we tried. There are some vegan restaurants in Milan but not in the center so it's not easy to deal with when you are staying a few days. But if you are stuck, check out the Happy Cow website and don't hesitate to share your good addresses in the comments.

In collaboration with Excelsior Gallia & Westin Palace

Milan & Lake Como Photo Gallery

Herve Mouyal