On the Ninth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: Milano

Milan is not on top of the list of cities to visit in Italy. Most people end up in Milan because they are in transit to somewhere else. It could be they are flying into the airport and are heading South towards Florence or East towards Venice. It could be they have to go through Milan to travel to Lake Como.

When in Milan, the typical tourist route includes the Duomo, the Galleria Emanuele III, Castel Gandolfi, and Da Vinci’s Last Supper. These sights are good for a day of sightseeing. But, what else is there to do?

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Milan is odd. After the Romans left the Milanese destroyed most of the Roman structures as they didn’t want any reminders from that time. Milan originally was built with many canals which were the way for tradespeople to get around. These were later covered to make way for streets and cars. The city took another big hit when it was heavily bombarded during World War II.  Today, the contrast between modern buildings and old structures is quite drastic.

As I arrived for my fifth time in Milan, I was determined to find its soul. After all, it is a fashion, design, and business metropole. I quickly understood that using the public transportation system was the key to discovering the city’s pulse. The subway is fast, efficient, and incredibly affordable. It will take you to areas such as:

This enchanting district is one of the most beloved, romantic, and atmospheric quarters of Milano. The best way to experience it is by strolling along and randomly soak it in. Peek through gates, look at artworks, stop by galleries, enjoy one of the many excellent ristorantes and trattorias. If you don’t want to walk from the city center, take the subway to Lanza.

This neighborhood is set along the original Naviglio Grande canal, the oldest canal in Milan. It was built around sometime around 1200 and is more than 35 miles in length. At the time it was used to transport goods. Today the area is home to numerous restaurants, bars, many small boutiques, and art galleries.
In the evening, it is hugely popular with the young Milanese crowd because of the so-called aperitivo hour or happy hour. Between 5 pm – 7 pm many of the bars offer free food provided you purchase one drink. It’s a fun and hip place to sit outside and experience some authentic nightlife and there are plenty of options to choose from. There are also some romantic, more hidden trattorias.


This blog post is the ninth destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. She specializes in creating experiences across Italy and travels to Milan almost yearly, to network at Italy’s tourism trade show. To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com


Venice for a day – A Daytrip from Milan


It was still dark when we arrived at Milano Centrale. Thanks to the Excelsior Gallia’s location we only had to stroll across the street to make it there. The air smelled moist and crisp on the early mid-February morning.


Milano’s train station is impressive, a humongous historical building dating back to 1912 when its architect, Ulisse Stacchini, came up with the idea to create  the “Cathedral of Movement”. With 11,000 m2 of marble and the central arch spanning over 72 meters Milano Centrale is easily one of Europe’s most beautiful train stations.

Crossing the deserted hall, which seemed somehow dark, despite the bright, artificial lights, we made our way to the platform.


The ride from Milan to Venice Santa Lucia station takes about 2 hours 30 minutes. In the early morning hours the landscape had a romantic touch, covered by a layer of mist which softened the classic Italian shapes and colors, almost like a painting. In the distance a view of the Dolomites, the stoic mountain range which is home to some of Italy’s best skiing areas such as Cortina.

Once the train starts crossing the water from Venice Mestre to Venice Island it’s time to get excited. Venice’s train station is very welcoming with its bright, airy and clean setting. As you cross the arrivals hall and step out into the open, you are immediately greeted by the city’s romantic beauty. It almost hits you by surprise, it’s as if you stepped right into a postcard.


There is daylight now, but the sun still sits low. A romantic mist lingers over the canals, making the skyline of domes and towers of the city look like a pastel water color painting.

Since we hadn’t made any plans, we decided to hop on one of the water buses, the so called Vaporettos, to get closer to the Grand Canal and St. Marks Square. The waterbus system is extensive and  very much like a subway or bus system in a larger city. Instead of hoping onto a train though you are embarking and disembarking a small, one story, passenger ship. Whilst public transportation usually is a quick way to get around, this is different. The Vaporettos are extremely slow.  And, just like a subway or a regular bus, they fill up and get crowded at times, making it not the most comfortable and convenient way to travel.



Venice’s streets and canals are confusing. To have a map is essential and to look at it often is crucial. It is extremely easy to get lost in the many small passages and sideways. Quite honestly though, Venice makes getting lost as charming as can be. There are so many squares, palazzos, beautiful houses, canals and bridges, always something to see. It is hard to take your eyes off or wonder, if this place really exists. Getting lost also means that you lose the crowd of tourists and all of a sudden find yourself in a more residential area, where flowers are delivered by boat and old people stand at the street corner thoroughly engaged in a chat.


Presuming that it wouldn’t be busy in February, I was surprised how many tourists were crowding around the major attractions such as St. Marks Square and the Rialto bridge. It quickly becomes clear that Venice is attractive, no matter what time of the year. Some of the lines to enter attractions seemed almost ridiculously long. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must look like in summer. At the end of the day I felt utterly charmed by Venice, it is truly unique and one of the most romantic cities. However, it likely wouldn’t have had the same effect on me during the summer, when it is overrun by tourists and some of the canals exude bad odors.









stefanie pichonnat aavtravel


Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner and travel consultant at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm customizing travel itineraries for discerning customers. With her extensive travel experience in Italy she can help you create a wonderful trip. Contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com