Milan is divided into 9 distinct zones that radiate out from the Historical Center (Zona 1) to the periphery. They are identified numerically by the local council, but also have names, and each zone includes many different neighborhoods and quarters. Although every area is not listed here, each plays its own special role in the history of Milan; from the importantissimo historical center to the modern "dormitory quarters" of San Siro.
Centro Storico & Brera
The Historical Center incorporates the fashion district (called the Quadrilatero d'Oro), Castello Sforzesco , the glorious Piazza della Scala, the inviting neighborhood of Brera, and other areas of historical and commercial interest. Many people actually live in the city center, but they find that there are some disadvantages involved in living there, e.g. lack of parking spaces, supermarkets and dry cleaner's, and the rent can be incredibly high. On the upside, there is always plenty to do: there are many excellent restaurants and bars within walking distance, and a summer's evening stroll through this area is absolute bliss.
Corso Buenos Aires
Northeast of the center are some well-known streets which are popular with residents, businessmen and visitors: Corso Venezia and its intersecting roads are lined with noble families' palaces; in some cases these are still used as residences, in others, they have been converted into luxury offices. The gardens of Porta Venezia make up a small, enclosed park, which is one of the most beautiful in Milan. Further north, is Corso Buenos Aires , one of the largest commercial main roads, which is easy to reach and is well-served by the metro; it has a cosmopolitan feel, many immigrants live there, and because of this, there are many different ethnic restaurants.
Corso Magenta begins at Porta Magenta and leads into the center; this corso is "healthy and wealthy": one half has hardly any shops, but many gorgeous palazzi with exquisite, hidden gardens, while the other half has a multitude of shops, some of which are very prestigious. There are also several interesting churches and museums in this area. The corso is well served by public transport, and it has lots of traffic and few parking spaces during the day, but becomes a great deal more peaceful at night-time.
Southwest of Milan stands the Ticinese-Navigli area, which is a mixture of old and new. Many of the original residents (or their descendants) still live in Ticinese and there are many case di ringhiera - apartments with wrought-iron balconies that face inwards. Blue-collar workers lived here at the beginning of the 20th Century. The apartments have undergone renovation and some now house architects, artists, fashion designers et al. This area is full of bars and shops selling new and vintage clothes, antiques, furniture, as well as basic necessities. The Navigli, the city's canal system, includes two canals: the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese . A short way down the Naviglio Pavese is Via Chiesa Rossa, characterized by the wave of immigration which took place here in the 50s and 60s. The area by the Navigli teems with nightclubs, bars, and pubs, which means that it is always lively and chaotic, especially during the summertime. The Naviglio leads to the autostrada, or highway, for Genova. The Assago complex, where the Datchforum is situated, can be seen on the A7 highway.
Amendola-Fiera & San Siro
Another district that is famous for its exhibitions and trade fairs is Amendola-Fiera; this is a residential area as well, with many tree-lined streets and tall palazzi, or large residential buildings. Most of these palazzi were constructed after 1930, and so they are still in good condition. San Siro is famous for its Stadio San Siro football ground, an important spot for fans of the AC Milan team.
Porta Vittoria & Porta Romana
Vittoria is also a popular residential area that has a working/middle-class feel; Viale Lazio (one of the streets in this area) is predominantly made up of residential, leafy avenues; Corso Lodi reverberates with the hum of commercial activity; Viale Umbria is residential and Corso XXII Marzo is filled with shops. Some fashion houses have their headquarters in Vittoria, around Viale Umbria and Corso Lodi. There is still some industrial activity to the east, on Viale Mugello and towards Viale Molise (the large complex of Macello Comunale) and further out, and nearby is the famous wholesale market, Mercato Ortofrutticolo. Further east, between Forlanini's verdant park and Taliedo (heading towards Linate Airport ), is the Idroscalo, a large dock filled with water where you can swim, sunbathe, and sail.
Città Studi is located in the east of Milan and as the name suggests, is the University district, home to the Polytechnic and several chemistry, biology and pharmaceuticals departments. Many of the buildings here were constructed in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s and the overall feel is that of a charming residential area with trees on every street.
To the north of the city lies Isola, located just behind the Stazione Centrale , other zones in the vicinity are home to large hospital complexes, such as Ospedale Maggiore di Milano Policlinico and CTO.
Milan may be famous for its shopping, trading, and amazing designers, but it is also a great place to enjoy a good meal. There are many ethnic restaurants, trattorie and pizzerias in the city, and during the summer months, it is not unusual to see groups of friends enjoying their pizza Margherita as they sit outside under white parasols.
From after World War II until the 1960s, mass migration prompted many southern Italians to move north, towards the industrialized cities. Some of them decided to open simple trattorie (traditional style, family-operated restaurants), offering the cuisine of their hometowns, which were mainly in Tuscany and Southern Italy. A number of these restaurants grew in quality over the years, transforming themselves into excellent and often outstanding restaurants: places such as Trattoria Toscana (book in advance in order to sample their tasty pasta dishes or fresh fish recipes) and the mythical Antica Trattoria Milano which opened a few years after the end of the Second World War and serves good, hearty food alla Milanese.
Pizzerias are popular in Milan, many serving pizzas cooked in wood-fired ovens, giving the dough a delicious smoked taste. Some of the pizzerias have traditional checked tablecloths, outdoor seating, and paper tablecloths and provide you with pencils to amuse yourself while waiting for your pizza or for your bill. A good option is the Di Gennaro , a popular pizzeria located downtown, or for fresh fish Il Sambuco is a sure thing. If you are in search of Italian alta cucina, or high cuisine, look no further than the acclaimed Giannino , although it's prices can be high as well.
A wonderful view of the city can be seen from Bistrot Duomo , a great place to try if you want a quick snack and cappuccino while shopping or a more substantial meal before going on to the cinema. It is located at the top of the stylish Rinascente department store, which gives you another reason to visit! Another marvelous restaurant find is Savini , situated nearby in the breath-taking Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II . This restaurant is often thought of as one of the best in Milan, and though the prices are high, it is worth a visit if only to enjoy some old-world charm and steep yourself in Milanese elegance.
In the 1980s and 1990s a new wave of immigration brought thousands of people from nearby developing countries, which led to the growth of the best ethnic restaurant network in Italy. In Milan you'll find restaurants serving delights from almost every country: from Sri Lanka to Brazil (excellent Brazilian cuisine is to be found in Ristorante Rio's ), Korea to Senegal. In the last couple of years Japanese cuisine has rocked the city; Yume is a testimony to this - it is the place to come to have a truly Japanese experience.
There is no better way to round off a meal than to stroll through the central streets of Milan eating gelato and watching the world go by, especially if it is a warm summer evening. Try Marghera where delicious gelato and desserts are sold and there are often long lines (always a good sign); or you could try the excellent Gelateria Ecologica , which has been making natural gelato (without artificial colors or preservatives) since the 1970s.
There are many different areas in Milan to explore, but a great place to start is Brera, because it is a district that is famed for its nightlife and restaurants, but also has art galleries to visit in the day and glorious palaces that played an important role in Milan's history. Even if you cannot enter these palaces (because they are still private residences or offices), you can still drink in their beauty from the outside, as you wander down the narrow streets. It is best to take the Metro to reach Brera. The nearest stops are Lanza, Moscova (line 2) and Cairoli (line 1).
There are a number of things to do during the day in Brera, such as visit the Pinacoteca di Brera (the Brera Art Gallery), which is found in the same building as the Academy of Brera, Milan's School of Fine Arts. This gallery has 30 rooms of paintings from different eras. Not to miss are Mantegna's Dead Christ, Madonna and the Saints by Piero della Francesca, or the Wedding of the Virgin by Raffaello. Those who prefer to occupy their time with lighter pursuits can visit various art galleries around the Via Centrale and surrounding streets of Via Ciovasso and Monte di Pietà. There are antique shops and shops selling quality handmade goods, and on Via Solferino and Corso Garibaldi you can browse in some exquisite boutiques. If you feel guilty about all of the purchases you have made, indulge in your shopper's remorse while wandering alongside the peaceful Martesana Canal (Leonardo da Vinci allegedly designed the locks). As mentioned before, the real attraction of Brera is its nightlife; once made up of piano bars, the district is now full of bars and restaurants. The Jamaica , at the end of Via Brera, was popular with intellectuals in the 1960s, and is still a good place for an aperitif. There's also Moscatelli , a small bar with a huge choice of wines, and El Tombon de San Marc , the first English pub in Milan, which also serves sandwiches, cold dishes and salads.
Brera also has good restaurants, which thankfully stay open until late. In the same street at number 24 is the Latteria di San Marco , a very famous and very crowded small Lombardy restaurant, that is very affordable. Also popular is La Libera in Via Palermo, which serves traditional Italian food, and La Briciola on the corner of Via Solferino and Via Marsala, which serves outstanding soup, something which Milanese restaurants are not often commended for! Brera also has a wide choice of international cuisine.
Brera is a definitely a gem of a district waiting to be discovered by night owls and "morning people" alike.
If you are in the heart of the centro storico, stop by the famous Duomo , which began construction towards the end of the 14th Century. The restoration and cleaning of the facade began in 2004 and was recently completed. Nearby is the world-renowned Teatro alla Scala , site of the premieres of such famous operas as Norma by Vincenzo Bellini, Otello by Giuseppe Verdi, and Madama Butterfly and Turandot by Giacomo Puccini.