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Well regarded as Italy’s fashion powerhouse, Milan is chock-a-block with high-end designer boutiques and more Chanel than you can throw your Coco at.
But for those of us who know where to look, Milan can be just as special for the thrifty under-spender:
1. Use the Metro to get around
Use the Metro as much as you can. Nobody minds paying for the odd taxi here and there, but when it starts eating into your pizza fund, it’s time to go underground. The Milan metro is incredibly easy (and cheap) to use. With only four lines: red, green, yellow and purple, simply follow the coloured route to where you need to be. As of March 2017, a single journey costs €1.50, while the 24-hour pass for €4.50, or 48-hour pass for €8.25 might prove to be a better options for the savvy traveller. Grab a ticket – more commonly known as “un biglietto” – from every Metro station, newspaper stand or tabacchi, which are shops marked with a big T.
2. Old-age aquariums for old-age prices
It may be small, but boy it’s a beauty. The Acquario Civico di Milano (Civic Aquarium of Milan) is as much about the architecture as it is the sea life. Housed in an Art Nouveau building, its friezes and hand-painted tiles date back to 1906; a time when palaces such as these were as common place as Starbucks in Seattle. The entire construction is incredibly unique – and we’re not even inside yet. Costing little more than €8, the range of both local and exotic fish isn’t extensive and you’ll probably only need to allocate one hour per visit, but as the third oldest aquarium in Europe, it’s a fascinating retreat from modern Milan. There are also FREE visiting hours:
• The last hour of opening (from 16.30)
• Every Tuesday from 2pm
• Every first Sunday of the month until December 2017.
Avoid visiting on Monday or between the hours of 1-2pm (an Italian lunchtime) because the gates will be shut.
3. A Da Vinci masterpiece for €8
Bet you thought it would cost more than €8 to view one of the world’s most important art masterpieces? And yet that’s how much you’ll have to dig into your wallet to visit Santa Maria delle grazie; a church and Dominican convent in Milan. It’s also home to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, which sits rather modestly on the wall of the convent’s refectory.
Yes we know. €8 (that’s barely $NZ12) to be in the same room as a Da Vinci showpiece. The church admission is actually free but Leo’s mural will cost you €6.50 plus €1.50 booking fee. The only catch is that you will have to book in advance. Due to temperature regulations, only 25 people are allowed in the refectory at a time but it’s well worth the advance payment. This is a painting that was slapped on the wall by Da Vinci way back in 1495, using a new technique which is now known as ‘secco’. For little more than 11 dollars you get to stand in the same room that 522 years earlier, a master of the arts stood and held a palette of dry plaster, paint and water. That’s a bucket-list life experience for the same price as a cheap bottle of (Aussie) wine.
4. Free wanderings around the Arc of Peace
In Italy, grandiose monuments pop up with similar frequency to a road cone on an NZ highway. And the best thing about these elaborate constructions of stone and latticework is that they’re just as cheap to look at. And by that we mean they’re free. The Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace) is one of these incredible (and free to view) structures. Located at the very centre of a pedestrianised square, and at the edge of the Sempione Park, the triumphal arch is a neoclassical objet d’art built under the rule of Napoleon. It also makes for a lovely starting point for a leisurely walk through the Castello and finishing up at the Duomo, Galleria and La Scala. Or, you could make the arch your finale, and complete the route with a €10 aperitivo at one of the many neighbouring bars. Features to look out for include a bronze Chariot of Peace and six horses that sit prominently atop the arch, as well as the semi-naked, and heavily chiselled torso of Zeus. He sure keeps in good shape that god.
5. Seven museums for the price of one
Sforza Castle was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan. Visitors can access the castle grounds for free but the vicinity also plays host to several very good museums:
The museums cost a whopping €5 per person, but if you’re feeling especially thrifty, visit on a Tuesday from 20pm when admission is free. Alternatively you could try on a Sunday - one hour before closing, or the first Sunday of every month. Also free!
6. Spontini Pizza - a buon mercato
Once you’ve tried a slice from Spontini Pizza, you’ll never look at a Domino’s in the same way again. Authentic, simple and wholly Italian, this is a Milan pizza chain with restaurants scattered across the city. Consistently good, the options are basic but the quality of ingredients are very high. You’ll get a very generous slice straight from the oven: packed with cheese and a thick melt-in-your-mouth base. And all of this for only €3 - €3.50 per slice. The only way your Spontini dining experience can get expensive is if you go in and order one hundred of them. Which you won’t do - but you WILL want to.
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