If your planning efforts involve overseas fashion or finance clients, it’s virtually inevitable that at some point, you will wind up in Milan. Though rarely included on traditional tourist itineraries, Milan’s huge convention spaces – including of two the largest in Italy – make it a must-see for meetings and convention planners. Though Milan may lack the obvious romance of Venice or the dolce vita of Rome, the compact, cosmopolitan and super-chic city of Milan does have a number of captivating and convenient attractions that can easily fit into even the tightest schedule. Another plus for planners? Plenty of direct flights from the U.S. and major European cities.
by October 5, 2012
Recently, I found myself with a post-meeting afternoon to spare in Milan. Instead of spending the afternoon fielding emails, I took advantage of the glorious weather (and the time difference) to do a high-speed tour of the town – packing in five great experiences into just a few hours. For planners a little time to spare -- or a small group you need to entertain for an afternoon -- here are my high-speed highlights, all of which are just steps from the centrally-located, heart of the city, the Duomo:
Snack like a local: First order of business: fortify yourself and your entourage for the afternoon with a few delectable panzerottis at Luini, a storefront bakery, which since 1949 has specialized in making light, fluffy, savory-filled pastries. Similar in size to an Argentine empanada, Luini panzerottis are fried, spongy flatbreads, filled with hearty combinations of mozzarella, tomato, ham, pesto, cottage cheese, spinach, eggplant, etc. In a word: Delizioso! Better yet, panzerottis cost just 2 -3 Euro each, making them popular with both locals and cash-conscious tourists alike.
Next, take a guided tour of the neighborhood: A walking tour is the fastest way to cover most of Milan’s greatest hits in just 3 hours. My tour of choice is the 2:30 pm tour in English, which goes by the rather unwieldy name: “Skip The Line: DaVinci’s Last Supper & Best of Milan Walking Tour Including the Duomo.” The tour is a wonderful introduction to the best of Milan and includes stops at the Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II, La Scala opera house, the historic Brera District and the Sforzesco Castle. At the end, you’re treated to the no-wait express line that whisks you in to see da Vinci’s truly awe-inspiring Last Supper – and that sight alone makes 8-hours in coach worthwhile.
Be an urban mountaineer: Depending on how fit you are, The Duomo’s hundreds upon hundreds of steps are either a challenge, or just another afternoon on the Stairmaster, but regardless, a visit to the roof of the gothic masterpiece is an absolute must-do. If you’re short on time (as I was), or fitness, you can take an elevator half way up and hoof it the rest of the way. The birds-eye views over the city and the mountains are wondrous, as is the feeling of accomplishment once you get to the top. Just be sure to bring along your camera, flat shoes and a love of heights.
Toast your athleticism: After scaling the Duomo roof, stroll back down to ground level, walk about 50 yards across the promenade and head to the roof deck of Milan’s favorite department store La Rinacente. Stop in for a pre-dinner aperitivo at the open-air Il Bar. From your roof deck perch, sip cocktails, take in the front-and-center views of the Duomo and revel in the late afternoon light as the sun sets over the city.
Mangia, mangia! If you've still got some room in your schedule, make time for dinner and take a 5-minute taxi ride over to the Navigii district, the Milanese version of NYC's Soho. Take in the interesting architecture, enjoy the passing parade of well-dressed hipsters, students and artsy types and have a look at the two picturesque canals running through the center of the district. Lining the canals are chic bars, restaurant and clubs, as well as authentic, old-world, family-run pizza and pasta places, like Pizzeria La Tradizionale, that serve up tasty, home-made pastas and pizzas at reasonable prices.
For more ideas on how to entertain your meeting guests while in Milan, go to the Cvent Destination Guide.