Last updated on July 2, 2018
Layover in Milan? Here’s what to do if you only have a few hours to spend in the city.
From Malpensa Airport to Milan
If you happen to be at Malpensa Airport just go to the train station and catch the first train to Milan Cadorna. It takes only 30 minutes and the train will get you to the heart of the city of Milan at a cost of € 12.00.
Once at Cadorna, if you give your back to the station’s building (designed by architect Gae Aulenti) you will see right in front of you the art installation called “The thread and needle” by the artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. It represents the soul of Milan since it reminds of the hardworking Milanese people and, of course, the role of Milan in the fashion industry.
If you turn left, you will see between the old buildings on the left of the station, one of the towers of the Sforza Castle. Just walk towards it along via Marco Minghetti. You are now in Piazza Castello and that medieval building that you see is one of the most important landmark of Milan. Built between 1360 and 1499 was then renovated under the artistic direction of Luca Beltrami (1891 – 1905) the Sforza Castle now host major art exhibitions which include the “Pietà Rondanini” the last and unfinished work by Michelangelo.
Keep on walking along the walls and you will get to the main entrance of the castle. The tower above the main gate is called the “Torre del Filarete” and it is named after the architect who designed it: Antonio Averulino aka Il Filarete. It is dedicated to the King Humbert the First who was assassinated in 1900 by the anarchist Gaetano Bresci , just a few years before its complete renovation.
Now give your back to the torre and cross the square right in front of you. There is a circular square called Piazza Cairoli. The equestrian statue that you see right there in the middle represents Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807 – 1882) the Italian patriot responsible of the Italian unification of 1861. The statue was officially inaugurated in 1895 and was designed by the Sicilian artist Ettore Ximenes.
Keep on walking ahead of you and you will get to a large pedestrian street named after the master of Italian literature: Dante.
Via Dante is one of the major shopping streets of the city. Bar and restaurant in this area are particularly for tourists so…just avoid them (If you are starving just wait 20 minutes…I am taking you to one of the best food outlets in town!)
The end of via Dante opens on Piazza Cordusio and if you look carefully on the opposite side of the Piazza you can already see the astonishing Duomo cathedral. Just walk towards it along via Mercanti (if you are giving your back to via Dante, it is the street on the left side of the Piazza Cordusio).
Via Mercanti owes its name to the merchants of Milan. Here is where the business history of Milan started back in the middle ages. The building on the right side is called Palazzo della Ragione, the old market place of Milan.
Just a few steps and you are in Piazza del Duomo. The cathedral of Milan is one of the most important and largest church of the history of Catholicism. On top of it, on the highest spire, stands proudly the Madonnina, the symbol of Milan. The exterior is decorated by more than 3.000 statues and gargoyles while the interior features 52 pillars, one per each week of the year.
Have a quick tour of the cathedral and then visit the Galleria on the left side of the Piazza. It is dedicated to the king of Italy Vittorio Emanuele the II and it is one of the oldest shopping mall of the world. Built in 1865 now hosts the flagship stores of the most prestigious brands of Italian and international fashion like Prada, Versace, Gucci, Armani and Louis Vuitton.
Once at the centre of the Galleria exit it using the right branch (give your back to the entrance of the galleria that leads to the Piazza del Duomo).
Walk by the McDonalds and there, in via Santa Redegonda you will see a bakery called Luini. This is where I wanted you to have a snack! Have a panzerotto with mozzarella cheese and tomato and maybe a chilly beer.
Ok. It is now time to go back to the airport. You have walked more or less 1.5 km. If you do not stop anywhere it takes 20 minutes or so. If you need to go back to Malpensa just catch the red line of the underground services (there in Piazza del Duomo there is a stop). Get off at Cadorna station and catch the Malpensa Express. We hope your layover in Milan was enjoyable and that next time you are in the city is for a much longer time slot!