Milan is nothing less than the Italian capital of cool. It’s the birthplace of Prada, Armani and Missoni, and home to Donatella Versace. However, the culture and underbelly of the city may surprise you. Take the ultimate road trip through Europe and divert your RV to glorious Milan.
The magic of Milan in a campervan
Only a day trip away
Outside of Milan there are plenty of places to explore in your camper. You are right on the border of Switzerland and Lugano. Parma, home of Parma ham and Parmesan cheese, is around an hour’s drive.
Cremona is home to the famous handmade Stradivarius violins and has a beautiful, compact centre that’s pleasant for walking. It’s about an hour to the main square in your campervan, where you can find the Romanesque cathedral, baptistery and the Torrazzo, the 13th century bell tower with the world’s largest astronomical clock.
Other popular excursions from Milan include Turin, Genoa and Bergamo.
A selection of camping options in Milan
Free camping doesn’t seem to be tolerated in Italy and it is explicitly banned in many places. Yet there is only one camping ground in Milan – Camping Village Città di Milano. It is a popular place for Italians to vacation and is often busy. Staff speak English and the sites are clean. While it is far from the centre of Milano, a popular aqua park is just on the other side of fence.
If you’d rather stay in paradise, why not camp a bit further out and simply take the train into the city to see all it has to offer. One hour from Milan on Lake Como is Camping Spiaggia. In the tiny village of AbbadiaLarianahis, this campsite truly is a utopia.
If you want to unplug, Camping Class is the ideal place to recharge. Surrounded by greenery between the Brianza lakes, this campsite is set in stunning scenery. It’s also not so far from Milan.
Any week but Fashion Week
The Italians tend to take off on holiday in August, so quite a number of hotels and restaurants shut and the city can be stiflingly hot. The best weather is probably in April/May and September.Remember to plan around major international events such as fashion week. These annual occasions see prices soar across the city.
Life is a combination of magic and pasta
Sample the best of Milanese food at Antica Trattoria dellaPesa. It has some of the finest funghi porcini pasta in the city. Tradition is regarded highly, so remember not to squeeze lemon over your veal.
Clandestino Milano Restaurant serves playful Italian cuisine. Flower Child Sushi replicate the Japanese favourite, but uses carnaroli rice, Italian extra-virgin olive oil and Burratacheese instead of wasabi or seaweed. They also have a toothbrush with edible mint and coconut toothpaste and a sake and mint-flavoured ‘mouthwash’.
Get close to world-class celebrities at Giacomo. It’s set on a residential street and is discreet enough for the likes of Giorgio Armani, but that’s not why you should go. The cuisine here is perfectly simple and wholly Italian. Look out for the linguine tossed with scampi and zucchini flowers.
At Bar dellaCrocetta they have reinvented the humble sandwich. From wild venison to prosciutto, there are 100 flavour combinations. If you fancy something other than a Panini for lunch,nip behind the Rinascente department store by the Duomo to PanzerottiLuini,and try the panzerotti.Rounds of dough stuffed with tomato and mozzarella, then folded and fried.
Also around the Duomo, there's a handful of elegant cafes to people watch or sip an espresso. Trussardi Café and Zuccaare for the fashionistas of the city, while Bar Bianco is a popular place for a macchiato and relaxing flick through your travel guide.
At happy hour, all the bars try to lure customers with DJ sets and free tapas-styled foods. Radetzky offer marinated artichokes and oysters on ice; Fresco Art has a selection that includes smoked salmon pasta, frittata, celery and walnut salads; and Nottingham Forest and Cuore are the best for the perfect cocktails. The best bit – during happy hour prices are an easy €6 and €8.
Put your best foot forward: Attractions of Milan
Milan cathedral, the Duomo of Milan, is nothing short of epic, yet no photos do it justice. It’s the third-largest church in Christendom that took 500 years to complete. Take a lift to the top for spectacular views of the Alps.
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is at the church of Santa Maria della Grazie. Arguably the greatest painting of the Renaissance, it captures the dramatic moment at which Jesus reveals one of his disciples will betray him. Make sure you reserve a 15-minute slot.
Milan’s boutiques fit into one square, bordered by via della Spiga, via Manzoni, via Sant’Andrea and via Montenapoleone, affectionately known as the Rectangle of Gold. Don’t bother actually buying anything, unless you’re keen to splurge. Window shopping is half the fun. Instead, hit the city’s best markets. The Fiera di Senigallia is one of the top flea markets with vintage disco gear, Peruvian baby clothes and old comic books. The popular Papiniano market stocks a wide mix, including shoes, homewares and linens. Expect to use your elbows if you want to see the second-hand designer wear.
For a spot of elite people watching, look out for the glass-roofed arcade near the Duomo: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The ceilings are decorated with mosaics of Asia, Africa, Europe and America. Since 1913, Prada has had its flagship store here. Spot the elderly grandmothers with chihuahuas in their Louis Vuitton.
CastelloSforzesco really needs an entire day. There are 12 mini museums in the one complex. Highlights include the Museod’Arte e Scienza, with displays on da Vinci's life; the Pinacoteca di Castello, a gallery of luminous early Renaissance works by Bellini and Mantegna; the Palazzo d'Arte, a showcase of design that was once home to the Triennale; and the sculpture gallery, CivicheRaccolted’ArteAntica.
Relax at Milan's man-made lake, Idroscalo, where there are beach clubs, barbecue areas and topless sunbathing. And for a football fanatic, the San Siro Stadium is a must-see.