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24 Hours in Milan, Italy

The final stop on our 9-day Italy trip was spending 24 hours in Milan! A wonderful city in northern Italy, Milan had lots of culture and a sophisticated vibe. After hiking in Cinque Terre the week before, it was refreshing to stay at the Marriott and have regular access to air conditioning. These are the highlights from our final 24 hours in Italy.

milan in 24 hours

Morning in Milan

We woke up early and headed over to the Piazza del Duomo to see the Milan Cathedral. Out and about around 7am, we were some of the first people there and enjoyed views without the hordes of crowds. I loved the palm trees, marble and arches that defined the plaza. We walked past the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II where there are four (four!!) Prada stores before heading to The Last Supper Museum.

We grabbed breakfast Italian style at Maria Marioni. We stood at the bar and drank coffee and ate olive focaccia bread. (FYI we found that depending on the place in Italy, you might charged an extra cover charge if you decide to sit at a table.)

To get into The Last Supper on the same day, we bought the 5xLeonardo for €38. The Milan Card gave us access to 5 Museums: Museo del Cenacolo Vinciano, Pinacoteco di Brera, Musei del Castello Sforzesco, Pinateca Ambrosiana, and Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Technologia Leonardo da Vinci. While we didn’t have enough time to get to them all, we were still on a high from all the Renaissance art in Florence and decided it was well worth it to see the legendary da Vinci piece.

Painted in 1495, The Last Supper is in a severe state of deterioration. Da Vinci wanted to paint using an innovative fresco technique at the time, which ultimately led to the mural’s premature deterioration a mere 20 years later.

All visitors have to have a timed ticket because the museum only allows a few people into the chapel at a time. The exhibit was pretty short and told the story of the painting restoration over the course of the 20th century. The display had some incredible pictures of the chapel nearly entirely destroyed after bombing in WWII with the Last Supper wall miraculously standing.

Before seeing the painting, we entered a room that dehumidified us and minimized any further damage to the art. The painting was definitely worn. Nevertheless, it continued to be impressive due to all the stories, hype and legend surrounding it. Well worth the visit as who knows how much longer the painting will be standing. I’m glad the 5xLeonardo Card could get us in with a last minute reservation.

milan architecure italy

Afternoon at the Castle

For lunch we ate at Drogherie Milanesi. It was a super cute restaurant with a refreshingly different Italian menu. I was so excited to try stuffed squash blossoms and tomato ravioli! The restaurant had a retro old school vibe with a cool bar downstairs and vintage arcade games. Upstairs was well lit with an awesome cookbook collection for sale and Italian cooking ingredients.

We spent the rest of our 24 hours in Milan at the Sforza Castle. Completed in 1370, the Castle is now home to 16 museums and collections all accessible with the 5xLeonardo Card. The highlight of my trip was seeing the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit and seeing the “Sala delle Asse” and the pergola of mulberry trees on the ceiling. I hadn’t initially heard of this work by da Vinci, but once seeing it I fell in love.

The duke Ludovico Maria Sforza hired da Vinci to paint the cieling. . Nicknamed the “Moro” the ceiling is a play on words for the Italian word mulberry. The museum had a fantastic light show to tell the story of the ceiling. Inside the room, the museum had set up bleachers and projectors lit up the walls and ceiling. A 15 minute show ensued that told the story of the project, the design and the restoration. Lights and projectors animated the painting and highlighted areas that were incomplete, recently restored or connected to some other body of work that da Vinci created. It was incredible!! The projection helped my untrained eye notice all sorts of incredible details and made me appreciate the art so much more.

The exhibit was also accompanied by a series of sketches and documents that da Vinci created around the same time that provide depth to the ceiling’s history. In this museum I also learned about the story behind the Last Supper commission. Apparently da Vinci was a bit of a diva and only painted a few brush strokes a day. That’s why it took him 4 years to finish it.
The castle also housed the last statue that Michelangelo carved: the Pieta Rondanini. Outside the castle was the Sempione Park which would have been a lovely spot to go for a run or have a picnic!

Evening for Foodies

The foodie in me died and went to heaven with our 24 hours in Milan dinner plans at Ratana. We happened to snag a last minute table right when they opened (would for sure recommend reservations should you want to go!). Seated immediately at 7:30, we were offered an artistic interpretation on an Aperol spritz with lemon and rosemary. We were also treated with a chopped veggie and fresh cheese tasting bowl. So good!

ratana vegan milan

Ratana had an awesome tasting menu, but we went with some of their regular menu options. We stated with a yellow tomato cream topped with homemade stracciatella cheese and basil bread crumbs. For the main course, I had potato gnocchi with eggplant and baby plum tomatoes. My boyfriend had a smoky sweet pepper risotto with sausage. We sipped on Italian sparkling wine (a vintage from 2012!!) and had rhubarb gelato with cream and puff pastry for dessert.

The restaurant ambiance was adorable and perfect for a date night on our last evening. It had a very environment friendly vibe and offered discounts to people who biked there OR owned a tree house! It was an excellent meal to leave Italy on.

After dinner we walked around the modern “Library of Trees” park. Quite a few bars and restaurants (including an Eatly!) lined the streets. One restaurant that caught eye our was I Salentini — perhaps next time!

All in all it was a magical 24 hours in Milan! For more Italian adventures, check out my guides to Cinque Terre, Florence, and Venice.

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Have you been to Milan? What are your favorite things to see in 24 hours?

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