***This is part 5 of my “Everyday I’m Trufflin’” trip report detailing a recent European road trip which started in Zurich, Switzerland and ended in Piedmont, Italy***
2. British Airways Business Class San Francisco to Zurich
3. Zurich Marriott Hotel
4. Eating Zurich – Sausage, Fondue, and Christmas Markets
5. Eating Milan – Shopping, Cathedrals and Pizza
6. Eating Piedmont, Italy – Truffles, Wine, and More Truffles
7. My Thanksgiving Day Truffle Hunting Adventure in Piedmont, Italy
8. British Airways Business Class Zurich to San Francisco
By late morning we were already on the road for the 3-hour road trip from Zurich to Milan. This was my first European road trip and found that driving in both Switzerland and Italy was a cakewalk compared to driving here in the US. In particular, even though the highways only had two lanes, the flow of traffic was so much smoother since cars didn’t camp out in the passing lane.
Apparently we had arrived along with the first snowstorm of the season, and driving along the lakes and snow-capped mountains was simply intoxicating. Between the natural landscape and the fun we had observing the architectural differences of the buildings as we headed south into Italy, we had enough entertainment to make the time fly by.
On the way we stopped for lunch along Lake Lugano at Delano Lugano. It was located lakeside, meaning that we were able to enjoy some incredibly fresh seafood along with unobstructed views of the water.
The artsy presentation of the dishes was also quite cool, and of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for some creme brulee.
We jumped back in the car and continued on to Milan. As we got into town, traffic got significantly more congested, but was still no worse than driving in other big cities like San Francisco. Thankfully we had Google Maps to help us navigate the streets of Milan, and without it we very well could have ended up in Rome.
After a bit of a scare where a wrong turn took us all the way up to the Duomo, we found the parking garage entrance and made our way on foot to the hotel. For our two nights in Milan, we stayed at the Hotel Straf which was a chic and trendy boutique hotel located on a side street just steps away from the Milan Cathedral. While the location really can’t be beat, overall I’d say that Hotel Straf has a “style over substance” dynamic, and would not stay here again in the future.
Even though we were running a bit behind schedule for our Duomo tour, we benefitted from the hotel’s proximity and scurried over to the main square in a matter of minutes.
The Milan Cathedral was truly stunning, and we looked forward to our tour which we had booked through Viator. We found our tour guide outside the entrance and headed inside.
While I’ll always take food over culture during my travels, it was nice to have a mix of both. The interior of the cathedral was stunning.
I was particularly enamored by the floors, and thought about ways to replicate this at home. I shared my interior decorating ideas with my wife, who quickly shot them down.
The tour ended on the rooftop and we had specifically chosen the start time that would coincide with being on the roof as the sun was setting. Not sure that there is a better spot to catch the sunset in all of Milan.
On the recommendation of the hotel, we went over to the hip and trendy Navigli district for dinner at Al Pont de Ferr. For a Michelin-starred restaurant it was pretty casual, and since we were there on a weekday it must have been a slow night since we were one of just a handful of diners. In fact, we even had one of the smaller dining rooms to ourselves.
The 5-course tasting menu was reasonably priced at 65 Euros and featured a mix of Italian classics like pasta and risotto, along with some inventive and creative dishes like the appetizer below, which was a blown sugar shell filled with onion and goat cheese cream.
The creamy and cheesy risotto was delicious and the rice was perfectly cooked as you’d expect at an upscale Italian restaurant.
The pasta in Italy is truly just on another level from what you typically get in the US, as evidenced by my incredible fettuccine dish.
I ordered the veal medallions for my meat dish.
But my wife was the real winner by ordering the best dish of the evening, which was one of most flavorful and tender pieces of meat I’ve ever tasted, in the form of a pan-seared Iberico pork. I did my best to distract her while I stole from her plate, but only managed to get a couple of bites.
The desserts were also quite good and featured more creative takes on traditional dishes, like this blown sugar apple below filled with a pear cream.
And the deconstructed cheesecake which came in the form of a blown sugar Coke bottle. If you haven’t figured out by now, the restaurant really enjoyed making dishes with blown sugar.
After dinner we hopped on the subway to go back to the hotel. We took advantage of being so close to the Duomo and stopped by for some late night drunken shenanigans since we had the place to ourselves.
The next day for breakfast we went to Pasticceria Marchesi which is one of the iconic cafes in the city.
Apparently there are rules in Italy around whether you can have milk in your coffee depending on the time of day, so rather than risking a faux pas, I just went with the standard espresso. As someone who typically needs a triple shot from Starbucks in the morning just to feel awake, I was surprised that this little cup was so strong that it had me bouncing off the walls.
We stuck around for a bit and enjoyed some fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice, along with a nice selection of pastries.
As the ladies took off to go shopping, the boys did what we do best and went in search of more food. There was no way that we could visit Italy without having some pizza. We stumbled upon Spontini which appeared to be a fast food pizza chain, but we were optimistic based on the long line of people that stretched out the door. The pizza was fantastic, with a uniquely crunchy crust that was seemingly made out of burnt cheese.
We couldn’t ignore fate that Cioccolati Italiani was next door where we found some gelato to wash down the pizza. Just to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth of calories, there was even a hot fudge-filled cone within the cone.
After our afternoon snack we met back up with the ladies for a pre-dinner drink at Corso Como which doubles as both a cafe and a department store.
Let’s just say that the clothes at this store are a tad too fashion-forward for my taste. Where would you even put your arms with that vest!?
For our last meal in Milan, dinner that night was at Carlo e Camilla which was a trendy restaurant and bar housed in an old saw mill. We opted for the set menu which featured a good selection of pasta dishes such as pumpkin ravioli and linguine.
But the highlight here was actually the desserts, and we ordered up all four on the menu to share amongst the table. Overall this was a cool and unique venue to have dinner, but would definitely recommend Al Point de Ferr over it.
And with that our 2-day tour through Milan was over. We had an incredibly fun time, and my main takeaway was how underrated Milan is as a destination in Italy, given that given that Rome, Venice, and Florence as almost always higher on everyone’s lists. If you’re looking for a good mix of culture, food, and shopping without the tourists, definitely check out Milan on your next visit to Italy.