I am not a fan of “Top N things to do in Place X” type articles, partly because I think Rick Steves already does an excellent job with practically any place I realistically would want to visit. Having said this, last week, a friend asked about some advice about places to stay at and sights to see in Milan, so I pointed her to the Sabbatical section of my blog. While doing so, I realized that last year, while on sabbatical with my family, I wrote more than thirty posts about our life there – less than what I originally wanted to write, but more than I retrospectively thought I did. It actually felt good to know that my personal experience and opinion could be of use for someone else, even considering the wast amount of information available on the internet and elsewhere. Rick Steves might be a professional traveller and a better writer than me, but he is not me, so his impressions and opinions are not mine.
So here are my recommendations for a few days in Milan:
I suggest trying to visit the lakes (Como or Maggiorre) if you have a chance. Maggiore is particularly nice – you can take an island-hopping boat tour. Here is my blog post about how we did it. The town to stay in is Stresa. It is also easily accessible by train from either Milan or Switzerland.
In Milan, try staying close to Duomo – it is in the middle of everything, and the cathedral itself is the main attraction anyway. The most posh shopping is right next to Duomo too, but there are more reasonably priced stores (most of the same brands) on Corso Buenos Aires, a couple of metro stops away from Duomo. The kids will probably like the the Lego store (one block behind the Duomo along Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II).
Other areas worth visiting are Brera (for the ambiance), Sforza Castle (for the museum and the park), and Piazza Gae Aulenti (for the modern architecture). There are also some very neat churches, which are like mini museums (…those are real gems, and it reminds me that I’d like to write about them some day).