How to go from Milan to Como and Bellagio by train

How to go from Milano city center or from Milano Malpensa airport to Como lake main destinations: Como and Bellagio. A complete set of options and travel tips, including a travel map.

Como lake (actually we should call it Lario lake) is one of North Italy  top destinations, and lovely Bellagio is its pearl. Despite being relatively close to Milan, getting there as independent travelers could be tricky. So here is a quick guide with all the information you may need to go from Milano to Como and to Bellagio, should it be for a day trip or for a longer period.

Just in case you feel happily on holiday and not interested in handling Italian public transports: click here for a nice day tour from Milan!

From Milan city center to Bellagio

The easiest way to get to Como and Bellagio from Milan is to start from the “Trenord” station in Cadorna square. You can easily get there by metro Red and Green.

In Cadorna station catch a train to Como Nord Lago. There are many trains, at least one per hour, and they take one hour to get you to Como. Tickets cost 4,80 € per person.  Here is the Trenord web site to check departure times.

Actually there is no need to purchase tickets in advance, these trains have no seat reservations (so tickets cannot sell out). It’s your choice whether to purchase the ticket on line or at the train station, just remember that:

  • train tickets must always be purchased before travel. You must stamp your tickets in the yellow machines usually to be found at the end of the platform. During your journey, an inspector will check your tickets and if you are found without a ticket or an unstamped ticket, you will be fined.
  • tickets bought online must be used on the booked train, or a similar train in the following 4 hours.

Once you get to Como lake station you have 2 options to proceed to Bellagio: the bus or the boat.

The boat is of course the most enjoyable way to get to Bellagio, especially if the weather is nice. However it’s more expensive than the buss, less frequent, and it can take up to 2 hours if you take the normal Ferry boat which stops in all the lake shore villages. It’s a very enjoyable trip if you are not on a rush. Otherwise you can take the hydrofoil, which only takes 45′.

To get to the pier, walk 5 minutes to the lakefront and boat ticket office (Cross the road to the lake opposite the station and turn left). Tickets must be purchased prior to boarding. Here is the link to the schedule.

Otherwise, you can take the convenient bus which will get you to Bellagio in a little more than one hour.

Buses depart just outside the train station. Use the exit toward the lakeside and you find the bus stop at your left. Tickets can be purchased from the bus station ticket office and cost 3,70 €.
Bus stop in Bellagio is on lakeshore, between Villa Melzi’s garden and the car ferry terminal. Here is the link to the schedule.

In case you wish to go to Bellagio as a day trip, you will be better off if you plan ahead, so not to lose too much time waiting for your buses or boats.

Click here to find the best places to stay in Bellagio

From Milano Malpensa airport to Como and Bellagio

Milano Malpensa airport is the main international hub in Milan, if you are coming from outside Europe you will probably land here.

To go from Milano Malpensa airport to Como you will need to take the Trenord Malpensa Express train, which leaves from Malpensa Terminal 1 (below the Ground Floor / Arrivals area) and connects to Milano Cadorna every 30 minutes.

Purchase your ticket to Como Lago, take the train (Milan direction, you can’t get it wrong) then get in Saronno and catch the first train to Como. You Have trains at least every hour, more frequent during rush hours, expect to get to Como in 50 minutes.   Here is the Trenord web site

Once in Como, just follow the same directions explained in the previous paragraph to get to Bellagio by boat or by bus.

Alternative route to and from Bellagio

You also have the possibility to leave from Milan Central Station and catch a train to Varenna, and from there a boat to Bellagio. This is a less convenient solution since you will need to walk or take a taxi from Varenna station to the pier. However it could be a good solution in case you have connecting trains leaving from Milano stazione centrale, for instance to go to Venice or to the Cinque Terre.

Here is what it looks like:

Catch a train to Varenna at MIlan Central Station with Trenitalia. This is their web site. The final destination of the train is Sondrio or Tirano (this is what you will see on the information boards). Trains leave approximately every 2 hours and the journey takes roughly one hour.

From Varenna to Bellagio, exit the station and either take a taxi to the boat landing stage (approx. cost €10) or turn left and walk down the numerous steps to the road at the bottom. To avoid steps you can follow the normal road. Turn right until you come to a crossroads (there’s a bar on the right hand corner). Turn left and cross the road – you are now on the main road. Take the immediate right hand turning and walk down towards the lake. At the bottom, turn left and you’ll see the boat ticket office on the right. It will take max 15 min. on foot.

There is a choice of either boats or car ferries from Varenna to Bellagio – both are 15 minute crossings and the only difference is the different point of arrival in Bellagio. The ferry and boat landing stages in Bellagio are within a 5 minute walk of each other right in the centre of the historical part of the town.
Frequency: approx. every hour, 15 minutes journey, € 4,60 per person

If you have enough time and a very light luggage, you may consider to go on the ferries and discover the small towns in the vicinity of Bellagio for a day. These can be done easiest and cheapest by purchasing a ticket called “Centro Di Lago” from the ferry terminal in Bellagio for about 10 euros. The ticket lasts all day but make sure you check which towns they allow you to visit.

There are many organized tours to help you explore Como, Bellagio and the lake shores: click here to learn more about your options!

Hope this is useful.

Enjoy Como and Bellagio!

 

 

 

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The ten best restaurants in Milan, plus one

Treat yourselves with these ten great restaurants in Milan, where to taste the best Italian food in delightful locations, at a reasonable price.

Forget Pizza ans spaghetti Bolognaise: here we are talking about some of the best food you can taste in Italy, in posh locations and with a great service! This is my very personal selection of the restaurants in Milan with the best quality/price ratio, those where I usually have dinner with my friends and family.

I will not present the true Milan top dining places, such as Savini, Cracco, Joia, Aimo and Nadia, Armani Nobu and the similar (much too expensive for most travellers), but rather 10 excellent Milan restaurants when you can enjoy a a fantastic meal in a great location, spending around 50-60 € per person (the wine you will choose could be a major driver of your bill…).

Continue reading “The ten best restaurants in Milan, plus one”

Details from Milan Expo

Half World food Disneyland, half architectural fair, Milan Expo is eventually finding success, as demonstrated by the long queues to access the site (avoid visiting during Week Ends!).

In this post I would like to share some really nice shots from a friend of mine, who made a great job focusing on expo pavilions details. They will give you a different view of what you are going to find at the Expo.

Remember, the Expo will last only until end of October, so hurry up!

Many thanks to Federica Donati for the great shots!
FD

Milan in one day

How to visit Milan highlights in just one day, or even less if you’re on a tight agenda. Enjoy a walking itinerary to discover in one Day Milan, the new Italian top destination.

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Maybe you didn’t plan so far to visit Milan. Milan is usually not included in mainstream tourist itineraries, but things may change in the next few months. The universal exhibition Expo Milano 2015 has driven over 20 million visitors to Milan, and has made this town one of Europe key destinations in 2015 and beyound. On top of this, Milan is a vibrant city, rich of cultural events, artistic masterpieces, design and fashion shopping and great food.

Even if you didn’t select Milan as one of the key destinations of your Italian tour, you may likely pass through its airport or its station, so why not spending one day in Milan? In case you decide to do so, here is a (pretty extensive!) walking itinerary, designed to cover Milan main highlights (click on the image  to use the interactive Google map).

Too tired to discover Milan by foot? Then get an Hop on and off bus and enjoy Milan with an open-top double decker bus . Click here to know more!

Milan in one day walking tour

Start your Milan in one day walk in Piazza del Duomo, with a Cappuccino. Best place: the food hall on top of Rinascente department store, for breathtaking views of Duomo’s spires.

Visit the Duomo cathedral, the third largest Gothic cathedral in the world, to admire the intricate architecture of statues, spires and gargoyles. Don’t forget to climb up to the terrace (lifts on the left side of the cathedral) for an up-close view of the 3,600 statues and 135 spires and a closer view of the famous gilded copper ‘Madonnina’ atop the tallest spike. The entrance in on the left side of the cathedral.

The Duomo and its roof top are iconic destination in Milan, and waiting times to visit them may be very long. I strongly suggest you purchase your Duomo ticket in advance to skip the queue. Click here to know more!

From Duomo square cross the majestic glass-roofed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (one of the world’s most glamorous and oldest shopping malls – it was built in 1867)  and get to Piazza della Scala, where you can see the world’s most famous opera house. For a typical snack, grab a “Panzerotto” (delicious fried pastry triangle stuffed with tomato and oozing mozzarella) at Luini (via Santa Radegonda 16, just behind Rinascente).

From Piazza della Scala, take Via Manzoni. There you will find the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, which displays works of art by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Perugino, Pinturicchio and the famous “Lady Portrait” by Pollaiolo, the symbol of the museum (worth a visit if you have enough time).

Keep on walking in via Manzoni, than turn right in via Montenapoleone. This is the Posh area, with all the main fashion boutiques.   Just wander around the Milan Fashion District (via Montenapoleone, via Sant’Andrea and via della Spiga), enjoying the Quadrilatero della Moda  (“Golden Rectangle”), then go back to piazza del Duomo by Corso Vittorio Emanuele (large pedestrian avenue, stuffed with cafés, eateries and fashion boutiques).

From Piazza del Duomo, make a small detour to visit the delightful San Satiro church, featuring a breathtaking trompe l’oeuil from Bramante, and the nearby Peck shop, the temple of high end Italian food and wine.

If you enjoy walking, you can continue down via Torino to visit San Lorenzo and then Sant’Ambrogio, two of the oldest and most important churches of Milan, dating from the Roman times. Otherwise, take the “red” underground in Piazza duomo, to visit Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Last Supper from Leonardo da Vinci, undoubtedly Milan’s best-known attraction after the Duomo.

Leonardo last Supper Fresco is very delicate, and the number of persons that are allowed to visit it in one day is limited. For this reason, advance reservation for the last supper are a must and it’s nearly impossible to find tickets the same day of the viist. To purchase your online ticket click here.

After visiting the church (don’t forget the beautiful cloister), walk to Castello Sforzesco, the imposing castle built by the Duke of Milan, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, in 1358. In the Castle museum you can admire Michelangelo’s last unfinished masterpiece, the Pietà Rondanini. The large park behind it (“parco Sempione”) is an excellent place to rest.

From Castello Sforzesco walk to the Brera district, and enjoy its bohemian feel. Wander around the old cobble stone streets, rich of antiques shops and art galleries. While you’re there, visit the Pinacoteca di Brera gallery to see the impressive collection of masterpieces by Raphael, Piero della Francesca and Andrea Mantegna.

The last part of this itinerary walks you from Brera  to the new Porta Nuova area. You can have a stop at the Eataly store and restaurants at Porta Garibaldi, for a bonanza of Italian food and / or have an aperitivo in Corso Como at 10 Corso Como, a whimsical fashion and design emporium – posh but expensive, you can get inside and have a look at it for free anyway – it hosts a bar, a restaurant, a boutique, a book shop and an art gallery.

End your tour at the new Unicredit Tower, which skyscraper is the new symbol of Milan, and enjoy the evening life at the pedestrian Gae Aulenti square (click here to write my post about it).


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Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free updates?

 

Cremona, home of stradivari

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Cremona, it is located on the border between Lombardy and Emilia Romagna and lies on the left bank of the Po. It’s a charming town rich of history and art, and the wonderful piazza del Duomo is a blend of Roman and Renaissance jewels.

But on top of its monuments, Cremona is home to the families of the world’s most famous luthiers: Amati, Stradivari, Guarneri. A visit to the Stradivari museum is an experience not to be missed (click here for more info).

Cremona is perfect for a day trip from Milan (roughly one hour by train)

 

Bergamo: Lombardy’s hidden jewell

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Bergamo Alta is a fascinating medieval town perched on a hill, surrounded by 16th-century cyclopic defensive walls. Its old city center hides real treasures, such as the piazza vecchia, the Duomo and the cappella Corleoni, an amazing renaissance master piece.

Bergamo lies just 40 km east of Milan and is a perfect day trip destination.

 

Expo Milano 2015: 5 good reasons to care about it

Learn more about Expo Milano 2015, and all the related activities and initiatives who will light up your 2015 trip to Italy

Feeding the planet

Just 110 days to the biggest Italian event of 2015, which is expected to welcome over 20 million visitors. Expo 2015 is the next scheduled Universal Exposition after Expo 2012, and will be hosted by Milan, between 1 May and 31 October 2015.

Visitors will experience a unique journey that looks at the complex theme of nutrition. They will have the possibility to take a trip around the world, sampling the food and traditions of people from all over the globe. Expo Milano 2015 is intended to be the first Exposition in history to be remembered not only for its products but also for its contribution towards education on food and the planet’s precious resources (to learn more, click here).

Whether you are  thrilled by the event topic: “Feeding the Planet, Energy for ” – or not, here are 5 good reasons to consider it carefully if you are planning to come to Italy in 2015.

1) It will be a great event – actually an endless series of events

www.delightfullyitaly.com_albero della vitaMany events have been planned in and out the actual Expo premises. The Expo will host a number of conferences, workshops, concerts, entertaining events (many hosted under the amazing “life tree” sculputure), but visitors will be able to find much more opportunities in Milan itself, ranging from art an dculture to food and light entertainment. Actually, th epre-Expo events have already started, here is were you can find more info.

2) It will host some really astonishing buildings

The over 130 participating countries are competing on building the most amazing pavillons, such as the China Pavillon. See my Expo 2015 page for more renderings.

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 2) It’s a good opportunity to discover Lombardy, a region partially neglected from mainstream touristic flows…

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When thinking of Lombardy, most travellers put in their bucket list just Bellagio, Leonardo’s last supper, and maybe Milan’s cathedral, il Duomo. However, Lombardy has lots of wonderful areas, towns and sights to be discovered, such as Bergamo, the astonishing Certosa di Pavia, the Franciacorta region, and so on. Spending some time in Milan to visit the expo could be a great opportunity to add a number of easy day trips, off the beaten path.

3) …as well as nearby Piedmont

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Piedmont is one of the regions bordering Lombardy and close to the Expo (the nearest border is 50 km from the exhibition site). Piedmont is home of authentic gastronomic treasures and an extraordinary variety of landscapes, from the spectacular alpine peaks of its mountains, sparkling lakes, and green hills covered with vineyards, castles, forts and abbeys that dominate the surrounding valleys.

4) The new Expo tourism portal will make your travel experience easier

Wonderful Expo 2015 , the official portal of Milan, Lombardy and of destinations near Expo Milano 2015, provides practical information, descriptions of places and attractions, updates on the most important events, and also has all the tools needed to book holidays and build a tailor-made trip: offering choice of accommodations and other useful tourist services. On the site you can save your favorite attractions, find a wide range of travel proposals and services and book a tour guide online, find the hotel that best suits your idea of a holiday, and the restaurant in line with culinary tastes.

It is actually the first time I find such a complete and organized travel services offer in this country!

5) If any of the above rationale appeal to you, plan your trip wisely and keep away form Expo locations!

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As any huge, worldwide event, Expo Milan 2015  will bring masses of people in Lombardy and Piedmont. Therefore, if you plan to visit Bellagio on your own, or to skip the Last Supper queue, this is probably the wrong moment to come to Lombardy! During the Expo period, I expect hotels and restaurants tarifs to rise and it may be tough to find a hotel in Milan without reserving much in advance.

But the good new is that while Expo will attracts masses of travellers in Lombardy, the other regions may experience a decreased tourist pressure. Therefore, it could be a great moment to visit the rest of Italy, including off  the beaten path destinations such as Umbria or Apulia!

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Delightfullyitaly.com: Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path

Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures.

And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free updates?

 

Trendy Milan: walking tour in Corso Como and Porta Nuova

The Unicredit tower
The Unicredit tower

Top places to eat, drink and shop in posh Corso Como and Porta Nuova Milan neighborhoods

 

In this walking tour I’d like to share one of my favorite areas in Milan for shopping, food and Aperitivo: corso Como and the brand new Porta Nuona neighborhood.

Milan may not have Rome or Florence classical beauty, but it is indeed a fascinating city, full of contrasts and always balancing between its historical roots and its aspiration to the future. Nowhere else in Italy you will feel the same energy, and nowhere else you will find the same refinements in terms of food, fashion and design. This itinerary will allow you to discover some of the most trendy places in Milan, included the brand new Eataly store, where you will be able to find, purchase and eat the quintessence of Italian food (just opened on March 18).

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Walking tour itinerary – click to open the interactive Google Map

What is amazing in this tour is the contrast between the XIX century remains and the futuristic buildings that popped up around the traditional old houses.

Let’s start this walk in Porta Volta, once one of Milan northern toll gates. Admire this beautiful neoclassical arch, and then raise your eyes to look at Italy tallest building, the Unicredit Tower (231 meters).

Porta Volta with Porta Nuova Real Estate development in the landscape
Porta Volta, the gate to Corso Como

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Walk through the arch, once a customs office, which now hosts design furniture show cases. On your right you will find the brand new flagsip store of Eataly, a company related to the “slow food” association, which mission is to identify, preserve and bring to the top end Italian food aficionados top end foods produced all over Italy. Actually you can find a Eataly stores in New York as well as in some other Italian cities such as Torino and Rome, but the one in Milan is really special.

Eataly brand new cristal facade
Eataly brand new cristal facade

Build inside a former theater, the new Eataly store is just that: the stage of Italian food excellence. You will be able to purchase top quality food (also fresh food such as meat, fish and vegetables), eat at on e of the several restaurants, each one specialized in a particular kind of cooking (from bio Pizzas to a two star upscale restaurant), have your aperitivo or attend a cooking course or a food conference. And, on top of that, customers can enjoy live concerts! Wow!

Eataly interior from the escalator
Eataly interior from the escalator

The concerts stage
The concerts stage
Eataly from the lobby
Eataly from the lobby

Just in front of Eataly, hidden in a XIX century building courtyard, you will find a real Jewell for all those who like Italian design: the High Tech Store. If you are looking for trendy stuff, from furniture, design objects, kitchen and house ware, stationary and s on, well, you are going to find it here. It’s a fascinating place, and I can’t help spending there half an afternoon each time i visit it. Beware, you could get addicted!

High tech entrance, from a XIX century courtyard
High Tech entrance, from a XIX century courtyard
Corso Como 10 dry goods
High Tech 10 dry goods
Corso Como 10 home
High Tech 10 home

Once you are out of High Tech store, turn right and head to Corso Como. This delightful pedestrian street is a perfect place for an Aperitivo, and hosts a number of fancy and trendy fashion boutiques.

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Corso Como
Fashion boutique shop window
Fashion boutique shop window

In corso Como you will find a real Milanese shopping icon: 10 Corso Como. 10 Corso Como is a fashionable shopping and dining complex that  combines outlets that show and sell works of art, fashion, music, design, cuisine and culture. It is mainly a café and a restaurants , but it also includes an art gallery, a bookshop, a design and fashion store and a Roof Garden. It’s a fantastic place for an aperitivo or a romantic dinner.

10 Corso Como inner entrance
10 Corso Como inner entrance
The outside bar
The outside bar
Corso 10 book shop
Corso Como 10 book shop

At the end of Corso Como, a futuristic path will lead you Piazza Gae Aulenti, the heart of the Porta Nuova new complex, actually the courtyard of the Unicredit Tower.

From Corso Como to Piazza Gae Aulenti
From Corso Como to Piazza Gae Aulenti
The entrance to Piazza Gae Aulenti
The entrance to Piazza Gae Aulenti
The Unicredit Tower
The Unicredit Tower
Unicredit tower canopies
Unicredit tower canopies

To end with a bang your tour in Trendy Milan, indulge in a nice glass of wine or in a really good Milanese menu at fancy restaurant Ratanà. The ratanà specializes in traditional Milanese dishes, “modernized” to make them more suitable to present tastes. It has a very modern and lively interior design, that clashes with its truly anachronistic location: an old villa surrounded by skysrapers! Said so, the food is excellent and the aperitivo served with “rubitt” (traditional small fried meat balls) is unforgettable.

Ratanà anachronistic location
Ratanà anachronistic location
Risotto "Milanese style" (yellow!)
Risotto “Milanese style” (yellow!)
Ratanà aperitifs counter
Ratanà aperitif counter

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Delightfullyitaly.com: Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path

Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free updates?

Secret treasures of Milan renaissance

A walking itinerary to discover Milan hidden renaissance jewels, beyond the Duomo and the Last Supper

 

Milan is universally recognized as the economic capital of Italy, but it is also a city of art. Historical buildings, villas, monuments, modern-architectural buildings, churches and abbeys all offer a variety of styles and striking details that are well worth getting to know.

Yes, there are the well known clichés: il Duomo, La Scala, La Galleria,  Santa Maria delle Grazie (feturing Leonardo’s last supper…), Sant’Ambrogio, the Castello Sforzesco. But the truth is that there’s much more than that. Milan can reveal fabulous treasures from its twenty centuries history,  if only you take your time to look for them carefully, since most of them are very well hidden. In this post I would like to walk you through fantastic renaissance churches, some of which date back from the end of the Roman empire: after all, Milan was the town where Constantine issued the edict legalizing Christian worship in 313.

Milano - San lorenzo Church - Constantine statue

Let’s start from San Maurizio, located in Corso Magenta, 15. It’s close to Sant’Ambrogio, so you can go there after visiting it.

Secret treasures of Milan Renaissance - Map

The church of San Maurizio and its adjoining cloister (now Milan archeological museum) are all the remains of the Monastero Maggiore, the oldest and largest female convent in the city, built between the 8th and 9th centuries close to the walls and near the Roman circus.

San Maurizio - Facciata

The present church, begun in 1503 on the site of an earlier place of worship, has a single nave and is divided into two distinct areas by a screen extending up to the large rib-vault ceiling.

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The first hall, entered from the street, was where the faithful gathered. The second, connected to the rest of the convent, was reserved to the nuns. Nuns couldn’t get in touch with male attendance, not even the priest. To take the holy communion, the host had to be given through a hole in the screen (look at the photo).

Milan - San Maurizio - Holy communion hole in the wall

Along the side walls are ten barrel vaulted chapels over which is an elegant matroneum with Serlian motif.

Milan - San Maurizio - entrance hall

The walls are decorated with one of the most important fresco cycles from the 16th century Lombardy, mainly by Bernardino Luini and his followers.

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After this fascinating visit to a temple of the faith, what about having a look to a modern Gourmet temple ?

At walking distance from San Maurizio, in Via Spadari (very close to Piazza del Duomo) you will find Peck, by far the most reputed Italian Gourmet shop, often referred to as the “Italian Fauchon”.

Peck Vetrina

Here you will find an incredibly wide range of culinary products, all at he utmost level of quality and desirability: gourmet meats, cheeses, meats, grill, delicatessen,pasta, pastry, ice cream, bakery and the most tasty may want the gourmands around the world.

peck-macelleria

Peck basement hosts one of the most famous and prestigious Italian wine shops. Here you will find the most prestigious Italian and international wines, in a classy and refined setting. It is also a perfect place for an exclusive Aperitivo.

Enoteca Peck

Back to culture and history, just in front of via Spadari, in Via Torino, nearly unnoticeable, you will find the Chiesa Santa Maria Presso di San Satiro (commonly known just as San Satiro).

The  is a delightful church just south of the Duomo in Milan, and one of my favorites.

Milano - San Satiro - Facciata

First built in 876, the church was dedicated to St. Satyrus, brother of St. Ambrose, and stands on the reputed site of his house. Later the church was dedicated also to Mary, so that the church’s full name is now “St. Mary Staying with St. Satyrus.”

While San Satiro is now eclipsed by more famous Milan churches, it was an important pilgrimage site in the 13th and 14th centuries, after news spread through Christendom that an image of the Madonna here shed real blood when stabbed.

An architectural gem, San Satiro was later perfected by Bramante (1444-1514), demonstrating his command of proportion and perspective, keynotes of Renaissance architecture.

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In 1472 Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan commissioned the extention of the chuch. His ambitions were great but the location available to him was limited by the presence of a busy street. The choir, the space behind the altar, had to be truncated, making the church awkwardly short.

Undeterred by such an obstacle, Bramante devised an ingenious solution. He painted an optical illusion.Trompe-l’œil, or architectural optical illusion was popular in late renaissance and baroque, but Bramante took the visual deception to an entirely new level. Standing at the entrance of the edifice one has an impression of a much deeper space, extending further behind the altar than is physically possible.

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The illusion, of course, quickly disappears as one steps aside from the main axis of the church.

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Another gem lies to the rear of the left transept: the Cappella della Pietà, so called for the 15th-century terra-cotta Pietà it now houses. It was originally built in the 9th century to honor Saint Satiro, brother of Saint Ambrose. Even more attractive than the namesake statue, though, are the Byzantine frescoes and Romanesque columns of the chapel.

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Getting out San Satiro, keep on walking south in Via Torino. Once arrived at the large crossing with Corso di Porta Ticinese, turn left towards San Lorenzo Church.

Dating from the 4th century AD, the Chiesa di San Lorenzo Maggiore is the oldest church in Milan. With ancient architecture that might seem more at home in Ravenna, San Lorenzo recalls the days when Milan was the capital of the Western Roman Empire.

Milan - San Lorenzo

Probably at the beginning of the V century a.C., on occasion of the building of the basilica, the columns of a big building of the II century a.C. from another part of the city were dismantled and reused in the construction of a wide quadrangular hall opposite to the Basilica. At present, the columns are all that remains of the monumental hall front, and their aspect is the result of several interventions through time, from the Middle Ages on. The Colonne di San Lorenzo are a popular meeting point, especially for the student population.

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Unlike the majority of the Paleochristian churches, the interior of San Lorenzo has a central ground plan, which is not surprising, considering that the basilica was erected as Arian church and that only later on S. Ambrogio succeeded in acquiring it from the ecclesiastic properties of Milan. It is composed of a wide octagonal room with two orders of arcades, overtopped by the magnificent cupola.

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Milano - San Lorenzo - Interior

In presence of the keeper it is also possible to visit the southern sacellum of the basilica, today S. Aquilino’s Chapel, holding the remnants of mosaics which once must have decorated the whole place, not inferior in opulence and beauty to the Roman-Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna.

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However, the most suggestive view of the Basilica can be appreciated from Piazza della Vetra, where it is possible to observe the whole apsidal complex, marked by the three Saint’s chapels. By the way, Piazza Vetra used to be one of the darkest spots of ancient Milan: this was the place chosen by the inquisition to publicly torture and burn alleged  witches.

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Now cross via Molino delle Armi and keep on walking in the nice Giardini di Piazza Vetra garden. After a few minutes you will spot the last monument of this tour: the church of Sant’Eustorgio.

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The Basilica’s architectural structure is particularly complex. The interior has three naves. To the basic Romanesque building, many chapels were added over the centuries following the church’s foundation, above all on its right-hand side.

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This is one of the oldest churches in Milan. It was founded in the 4th century, and rebuilt in the 19th century. Sant’Eustorgio originally housed the relics of the Three Kings, which were later subtracted and taken to Cologne by Frederick Barbarossa. However, from the 13th century on, the church took on an important role, becoming the principal location for the Dominican Order in Milan from 1227.

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800px-IMG_6109_-_MI_-_Sant'Eustorgio_-_Navata_destra_-_Foto_Giovanni_Dall'Orto_-_1-Mar-2007

Two of the several chapels are particularly significant: the Brivio Chapel, dating to 1484, with a Renaissance tomb and a triptych by Bergognone; and the Portinari Chapel, built from 1462 on, commissioned by Pigello Portinari, and an example of Florentine art in Milan. Inside, the upper sections of the walls were frescoed by Foppa between 1466 and 1468.

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Now that your appetite for culture is satisfied, you may consider have something to eat in the excellent Ristorante San’Eustorgio , where you can ask for a table with a view on the square and the church.

Milan - Restaurant - Sant'Eustorgio

Alternatively, if you ar efed up with pasta and keep on dreaming about yankee food, popular California Bakery, just alongside Sant’Eustorgio, is what you are looking for.

Milan - Sant'Eustorgio - California bakery

Cupola San Lorenzo

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Day trip to como and Bellagio from Milan

Como lake is an easy one day trip from Milan. Travel directions and tips to discover Bellagio and Como Lake Villas, an unmissable Italian destination.

Few places are as romantic as Como lake, and even fewer have the elegant beauty of  Bellagio. Called the “Pearl of the Lake”, Bellagio is one of the most famous travel icons in Italy, and is characterized by century-old buildings, stone lanes, picturesque cobbled stairways and gorgeous villas, on top of its fabulous views on the Como lake, the “Lario”.

A trip to Como lake and to Bellagio can be easily organized in one day from Milan. you can also find many organized tours, in case you are short of time. Here is a good one.

Bellagio_Hotel Villa serbelloni

Bellagio is very conveniently connected to Milan by public transports (Trains + ferry boats), so you will be able to visit it , as well as a couple of the relevant attractions, in a day trip from Milan. Of course, if you are lucky enough not to have  a tight time schedule, you can easily spend here two or three days, indulging on the lake shores and lazily visiting the many gorgeous 17-th – 19h centuries private villas.

Leaving Milan early in the morning, you could either take  a train (1 hour)+ a Ferry to Bellagio (less than one hour with the speed boats service), or drive to Menaggio and take the direct Ferry to Bellagio (10-20 minutes, one ferry each 40′ in summertime). Travel tip: although you could get there directly by car, it wouldn’t be a good idea, you would loose most of the enchantment.

Menaggio is a nice little town, close to impressive dolomite cliffs. It a good point to rent a boat for an hour or more, if you would like a self managed tour in speed boat or sailing boat (you can contact www.acboatrental.com or Nautic Planet 335 8098237. Menaggio offers also a good beach + swimming pool, in case your hotel didn’t had one and you had a sudden and irresistible need of swimming and sunbathing. Menaggio Spiaggia

Regardless how, you arrived in Bellagio.

You will be fascinated by the view from the boat while you gently approach to the harbor. Bellagio is a place where the time seems to have stopped, and actually didn’t change that much from the time it was discovered by upper class European tourists, undertaking their Grand Tour of Italy more than one century ago.

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Menaggio

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Bellagio_the hill from the ferry

Once you disenbark, just walk around the lake shore, admiring the Belle Epoque hotels, and maybe having a Gelato (ice cream) under the trees, admiring the lake view. My choice: oldish style bar Sanremo.

Bellagio_Water Taxi

Once you are done, walk up the delightful, cobbled stairways and wander around until you get to the romanic San Giacomo Church (in the same square you will find the I.A. T. office, the meeting point for the Villa Serbelloni visits).

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Bellagio_old streets Bellagio_butcher Bellagio_delightfully Bellagio

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San Giacomo’s church is one of the best examples of the Lombard-Romanesque style architecture in the whole region. It was built from the end of the 11th century to the beginning of the 12th century. The curch interiors have kept most of their original, austere simplicity.

Bellagio_San Giacomo Church

Bellagio_san Giacomo church interior

You are now ready to discover the true, in my opinion, off the beaten path Jewell of Bellagio: the hamlet of Pescallo. Get back to via Garibaldi and, in front of the Town Hall, take the staircase on your left, salita Cappuccini.

Bellagio_stairway to Pescallo

Bellagio_Pescallo stairway

Just after the stairway you will discover a tiny, delightful and totally neglected by most tourist hamlet. Known to have been in ancient times one of the main fishing centers of Como lake, today Pescallo (“Pescare” means fishing in Italian) is a laid back place, very calm, where you will be able to experience the true atmosphere of wonderful Bellagio.

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Bellagio_Pescallo_hotel Ristorante La pergola Bellagio_Pescallo_Bench Bellagio_Pescallo Bellagio_Pescallo_old street

To have lunch, you may well eat on the enchanting terrace of Pescallo’s  Hotel Ristorante “La Pergola” or, back to Bellagio, at the lake terrace of the Hotel Excelsior Splendid (d0n’t be mistaken by the name: it’s a 3 stars hotel, and will serve you good dishes at a very reasonable price).

Bellagio_Risotto Bitto e Breasaola

Coming back to Bellagio, don’t miss Punta Spartivento, a tiny harbor backed by a small garden at the very end of Bellagio peninsula. It’s only ten minutes walking from the church and is definitely worthwhile  for the view but, most of all, for the possibility of having a rest, laying on the grass and indulge for a while, under the shade of the horse chesnut trees.

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There are two enchanting villas you may visit while you you are in Bellagio, without taking any ferry: villa Serbelloni, located just in the center of the town, and villa Melzi.

Villa Serbelloni stands on the promontory of Bellagio, where you can enjoy fantastic views of the town and the lake.  During the XIX century the property was marvelously embellished with precious decorations and oeuvres made between the XVII and the XVIII centuries. The owners, the Serbelloni family, redesigned the wide park – considered one of the most interesting in Italy – with valuable plants and trees like rhododendrons, cypresses, sequoias, beeches and rare exotic species that, especially in autumn, create an incomparable show of colors! You will find caves, sculptures, remains of medieval walls and, on top of the promontory, the ruins of an ancient Romanesque church located inside old boundary walls! During the Risorgimento, the villa was totally abandoned and, towards the end of the XIX century, turned into a 5 stars hotel. In 1930, an American princess bought the villa and donated it to the Rockefeller Foundation of New York, in 1959. The property is now used from the foundation as conference and study centre, so that you can only visit the amazing gardens. The park of Villa Serbelloni is open to visits from 1st April to 31st October – two guided visits per day, from 11 am to 4 pm, 30 people maximum – closed on Monday. Better to book in advance, especially during the week ends, at the I.A.T. box office (info@promobellagio.it).

Villa Melzi: walking distance from Bellagio, it was built in pure neoclassic style between 1808 and 1810 by architect Albertolli, by the order of Francesco Melzi d’Eril, an eminent politician during the Napoleonic era.

Villa Melzi

The Villa is rich in archaeological finds, statues, sculptures and there is also an arabic temple in the parkland. But the botanical gardens, streching out along the lake shore and are armoniously inserted into the hilly scenery of the Bellagio peninsula, that are the real highlight of the villa.

On your way back to Milan, you should stop and visit at least two of the many villas scattering the west branch of the lake: Villa Bastianello and Villa Carlotta.

Villa Bastianello was built at the end of the eighteenth century for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini, and has one of the most enchanting views on the lake and surrounding hills. It has been possessed by many owners throughout the centuries, and it was completely renewed in the seventies by Guido Monzino, who enriched it with incredibly beautiful works of art (like Chinese vases). Reservation is usually needed for the visit.

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Villa Carlotta: located in Tremezzo, Villa Carlotta is a luxurious eighteenth century building, that was completed in 1690 by the Milanese banker Giorgio Clerici.

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The villa was property of Princess Marina from Nassau, the wife of Alberto from Russia. It was later given to their daughter Carlotta. Hence the name Villa Carlotta. The villa became a temple of XIX century art. Housed, among others, are marble statues by Antonio Canova and paintings by Francesco Hayez, such as the famous “The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet.” In the interior there is a copy by Baldini of the sculpture “Amore and Psiche”; in fact the original sculpture by Canova is in Leningrad at the National Museum. The villa is surrounded by a park containing about five hundred species of plants and flowers. The gardens of Villa Carlotta chiefly owe their reputation to the rhododendrons’ and azaleas’ spring flowering, consisting of over 150 different sorts (unmissable visit in sprinng!). But the gardens are worth to visit in every period of the year: old varieties of camellias, century old cedars and sequoias, huge planes and tropical plants, the Rock garden and the Ferns valley, the Rhododendrons wood and the Bamboos garden.

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Best “aperitivo” (happy hour) in Milan

Anguria assassina

Milan has a long lasting rivalry with Rome, and has often been nominated (likely by Milanesi themselves)  the True  Capital: the business capital, the moral capital, and so on and so forth.

We may endlessly argue about which town of the two could aspire to the title, but one thing cannot be denied: Milan is the capital of Aperitivo.

In no other city of Italy, not even in Venice (read my post on Cicchetti – , or in Bologna, post to come), aperitivo is such a widespread social habit and nowhere else it reaches the same level of locations, glamour and food.

Yes, food. In most Italian cities, the typical aperitivo consists of a drink accompanied by modest snacks such as potato chips and olives (if you are lucky enough not to receive only the drink…). In Milan,  you can expect to be offered an endless variety of dishes such as pasta, risotto, salads, ham, cheeses, meat balls, sausages, bits of pizzas and even exotic food such as sushi or curry, often served as an “all you  can eat” buffet.

For this reason, for many busy Milanese, as well as for the smart travelers,  the aperitivo becomes a clever alternative to dinner at the price of a cocktail (from 5 to 15 Euro).

Top locations are usually poshy and trendy and, during the good season, they may give you the opportunity of discovering and enjoying carefully hidden gardens and courtyards.

There are literally hundreds of nice places to have aperitivo, and new ones pop up every day. I’m going to share with you my favorites, leaving to you the pleasure of working out your own selection.

Cheers!

TIP: the coolest locations usually get pretty crowded, and it’s not uncommon to see a huge crowd of happy drinkers gathering on the sidewalks, a glass in their hands. That’s perfectly OK, but if you prefer to relax instead of standing up, you should consider reserving your seat.

TIP2: Most of these places offer Sunday brunch

Best places for Aperitivo - Map

Milano

Milano

One of the most trendy places for an aperitivo. The Milano is the last creation of the Royalto group (which includes the also Royalto and the Invillà, all recommended).

It is build in a huge former garage (!!), which has been furnished in a ’60s style, with original furniture. Hence, the Milano  looks more like a trendy living room than like a bar. Several food islands, catered by Indian personnel, will serve you cold and hot dishes (sizes are minimal, you can eat how much you want, but will have to queue again!).

In the summer time you can eat on a nice terrace to escape the heat.

Diana Majestic

Diana Majestic

The Diana is the bar of the down town Sheraton. Located in a crowed area, 100 meters from Porta Venezia, you would never imagine that the 19th century building hides a large and beautiful garden.

That’s why the Diana gets fairly crowded in the summer time. To escape the mosquito  or when the weather gets colder, you can sit in the “normal” bar, under gigantic desk lamps.

N’ombra de vin

N'ombra de vin

Located in Brera, N’ombra de Vin is a fantastic wine bar, build in an ancient basement, which used to be the refectory of the Agostiniani friars. Original marble columns supporting the vaulted ceiling, wine bottles of all sizes everywhere, low lights: old atmosphere at its top!

You should come to N’ombra de vin if you are looking for excellent wine and for the feeling of ancient Milan. N’Ombra de Vin also organizes wine tasting lessons.

Bulgari

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Italian sophisticated elegance at its best. The Bulgari is the bar of the Bulgari Hotel, one of the best hotels in Milan.

Here again, you will discover an incredible garden, where you could indulge sipping a glass of Gewurztraminer , while observing the “bel mondo” (“high society”) sitting next to you.

Prices are not cheap (18 € for a glass of wine), but the appetizers being served with the aperitivo is excellent and the waiters will keep on refilling your plate until you leave.

Living

Living

Very popular, located in the pedestrian area around Arco della Pace, the Living is one of the many successful bars created by Fabio Acampora (the others, also recommended, are the Circle, the Exploit and the Refeel).

You will find a huge selection of appetizers  but expect to fight hard to get to the counter in the busiest hours. You can either eat inside or outside, with a nice view on the park.

In the same pedestrian area you will find many other nice bars and restaurants, all worth trying.

Novecento café

Caffé novecento

It’s a simple bar, but gives you the possibility of sipping a drink in beautiful corso Como, while contemplating the contrast between the pedestrian 19th century street and the 21st century skyscrapers that are popping up all around.

The waiter will serve you basic appetisers, but you can fill (and refill) your plate at the buffet inside the bar.

In front of the Novecento you will also find the famous,  trendy (and expensive) 10 Corso Como, which you could try for a drink or a dinner if you are looking for a fashionable evening.

 Just Cavalli

Just Cavalli Café 2

Exaggerated, kitsch, expensive, well, exactly what you could expect from the famous Italian Fashion designer Roberto Cavalli.

The Just Cavalli is located in a fantastic location inside Parco Sempione, just under the Torre Branca (same entrance, you could take the opportunity of enjoy the view after you are done with your drink).

I wouldn’t suggest having a dinner there, but the place is perfect for a posh aperitivo.

 


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Delightfullyitaly.com: Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path

Delightfullyitaly.com is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, delightfullyitaly.com is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow delightfullyitaly.com and get free updates?