I’m not going to lie – I didn’t like Milan one bit. I found it too industrial, way too crowded and personally I thought it lacked the whole warm Italian atmosphere terribly. I wandered the city centre for a day, saw most of the ‘top ten things to see in Milan’ and that was that. Sure enough, the Duomo is an incredible piece of architecture, no doubt, but when I was visiting not only where there swarms of people, they also built this gigantic construction around it, with massive LCD screens around the square. For me, this ruined the whole experience. Instead, I ventured outside the centre-limits and found some other hidden gems.
One of those absolute gems is the Monumental Cemetery (note to the dog-owners here: dogs are allowed! I couldn’t believe it when the man near the gate nodded and smiled when I asked him). The 1866 burial ground seems to goes on for miles and if you’re into this sort of thing, you can wander around for a good hour.
Porta Genova is a place where there is usually something going down (when in the area, also visit the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio and Porta Ticinese). Also, a bit further north, on the corner of Via Vigevano and Via Gorizia is a small building with fun graffiti. Follow Alzaia Naviglio Grande and a few hundred meters from the bridge there’s an entrance to a small courtyard belonging to several artists who, if you’re lucky, showcase their work. There are also some very fun shops and original souvenirs to buy! Nearby is Parco delle Basiliche where you can take a break and if he/she is with you, your dog can have a run around. If you really want to treat your pup, take him/her to the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli, which is a massive park. There are designated areas for dogs to be off-lead, but most Italians ignore it. As did I.
Another great place to head towards (and is dog-friendly too, again) is Castello Sforzesco, which is a Medieval-Renaissance fortress with historical museums & art by da Vinci and Michelangelo (says Google). Walk around the grounds and head to the west side to see the Arco della Pace.
Another tip: if you’re north (northwest) of Central Station, head towards Giardino Cassina de Pomm and follow the canal (Via Tirano). I thoroughly enjoyed my morning runs here and it’s nice and quick. Naturally, my dog was off lead.
Food-wise, for the gluten free’s and vegetarians: there’s a cute little place on Via Melzo, called Feel Food and celiac approved. The owner is incredibly friendly and speaks English pretty well. We talked for almost an hour while I was enjoying my lunch. Then, for the best gluten free pizza I had while staying in Italy – Be Bop. Don’t try to find it elsewhere, because it’s right there. Dog friendly too! I do have to say that it’s a pretty proper restaurant and not the cute little hipster places I usually go to. The waiters are kind, but professional and very, very serious.