JOIN ME IN THIS INTERVIEW WITH TONY LO GELFO WHO LOVES TO TRAVEL BUT HAS LIVED LONG ENOUGH IN MILAN TO GUIDE US !
Tony was born in the United Kingdom to a Sicilian family. After graduating from university (Archaeology & Prehistory) he left UK and has barely been back since. Since last 10 years he’s been going from country to country on a slow travel mission to live in and volunteer in as many countries as possible. Among his varied experiences he has spent a year in Moldova rescuing stray dogs, worked as a reindeer herder with the indigenous Sami people of Lapland for two winters, trained husky dogs to pull sleighs in Finland and worked on an archaeological excavation in Transylvania, Romania. His website name is ‘Meglio Vivere’ which means ‘It’s better to live’.
Which is the best month to visit Milan and why?
I wouldn’t particularly say that there are ‘best times’ and ‘worst times’ to visit Milan. In the summer it gets pretty hot and full of mosquitoes and tourists. Then in the winter, it gets rather cold and snows fairly often. I have to say that Milan is a bit miserable in winter. Most sources suggest Spring and Autumn in order to avoid the extreme weather and also to avoid the masses. The main tourist attractions of Milan get really busy in the summer, so avoiding that crowd will help you to enjoy your trip more. Then again, if you plan to visit the lakes – Como for example – you’ll probably want decent weather, so late spring to early summer will be your best bet, but again, it will be packed.
One other little word of warning: May and November are among the rainiest months of the year in Milan.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport in Milan?
There are several city wide bike and car rental schemes, for example ‘Enjoy’, but as far as I know these are for residents only. Uber is not allowed to operate in Italy.
The public transport network here is excellent. As well as 5 (well, 4 and a half really) metro lines, there are buses and an extensive tram network. In fact, the trams are my preferred means of transport. The underground is good, but I prefer to avoid it when I can. One 90 minute ride across all transport types costs 1.50 (Euros). In those 90 minutes you can take as many trams and buses are you like, but you can only enter the Metro once. Tickets can be bought at newsagents (edicole) and tobacco shops. If you’re staying for longer, ask for a ‘carnet’ (French pronunciation), which is a ticket with 10 journeys. It is a few euros cheaper than buying 10 individual journeys.
The downside to public transport in Milan is that it closes quite early. The metro shuts at around midnight and most trams only run until 2am or so. Then there are a few night buses, but not many and only on selected routes. If you’re in a pinch the transport company in Milan, ATM, has an app that you can download and plan your route with.
Tip: Don’t take taxis. They are REALLY expensive.
What are the top three must visit places in Milan?
The first two are pretty easy. Il Duomo (the cathedral) is the second biggest church in the world. Not only that, but it is really something special. It is free to enter, but to go to the roof – where you can look over the whole city – you have to pay. Mark Twain loved the Duomo, but Oscar Wilde hated it.
The second place is Castello Sforzesco. This is a huge 15th century fortress pretty much in the middle of Milan. The Castello and Sempione park behind it are free to walk around. Inside the Castello there are several museums and exhibitions. Each of those needs a separate ticket to enter and the costs of those vary depending on the museum.
Thirdly, I would probably say Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Cenacolo’. Known in English as ‘The Last Supper’. This is one of the world’s most well-known paintings. It was a wall mural painted directly onto the wall of the chapel Santa Maria della Grazie near Cadorna train station. Visits must be booked in advance, and the standard ticket is 12 euros (concessions are available). For that, you get about 10 minutes of viewing time of the mural. If you want to see this painting, be sure to check well ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
I have to give an honourable mention to the San Siro football stadium. I have supported Internazionale Milan since I was really young, so for me it is my football temple.
Which is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Milan?
The whole of Italy goes a bit mad for Easter.I guess it’s because of the whole Catholic thing. Most cities, towns and villages have an Easter parade, and the tradition is to go and have a picnic or a barbecue in an open space with your family. Practically everything closes in Milan on Easter Day and the transport is greatly reduced, so be aware of that.
Which is the most happening area in Milan?
Naviglio Grande it is. The Naviglio is a man-made canal, first suggested by Leonardo da Vinci, that runs through the city. In the south west of the city, the Naviglio Grande (near the metro station Porta Genova) is surrounded by many bars, restaurants and cafes and makes a nice walk during the day and a good social stop in the evenings. It is buzzing with activity every night, and you can find practically every type of cuisine there. On certain days you can also find various kinds of street market there.
Where can one find amazing street food in Milan?
Milan doesn’t have an amazing street food culture itself. The typical item of Milanese street food is the ‘michetta’ which is just a sandwich in a special kind of bread roll. It is totally nothing special. Instead, street food in Milan is the standard, pizza or focaccia that you can find everywhere in Italy and on almost every street. I recommend tracking down the chain A’Vucciria (there are four around Milan) which sells really great Sicilian street food.
The other good option for street food is Chinatown (via Paolo Sarpi). There you can find noodle dishes, dim sum dumplings, spring rolls, bao zi and lots of other Asian street food to whet your appetite. Last year, I tried a donkey burger from a Chinese restaurant there.
Where to head for affordable shopping?
Milan is an expensive city, so finding affordable shopping is not so easy. There are two places that I recommend. First, the street markets. There isn’t really a major central market in Milan like other cities have. Instead, each neighbourhood will have its own smaller street market on a certain day of the week. Try and find out from a local when and where your local market takes place. The other option for cheap shopping are the Chinese shops, of which there are now many around Milan. They sell many many different products at low prices. One of the best chains for this is called ‘INA Market’ – although there are many other stores too. Again, try checking in Chinatown.
Which is the most loved local food in Milan?
There are three dishes that are really Milanese. The first of those is risotto alla Milanese. This is a simple risotto flavoured only with saffron. The second dish is Osso Bucco (this translates to ‘Bone hole’ in English). It is a really tasty meat stew made from a certain cut of beef that contains a large hollow bone. Inside this bone, you’ll find the soft bone marrow – the tastiest part! Those first two things are normally, but not always, eaten together.
The third dish which is really Milanese is ‘Cotoletta alla Milanese’. This is the original schnitzel. It was taken back to Austria from Milan. Basically, if you don’t know, a Cotoletta alla Milanese is a thin cut of veal which is coated with breadcrumbs and then fried in butter. The really big ones, which come with a large bone down one side are called ‘Orecchiette d’elefante’ (Elephants’ Ears) due to the size and shape. They are delicious! Although, a bit hard to finish by yourself. My advice? Share one!
Which side of the road does Milan drive on?
Just like the rest of Italy and most of Europe, you drive on the RIGHT here. In most of the city, you share the road with trams, so you have to be a little bit alert about them.
As for being cycle friendly, there are a few cycle lanes, but not that many really. I would not describe Milan as cycle friendly at all. There are a LOT of cars on the road here, and lots of drivers are a bit mad. I am a keen cyclist, but I am never comfortable cycling on the roads in Milan.
Would you recommend any Apps for Milan?
Well, the transport company in Milan, ATM, has an app, but I don’t particularly find it very useful to be honest. Because restaurants are expensive in Milan, the App that I would say is the most useful here is ‘The Fork’. This app allows you to find restaurants and access a discount (up to 50% I think) on the cost. If you have to eat out at restaurants, it is always worth checking on this app first to see if you can get it for cheaper. I must have saved hundreds and hundreds of Euros using this app over the year.