When I was in university (4+ years ago!) I did an exchange semester in Italy. Milan to be exact. While living in Milan for 6 months definitely doesn't make me an expert on the city, I think I'm somewhat qualified to give some sort of guidance/tips on the city right?
So when Julius a friend and colleague of mine asked me for some things to do on an upcoming stopover in Milan, I jumped at the opportunity to offer my advice.
I like to think that this list is a nice balance between "tourist" and "local" things. If you're in a city for the first time, I feel seeing the most popular monuments is a must, but experiencing the city the way a local would is also important to truly experience a city's culture. Finding this balance between local and tourist is definitely how I like to travel.
Il Duomo- The Duomo di Milano is one of the most magnificent buildings I've ever seen and is definitely a must-see. When I was living in Milan it was a popular meeting place between my friends and I and a good point of reference. "How far away is it from the Duomo?" is a question I would often ask. I would definitely recommend going to the top of the Duomo if you have the chance; the views from up there are amazing!
Navigli- The Navigli area of Milan is composed of 2 canals with restaurants and shops lining either side. Go here on a Saturday night and it's definitely bumping with the younger crowd at bars and restaurants.
Luini's- Located near the Duomo, Luini's is famous for their panzerotti which is basically a fried calzone. There's always a lineup, but it's definitely worth the wait!
Aperitivo- Being in Milan as a student, I definitely went to my fair shares of aperitivos. Aperitivo is definitely a ritual that's specific to Milan. It's basically where you pay for an alcoholic beverage and then have an amazing buffet of food available to you. I would recommend a little gem called Cheese for aperitivo. Even though I lived in Milan quite some time ago, I did some research and it's still a really popular aperitivo place (I like to think I still got it).
Gelateria Le Colonne- Even though this is a gelateria, I never actually had the gelato here, but oh did I eat their crepes. Nutella, white chocolate and strawberries. Need I say more?
Julius will also be travelling to Venice. And while I only spent one day in Venice, I can tell him what I did in the magical city and what I wish I had done....
Gondola ride- While it may seem so cliché, I definitely thought it was worth it to take a gondola ride. There's something indescribable about being transported through Venice's canals and taking the whole city in. It's a once in a lifetime experience so paying up the cash was worth it in my opinion. And then you can take an awesome pic like this one:
WHAT I WISH I HAD DONE
Murano- Murano is famous for its Murano glass, but I hear it's a very pretty city as well! A short ride from Venice, you can visit Murano for the day and learn about the fine art of glass making.
Julius will also be staying in Rome for a longer period of time than the other two cities. Since Rome is just an hour train ride from Sperlonga (my mom's hometown) I've been to Rome many many times.
The Vatican- The detail and intricacy of the church is truly unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it. And it seems to be a common trend in this post, but if you can, definitely climb to the top (cupola) for views like this:
The Colosseum- One of the most ancient and historic monuments in the world, the Colosseum truly is stunning.
Da Giggetto- Whenever I've been in Rome, it's mostly to go shopping, so I've never made food a big priority. So to inform this recommendation, I deferred to Elizabeth Minchilli. She's a foodie originally from America but living in Rome and I follow her on Snapchat and Instagram. She's always at Da Giggetto so I figure if it's good enough for her, it must be good! Apparently their fried artichokes are to die for. Next time I'm in Rome I'm definitely going here for a traditional Roman dish like spaghetti alla carbonara or a cacio e pepe.
Espresso- It's part of Italian culture (anywhere in Italy no matter where you are) to make a stop for a caffe. In Italy they don't call it espresso, it's simply called caffe (coffee). And they don't sit down to drink it either, you order it at the bar counter and drink it there standing up. And as soon as you're done drinking, you leave. No muss, no fuss. Drinking espresso like an Italian? It's one of my favorite things to do in Italy!
So there it is! Definitely not an exhaustive list but my top picks for each of these cities. Let me know if you've tried any of these places, plan on trying them, or have any questions in the comments below!