Milan bleg

I’m not there yet, but pretty soon.  I haven’t spent serious time in the city since about twenty years ago.  What do you all recommend?  Thanks in advance.  My talks are through the Bruno Leoni Institute, one in Milan, one in Ravenna.

Comments

Not much help on the Milan front. When in the region, we have always stayed in old town Bergamo. I consider the Byzantine mosaics (San Vitale et al) to be the equal of any of the great art experiences in all of Italy.

This goes against all your rules, but Boeucc is the oldest restaurant in the city, dating from the 1600s and also one of the very best. However, you should be warned that not only does it have excellent decor and beautiful women, as well as very attentive and polite waiters, it does not have negative prices.

If you have not previously done it, make it to the roof of the Duomo.

Cracco is the hot, creative restaurant in Milan these days. Chef is in the kitchen. I think you'll find it worthwhile.

http://www.ristorantecracco.it/

Here is Frank Bruni's recent visit:

http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/10/02/travel/high-end-dining-in-italy.html?pagewanted=all

Haven't been to Milan, but Ravenna is amazing. Definitely check out the mosaics in the basilicas. Also had some tremendous focaccia at small shop on the right hand side of the little strip as you come out of the train station. It has been years, and yes, I still remember that bread.

"Pizza Ok" would fit all of "Economist" criteria. It is far from the city center where you will likely stay, but it is simply the best pizza in the world, period (try n.103).

Yes! Pizza OK is fantastic! Definitely some of the best I've had.

Be careful of pick pockets at the train station.

The best risotto I've ever had was in Milan. I'm not partial to the "Milanese" version with saffron, but was blown away by a dish with Risotto Integrale, as well as one with local mushrooms. I forget the name of the restaurant (but I know it was near the part of the city with canals and lots of restaurants) -- I would ask a local where excellent risotto can be had, as I'm sure there are many great options.

Spend a fair amount on apertivi. If you find a place that costs > 15 euro, it will almost always be worth much more. If you spend less than 10 euro, you probably won't be happy with the offerings.

I recommend not too much time in Milan.

If your schedule permits, take the train north an hour to Lugano, in Switzerland. One of the loveliest towns you will see. An afternoon along the lake, or lunch at the top of Monte Bre' can never disappoint.

Yes by all means to Lugano - the best of the Swiss combined with the best of Italy

I looked up the title of Tyler's speech: "The Great Global Stagnation and the Future of the Euro" from the Bruno Leoni website.

My goodness, we've gone from the Great US stagnation now to the Great Global Stagnation in a matter of months.

Is there no low hanging fruit out there anywhere?

Stagnation wise, Tyler has picked it!

Anyone spotting Tyler in Italy at a restaurent with beautiful women knows he's not there for the food.

But then, he might be there with Natasha. Something tells me she would like Boeucc, :-).

Barkley, I indeed will be there and will report back:)

I am sure you will have a great time, Natasha. You might also really like La Scala, if you can get in. Marina thinks it has the supreme audience for opera of anywhere in the world, although it is hard to get into, and the seats are rather tight. They are very demanding of the singers, no easy applause.

Pinacotecha Brea also has a fine collection.

If you have some extra time I recommend taking the hour-long train ride up to Lugano, Switzerland, where you can find a number of excellent grottos. My favorite is Grotto Figini, where they serve (family style) excellent polenta and whatever wild game happens to be in season.

Here is a review if you like (although I have never seen it "rowdy"): http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/switzerland/ticino/review-467168.html

Bocconi di vino restaurant

The Last Supper of course

And I second Lugano

Need to get tickets prior to going to get into see Ultima Cena.

The Italians tend to call it "Il Cenacolo."

Trattoria Masuelli San Marco
http://www.masuelli-trattoria.com/

There is an extremely good restaurant just off of the Porta Romana metro station. I do not remember what it is called, but if you go there you can ask the person running the tabacchi on the corner for "the place with delicious food".

The Navigli district is my favorite though.

Id recommend Osteria La Brisa on via Brisa (off of Corso Magenta, Cadorna metro). Fantastic beef and a lovely walled garden to eat it in.

Milan is dreadful; we recently went there to register my son as a US citizen, and ... it's as bad as I remember it. Bergamo, as someone else mentioned, is good. Ravenna is not somewhere I'm familiar with, but Emilia Romagna has great food, and the countryside is beautiful at this time of year - the poppies are blooming, and the Appenines to the south offer a number of nice looking small towns, forests and other peaceful places to try and hack up some of the smog from Milan and replace it with clean air.

Pay no attention to the spoilsports knocking Milano. You will be there. Enjoy it. There is far more that is great to do than you will have time to do, and far more good restaurants than anywhere else in Italy simply because it is Italy's largest city.

As for Ravenna, be sure to see more mosaics than just the most famous ones at San Vitale. Those are from the Byzantine period, but what is really interesting there is that one can see the whole transition of artistic style in them in various sites from fully pagan Roman Empire to the hieratically Christian Byzantine. This was what the Renaissance was at least partly about reversing, going back to the earlier naturalism. The various sites are easily accessed and not far apart, and a decent guidebook will describe which have what.

As for Milano: "I Capatosta" on Naviglio Grande is one of the best Neapolitan pizzerie of Northern Italy.
You can go there by metro, getting off in Porta Genova or by foot, walking from the paleochristian Chiesa di San Lorenzo through Porta Ticinese to the Darsena.

Have the chocolate cake at Cova, on via Montenapoleone. Really. Worth the trip.

I second Boccon di Vino: Via Carducci 17, + 39 2 866 040. Surreal immersion into the universe of Italian wines and cheeses.

If you have the time swing by the Pinacoteca di Brera.

and no, don't go to Lugano, it's such a sad town.

Heh, my European guidebook also notes the sadness and "world weariness" of its inhabitants. Sort of odd. Seems like a nice place.

very clean, very rich, very dull.

The best meal I've had in Milan was at a tiny Japanese place in the back of a shop along Via Eustachi, I think it was called Poporoya. I'm yet to read An Economist Gets Lunch though, so I don't know if it breaks any of your rules.

If you have time, definitely make it out to one of the lakes.

Try something you can't get elsewhere... like Fried Gnocchi. The best place in Milano is Gnocco Fritto - Via Pasquale Paoli, 2 off of the Navigli. Absolutely sublime - fried bread with amazing cheeses, hams etc. Sounds basic but its life changing....
Alternatively Pizza Ok is really great, as is a new pizzeria called be Bop on Col di Lana, 4 - they make a base from Kamut - completely delicious and super light.
A gelato is a must! Grom is fabulous and now has a few outlets.
And if you go to one of the lakes, Lago d'Orta is the smallest and prettiest - very romantic and not overrun by tourists :-)

Book at least a day in advance. Being crowded or having nice decor is not a good indicator in Milan, mediocre to bad restaurants can be quite fashionable in Milan. You really have to search for funky or interesting. With a south-side bias: For Calabrian food DonGio is your answer. For Sicialian Pirandello has excellent Italian "sushi", though their pastas are average. For a Neapolitan pizza go to Tegamino, but you might have to wait an hour. For excellent Florentine steaks and solid Tuscan food Cantinetta is your answer. You can double check the reviews on Yelp (just started in Italy) and Tripadvisor.

I would not want to criticize Boeucc, a satisfactory and carefully managed restaurant, except to say that it isn't at all the kind of place Tyler has in mind. This is a restaurant whose primarily value is of the ritual sort. Very senior bankers, corporate lawyers, property developers and such go there to convince one another of their solvency and seriousness. Tyler, who is very American in this, conflates "funkiness" with "genuine" and could not possibly have the sensation of finding either at Boeucc. The food is however "accurately" prepared, if generally bland.

In general, the "funkiness" rule in dining is a poor one to attempt to apply in Milan. The cost of doing retail business is Milan is extremely high. This means the only way to survive with a low-end restaurant is to cut corners. Since everyone must evade taxes in roughly the same degree to find the cash to pay the other tax bills that can't be evaded, this means finding "savings" mostly on staffing and ingredients. "Street food" does not exist.

The better rule in urban Italy - especially if you are primarily interested in just eating well - is instead to count on restaurants that have simply been there a long time. They have found something to offer their clients and they have over their years of survival acquired the resources - kitchen staff, competent waiters, coherent menus, stable suppliers and such - to guarantee quality.

As for the "avoid the places with beautiful women" suggestion that has so caught the fancy of the reviewers of Tyler's food book, Milan as a fashion capital and Italian to boot has a dense enough selection of beautiful women that it's not necessary to visit zoos to view them. They can be found most anywhere and restaurants on the whole would not attempt to build a clientele based on their presence.

Concretely, Milan (oddly perhaps, since it's not on the water) has Italy's best fish restaurants. Of these, I suggest "Al Porto" in Piazza Cantore. Simil-funkiness can instead be sought at "Da Leo" a wholly different, obsessively fishy place tucked into a macabre row of funeral parlors in front of the Pio Albergo Trivulzio, a sort of gigantic old-folks home… An alternative would be to try Lombard cooking, since Italian cuisine in Italy is still highly regionalized. The suggestion there would be the "Trattoria Milanese" in Via Santa Marta - genuine traditional milanese cuisine. This means among other things very little or no pasta, a relatively recent arrival in Lombardy. A good - and authentic - menu choice for American palates there would be "riso al salto", essentially a risotto fried in a pan like a pancake until somewhat crunchy on the outside. "Brasato" - a distant relative of, say, beef bourguignon - with polenta would be another more or less authentic choice, though to be really picky it is probably more fairly called a Piedmontese rather than Lombard dish.

The roof of the Duomo is excellent, though the tiny elevator is not for claustrophobes.

Just a note on the Pio Albergo Trivulzio: it is not just a old-folks home, but also the place where the whole Tangentopoli scandal began and the "first" Italian Republic ended. Hence not just a building, but also one of the symbol of good old Italian clientelism.

James,

Well, you kind of make my case. I made it clear upfront that Boeucc violates nearly all, if not all, of Tyler's rules. But you also agree that Milano is different from NoVa and many other places. This fashion capital is not the place for the sort of funkiness he writes about, although there are plenty of interesting places that partly fit his rules, and I am sure he'll be checking some of them out, particularly for the excellent seafood.

But he is also perfectly capable of breaking his own rules, and you must admit there is no place like Boeucc. It is really not like anything in the US and for that matter in Italy either. Indeed, on your point about looking for an older established restaurant, well, none has been there longer than Boeucc, and its "careful management" reflects indeed great care and "accuracy" as you put it. It is just the sort of place that would be most appropriate for Tyler and Natasha to go off the farm and allow themselves to be really seriously pampered, and the cuisine is indeed profoundly Milanese at a deep and high level.

Another vote for the roof of the duomo (assuming it's not raining). I try to make time for it whenever I have to be in Milan - it's one of those things you can enjoy for 20min if that's all you have, or you can easily explore for a couple of hours.

The Last Supper is overrated.

The Last Supper (Ultima Cena) is most definitely NOT overrated. However, one cannot just walk in and see it. Must book in advance, and if you know Italian get those tickets. The ones for English tours sell out sooner.

I dont know if you are a passionate of arts and culture in general, but, as an Italian, I would strongly reccomend to visit "Pinacoteca di Brera" and "The last dinner" by Leonardo da Vinci. They are definetly THE places to visit during your stay here.

Hope to be present at your talks!

Only because no one else has mentioned it: drop down from Milano on the train or by car to Pavia, a bare half-hour south. (You can stop off at the Certosa coming or going if you want.) Pavia has its Duomo, which should be re-opened by now (visited in May 2004) and refurbished. The University of Pavia is one of Europe's oldest, one comparatively recent graduate of whom was Carlo M. Cipolla. The relics of Ss Boethius and Augustine reside in the crypt of S Pietro in Ciel d'Oro. Cesare's for gelato, certo. If you have a car, drive another 30-40 mins. SE of Pavia to find the Castello di Rivalta, with its own excellent restaurant (check for times, may only open on weekends).

In general I would say that making recommendations is not particularly efficient. Italy is so full of above-average restaurants that it is hard to go wrong in any place that is not aggressively, overly touristy (which in Milan you will only risk running into in the immediate area around the Duomo). Almost every neighborhood is full of excellent places that range from casual to less casual to simply pizza to excellent fish (as one Milanese expat noted).

I would also echo Barkely Rosser's comment to ignore naysayers about the city. Furthermore, street food is well represented in the form of panzerotti and piadine.

You will come away happy. Milan, unlike much of Italy, is also a rare spot of economic dynamism so it is interesting on several levels.

Off the food topic, I recently watched an interesting documentary about Italian muni dealings in interest rate swaps and other financial products. Here's one interesting fact: the city of Milan was (is?) on the financial hook in the event of a sovereign default by Italy (the nation state).

Link to documentary here:

http://www.polycapitalist.com/2012/04/video-debt-and-redemption-documentary.html

leave. catch a 40 minute train to como.

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