You may think that zipping off to Milan from NYC for a weekend is a bit bratty, but not when it is an almost criminal offence not to buy tickets soooo cheap …
I have flown with Emirates Airlines to Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, and can assure you that the level of service, amenities and overall flying experience provided in their First or Business Class cabins is impeccable! The aircraft itself is light and airy with plenty of space even in economy. So I was delighted to find out that I can fly Emirates to Europe as well, even though for now it is only one route - JFK (NYC) to MXP (Milano)*. The flight couldn’t be more perfect in my opinion: fly out Thursday night, get your zzz … land in time for Friday lunch in central Milano, and heading back on Monday after a half a day in the city with landing in NYC in the evening with plenty of time to unpack and get ready for work the next day. With just 2 days off you have your mini European escapade.
There are so many stylish and beautifully designed hotels in Milan to choose from. I would suggest staying somewhere in between of Brera, Scala and Quadrilatero Della Moda districts. These are very centrally located neighborhoods with short walking distance from one another and major attractions. I have stayed at a few hotels in the area and been pleased with all … here are a few highlights:
Grand Hotel at de Milan – perfect location, surrounded by best shopping, restaurants and bars, just a 10 minute walk to Duomo, grand and lavish, warm and cozy, full of history and charm. Every room is adorned in different color theme, however the classic rich décor is preserved throughout entire hotel and its momentous structure. Premier service and individual attention to patrons sets this hotel apart. One of the most accommodating concierges I have come across. Loved it and looking forward to coming back! No wonder most glamourous socialites of the 20th century called it home. This is not a place to stay if you want to go unnoticed. Guests are greeted by their name and entire staff makes sure patrons feel at home.
Armani Hotel Milano – modern, sleek, cool. Just a few steps away from Grand Hotel at de Milan, this hotel is completely opposite of the Grand in terms of design and style. Everything Armani in its very best way possible! Service is also more elusive than at the Grand. The hotel is more spacious for clienteles to disappear into the modern minimalism.
Park Hyatt Milan – right next to Duomo square and the Galleria, with classic modern flare. Here it feels a little more touristy, busy day time traffic and a little more quieter in the evening. The usual large hotel amenities are on hand.
UNA Maison Milano – must admit was a very pleasant surprise! Just a few steps from Duomo square, this small boutique hotel had a very friendly and accommodating staff. The room was unusual but very large, more of a suite with separate office and dining areas. Breakfast was brought into the room for your convenience.
UNA Hotel Cusani – a short walk from the Duomo square, on a quiet street in between shopping and dining. This hotel felt a bit more corporate, with all conveniences and services available 24/7. Spacious rooms had a separate sitting area and large bathrooms.
Day 1: Land and head to the hotel. After check in and quick refreshment head out and have a lunch at the top of the very sophisticated Armani Restorante / Lounge at the Armani Hotel Milan. Relax and take in the European slower pace. You deserve!
Then go over to the Duomo, the rooftop terrace with its amazing views is breathtaking! Catch it at dawn and see the sunset – Magic! (to avoid lines tickets can also be bought in advance online). I happen to swing by it every time I’m there. This is one of my most favorite architectural marvels and cathedrals. I feel inspired, and I do not stop to be amazed how that white marble was so intricately and delicately carved out as lace of a veil. Amazing!
Have an aperitivo. My favorite spots are: the garden Il Bar at the Bulgari Hotel and Mandarin Bar and Bistro at Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Both are very elegant, open to watch and be seen yet are private and quiet enough for the much needed break in the day to battle the jetlag, digest new impressions and emotions, catch the breath and smoothly fall into the seductive night scene of the Friday night of Milano.
For opera lovers preview the Teatro alla Scala program and see a performance in the evening, finishing off the day with a splendid Italian dinner.
I loooove Ceresio 7! Modern and swank design, sexy good looking crowd, delicious food and excellent wine book! What more can one ask for? The bar and lounge are great too and the outdoor terrace with pool and views of Milan is a bonus.
Don Carlos at the Grand Hotel et de Milan is the ultimate classic Italian elegance. The chef’s tasting menu is divine. The graceful and candle lit atmosphere makes a very romantic evening finale.
Day 2: If you have not seen it before, make time for some art and history and see the Last Supper by Leonardo DaVinci. I would suggest getting tickets in advance online as there is limited availability and tickets are time sensitive. For those who’ve seen it, walk through Brera or the shopping district and indulge in latest fashion designs and trends, people watch and stroll through tiny cobble stone streets, indulge in sorbet or a fresh baked Italian pastry with a glass of champagne.
A few dining suggestions in the area: Ristorante Bice, Ristorante Seta, Ristorante Nabucco, Borgonuovo26, N’Ombra de Vin. And there are so many more to discover in between.
Walk through the Sforzesco Castle, the mediaeval fortress and its gardens, there are plenty of museums to take in the culture, or go into the trend fashion forward galleries such as Fondazione Prada and Armani Silos for fresh new exhibits and installations.
Night time - put on your heels and little black dress, and hit up Just Cavalli Milano night club. Alternative dancing at 11Clubroom,The Club Milano, or William’s Club Le Roi with cabaret dancing and live entertainment.
Day 3: Why not do a day trip to the Lake Region or Lugano? Just a short train ride away from the Central station in Milan or a quick drive, and you can have a fabulous day of exploring.
Lugano, Switzerland is located on Lake Lugano. Cascading down the hills are the colorful houses and cobble stone streets making this mosaic town on the water a colorful jewel. Clean and fresh mountain air pierces through you and takes your breath away (maybe it was the freshness of late January cool air for me?). Family owned stores and restaurants populate this little pretty town. You can take a stroll or a guided tourist train ride around, walk along the lake, enjoy the lunch and wine, try your luck in the local casino, and be back in Milano in time for dinner.
Alternatively, you can drive out to Lake Maggiore or Lake Como and tour the lake side and its fabulous villas, take a boat ride, lunch, wine … Or shop in the designer outlets (your concierge can suggest current open outlets and timing of the busses, or arrange a car).
Day 4: Massage in the spa is a great way to prep for the long cross Atlantic flight. Depending on your priorities you have early afternoon to shop, stroll through more museums or try another restaurant for lunch. I suggest to leave sufficient amount of time in Malpensa to get your tax returns for all your purchases (do take tax return receipts from the vendor and prepare to stand in line), and have some time to finish you shopping in the airport terminal duty free stores … there, not only it is tax free but more often than not even further discounted … Among other brands there are Gucci, Hermes, Montblanc, Etro, and Moncler stores.
Upon landing … I hope you’ll feel like you spend a week away in Europe, rejuvenated and refreshed with new lovely goodies ready to step up you work game!
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*As this was getting published, Emirates announced direct flights to Athens from NYC
** Proposed Itinerary is based on the aforementioned long weekend route via Emirates and stay in one of the above listed hotels for convinience purposes