In planning a trip to Italy, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by its beauty and abundance of attractions—and so hard to pick what you want to visit, leaving the rest for the sake of time. Many people on several travel forums ask whether Milan is worth visiting; this question comes up again and again.
Milan is often overlooked, seen as an entryway to other destinations or just a layover on their way somewhere else. But it deserves more than that: It’s such a misunderstood city, and it’s worth visiting in its own right!
A little backstory: when I first moved to Milan, I hated it.
I was used to the laid-back lifestyle of southern Italy—the friendliness and warmth of its people, and farmland views on your drive home.
When I arrived in this big city full of tall buildings and grey streets, I felt like something was missing. I missed the sun and the warmth of my hometown.
People are always in a rush, grumpy, and stressed out. They don’t smile, and forget small talk with strangers! Some parts of the city are a bit run down, graffiti is everywhere. The food is expensive and often not very good quality (I will write about this too, but it deserves a separate post!).
Initially, I felt out of place and lonely. But as time went on and I looked around more closely, I figured out how to appreciate this city and its people.
These are some of the things that made me fall in love with the city. And this is my way to find treasures—walking around, not knowing where you’re going.
The city is so eclectic, with architecture from all eras.
Milan is a city that has always been open to change. Its architecture is a mix of ancient and modern, with buildings from all eras nestled together in an aesthetically pleasing way – a testament to its eclectic nature.
I’ve been living here for almost a decade now, and often I still find myself in awe when I walk through the streets of Milan. It’s a city that can surprise you with its beauty and charm, just when you thought it was all concrete and grey.
The architectural gems are everywhere, almost hidden in plain sight, and it’s only when you’re really looking that you can appreciate the beauty of Milan.
Every neighborhood has its hidden treasures
There are so many hidden parks and gardens, ancient churches, and palaces that you may never find if someone doesn’t tell you about them.
Albergo diurno Venezia
One spring afternoon, while walking through the Indro Montanelli Public Garden, I noticed a series of barred windows on the perimeter walls. Naturally, I had to inspect!
When I looked through them, I was caught by surprise. There were a series of underground rooms connected by tunnels—and inside the rooms, which from the shallow floor pools appeared to have been used as bathing chambers, were abandoned furniture and pillows. It definitely made for a curious and creepy sight!
So I googled it, and discovered that what I had seen was one of the abandoned parts of an underground building called “Albergo Diurno Venezia”.
“Albergo Diurno Venezia” was an underground hub that served tourists and locals in the 1920s—offering a variety of services, including a barber and hairdresser, phone & exchange office along with typewriters to rent, and warm “spa-like” baths.
It is a stunning example of liberty-style architecture that is now undergoing renovations and will reopen soon. I can’t wait to be able to visit it.
Igloo houses in the journalist district
These igloo-shaped houses, located north of the central station, are really peculiar. They are unusual examples of the eclectic Italian architecture of the 1940s.
Each igloo has a basement with a cellar and an elevated living floor that includes an entrance, a bathroom, two tiny bedrooms, and a kitchen.
Some of them are inhabited, and others are unfortunately abandoned. But the whole neighborhood is a visual feast. It’s made up of so many different architectural styles that it is hard to believe they all belong in the same city.
Fireflies in Parco delle Cave
This was a truly magical experience. Each year, from late June to July, visitors to Parco Delle Cave are treated to an impressive display of fireflies.
Due to its large size and sparse use of artificial lighting, this park offers the best location for spotting these insects.
Local organizations offer night walking tours to showcase the natural beauty of their area. The walkways through ponds, streams, and little bridges feel like something out of a fairy tale.
San bernardino alle ossa
I had walked past this church, located just a few hundred meters away from Duomo, many times before finally discovering what was inside.
It contains a chapel that serves as an ossuary—skulls and bones are placed in niches on the walls, covering almost all its surfaces. The decorations themselves are made from bones.
The skulls and bones belong to bodies that were moved from the 17th-century cemetery, as well as those exhumed from the former leprosy hospital. The skulls of criminals executed by decapitation have been kept above the entranceways.
The silence and the sights of this place make it quite unsettling.