Discover Milan

Milan has suddenly found itself in the international travel spotlight, after years of being relegated to that second-tier category of city worth visiting only if you were stuck there between connections to flights elsewhere, or between an arrival flight and a departing train to Venice or the Lakes.

Italy’s most modern and cosmopolitan city has also long been considered one of its less “authentically Italian” and interesting: the food was blandly international, the monuments and museums relatively few, and the bustling natives matter-of-fact.

MInacce dal cielo(Photo by Gianni Domenici via Flickr)

As the city gears up to host the 2015 World Expo from May through October, however, the advance guard of visitors have been pleasantly surprised to find that Milan has gone through a quiet, vibrant transformation recently, and alongside its historic fashion and design destinations there are a number of new eateries, shops, and cultural sights worth more than just a passing glance.
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48 Hours: (Napoli) Naples

Much has been said about the risks of visiting Naples, and, alas, much of what has been said is true. Bella Napoli is, indeed, not a city for the faint of heart: sprawling, chaotic, rife with petty crime, picturesquely (and not) decaying.

Napoli, Italia / Naples, Italy - night HDR(Photo via Flickr by Paolo Margari)

That said, it would be remiss to skip Naples (and environs) entirely, for perhaps this very reason. Many of Italy’s most important cities—Rome, Florence, and Venice, in particular—survive at least partially on tourism, which smooths out many of the rough edges of those cities. However, in the process of rendering them more user-friendly to tourists, some of what makes these cities uniquely Italian is inevitably lost in the process.

Naples has none of that. Naples is what it is, pure and simple, take it or leave it. And what you should take is the passion of the vibrant Napolitani, their love of food, family, faith, and of Naples, itself.

Use this guide to help you navigate the best of Naples, while avoiding the worst. Read More...

48 Hours: Lago di Como (Lake Como)

Though the Amalfi Coast is often considered the most spectacular combination of water, mountain, and fishing village scenery Italy has to offer, the placid glacial depths of Lake Como--ringed by lush, tumbling slopes and the distant peaks of the snow-capped Alps—gives the Costiera Amalfitana a run for its money.

Old-world elegance (Como is home to a number of historic villas), modern luxury (this is where George Clooney famously owns a holiday retreat), and traditional charm (despite the villas and A-listers, Como remains a land of tiny towns and humble polenta) combine to attract visitors who revel in the romance and beauty of this breathtaking lake. Read More...

48 Hours: Costiera Amalfitana (Amalfi Coast)

The Amalfi Coast is a welcome departure from most of the rest of Italy. This stretch of Mediterranean coastline south of Naples is much less about visits to museums and monuments and instead, as Maria puts it, “mostly about being out of doors.” Here, more than impressing you with great works of art and architecture, you will find yourself gasping with delight at the dramatic land--and sea--scape and the film set-ready villages tumbling down the rocky slopes to the sea. Read More...

48 Hours: Venezia (Venice)

There is good news and bad news about visiting Venice.

The good news is that the breathtaking historic center—more an open air museum than a city—is quite compact and so easily navigable by foot (or boat) that two days of exploring are enough to sample much of La Serenissima’s elegance and romance. The bad news is that this same compact center means that the crowds of visitors drawn to this unique city are concentrated in a relatively small area and hard to avoid. Follow Maria’s advice and “just put blinders on and enjoy the sights”; you will soon be so absorbed in the stunning architecture, iconic gondolas, and fascinating everyday logistics of life in a city of canals that the tourists will fade into the background. Read More...

48 Hours: Roma (Rome)

Rome is often called the Eternal City, and it would indeed take an eternity to truly get to know Italy’s vibrant capital. Here is an amuse bouche of an introductory visit, including tastes of Rome’s iconic monuments, captivating neighborhoods, and memorable meals. Read More...

48 Hours: Firenze (Florence)

In a city with more than 70 museums and 2,000 years of history (much of it concentrated in the just under 2-square-mile centro storico UNESCO World Heritage Site) forty-eight hours is just enough time to get a taste of Florence’s charm . . . and start plotting for your return.

FRIDAY


48 hours in florence duomo
Image © Concierge in Umbria

4:00 p.m. Greatest Hits


Start in the Piazza del Duomo, where the sheer mass of the cathedral and its Renaissance engineering masterpiece, the largest brick dome constructed to this day, dwarf the surrounding medieval streets. Continue down Via dei Calzaiuoli and work your way through Piazza Signoria to the Arno River and back east to the Basilica of Santa Croce.

6:30 p.m. Stop and Smell the Vino


Rest your feet and feast your eyes on the Florentine passeggiata, the evening stroll in one of the many medieval tower houses that’s been converted into a wine bar. Where to begin? We’re partial to Antinori’s wines and their restaurant outside the city, and their in-town Cantinetta Antinori is an ideal spot to sample both.

8:00 p.m. Dine like Dante


You’ll find that beyond all of the art and architecture, one of the best things about Florence is its residents. Trattorias showcase both traditional local fare – think pasta with rabbit sauce, 30+ oz. steaks, and hearty vegetable soups – and a vibrant swath of the local population. We love Trattoria I’ Parione, where we had one of our favorite meals of 2011.

SATURDAY


48 hours in florence palazzo pubblico
Image © Concierge in Umbria

7:30 a.m. A Café with a View


At Rivoire, founded by the personal chocolatier of the Savoy family when Florence was the capital of newly united Italy, you can grab a signature hot chocolate or a café and pastry and soak up the local gossip and the singular view of Piazza della Signoria, a site which has hosted the rise and fall of Florentine regimes for centuries.

8:15 a.m. Medici Morning


Dive in when the doors first open to get Florence’s famed Uffizi Gallery more or less to yourself. The museum is organized chronologically and grouped by artists, so it offers the perfect chance for a morning’s education on Florence’s pivotal role as a setting for Renaissance artistic development. And what better setting than the place these great artists learned their craft! During the early Renaissance, the Medicis invited artists to study and work among the collection to hone their skills.

48 hours in florence arno river
Image © Concierge in Umbria

11:00 a.m. On the Wild Side


Though it’s just a one-minute walk across the Ponte Vecchio, the Arno’s south shore, the Oltrarno (beyond the Arno) is largely overlooked by tourists. Grab lunch in one of the great-value, locals-oriented trattorias or piadinerias (like a pizzeria for flatbread). Walk it off touring some of the artisans plying ancient trades on the back streets, from bookbinders to furniture makers to stationers. Begin your second Medici encounter of the day at the Palazzo Pitti, Florence’s answer to Buckingham Palace. After all the opulence, treat yourself to a well-deserved respite in the ducal gardens attached to the palace, the Boboli Gardens, or the adjoining, recently reopened Bardini gardens terraced on the hillside.

5:00 p.m.: A Sunset fit for a King


Michelangelo’s David (or at least one of the four versions displayed around the city) enjoys the best view of the city from Piazza Michelangelo in the Oltrarno. As the day cools off, you can reach this spot via car, bus, or foot – the steep steps up the riverside to the piazza are not for those out of shape – for a picnic or aperitivo as the sun sets on the River Arno.

7:30 p.m. Dinner Theater?


No other spot in Chef Fabbio Picchi’s Cibreo empire can compete with Teatro del Sale in terms of pure entertainment value. The dining room is itself a theater, and a performance – from circus acrobatics to lyric opera to stand-up comedy – ends every dinner. But the show is only half the show. Dinner itself, announced with a verbal drumroll from the windows of the adjoining kitchen, is like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole. Only after gorging yourself on the buffet of vegetables, salads, and grilled meats does the soup begin, followed by course after course after surprising course.

SUNDAY


48 hours in florence vista
Image © Concierge in Umbria

9:00 a.m. Small Blessings


Begin in one of Florence’s smaller museum gems. Just behind Piazza Signoria, the Bargello (open the 2nd and 4th Sundays of every month), named for its former function as a prison, is a wonderful alternative to the Accademia with its broad range of sculpture including works by Donatello and Michelangelo. The Museo dell’Opere del Duomo, which houses all of the original art and sculpture from the cathedral, offers an opportunity to get up close with a version of Michelangelo's Pieta. For fashion lovers, Museo Salvatore Ferragamo tells the story of how one man's quest to make perfect custom shoes launched an empire.

11:00 a.m. Sweet Rewards


Reward yourself for an early morning among the maestros with a café and pasta (pastry) at one of Florence’s top bakeries in the eastern part of the city. Try I Dolci di Patrizio Corsi on Borgo Albizi or Dolci & Dolcezze in Piazza Beccaria, home to one of the city’s remaining eighth-century gates.

12:00 p.m. Spoil Yourself


Stroll back through some of the city’s best boutiques on Borgo Albizi as you make your way back to the center of town and Florence’s supreme shopping around Piazza Repubblica, particularly on Via Tornabuoni, home to the family palaces and fashion houses of the Puccis, Guccis, and Ferragamos.

2:00 p.m. Arrivederci Firenze


Refuel on some light fare like the legendary sandwiches at nearly-130-year-old Due Frattelini before bidding your final adieu to the city from its premier panorama spot – the top of Brunelleschi’s dome.

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Brian Dore and Maria Gabriella Landers | Contact Us
Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist: Italy