Some places in the world are special.
that have a kind of magical vibration — a change in the air that greets you when you arrive. A feeling that you’ll leave somehow changed by the experience. Milan, Italy is one of those dynamic cities, with a tantalizing mix of architecture, fashion, food, and queer friendliness that should catapult it to the top of your list of European destinations.
Where to Stay
Park Hyatt Milan
Courtesy Park Hyatt Milan
Tops for high-end accommodations is the gorgeous
Park Hyatt Milan
, which recently underwent a complete refurbishment. The property, reopened in February 2022, boasts 106 rooms, including 25 suites, and sits in the city’s center, adjacent to the famed Duomo (cathedral) and the breathtaking Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade.
Courtesy Starhotels Ritz
Sitting astride the city’s gay district, Porta Venezia, the
location is a four-star property within easy walking distance of the Metro and many gay clubs, as well as shopping and restaurants. The rooms are modern and comfortable, and breakfast is included in the daily rate.
Ibis Milano Centro
Courtesy Ibis Milano Centro
A few blocks away, the
Ibis Milano Centro
is an economical option, with a more extensive breakfast offering, but slightly smaller and more basic rooms. We were fascinated to learn that the building was designed by famed architect Luigi Moretti, who also designed the Watergate complex in the U.S
What to Do
Enjoy the Rainbow District of Porta Venezia
Paul J. Heney
+ visitors will want to explore the city’s queer hub, the Rainbow district of
. The nightlife really gets into high gear on Thursday evenings and extends through the weekend. (Want a shot but want to sound like a local? Just ask for a
in any of the nightclubs! Popular LGBTQ+ and queer-friendly bars here include Bar Lola, Memà, Lecco Milano, Pop Milano (a lesbian establishment), Step Bar Milano, Sui Generis, Pazzesk, Red Café, and Oro Street Bar. Crowds get so large on weekends that revelers spill out into the streets.
Tour the Milan Duomo
cathedral is an imposing gothic structure towering nearly 150 feet over the heart of the city. Take the elevator to the top of the structure, where, incredibly, visitors are allowed to walk along the rooftop. The views of the city are amazing. The seemingly endless spires — not to mention the 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles, and 700 figures — adorning the cathedral make for mesmerizing photos at every turn. Inside, the cavernous, roughly 14-story-high structure is equally impressive, with light from the towering stained-glass windows casting colorful beams into every corner. The cathedral took over six
years to build, and with refurbishments ongoing, locals like to say that it will never be finished.
Enjoy an Opera
Paul J Heney
Teatro alla Scala
opera house dates back to 1778 but had to be restored after World War II. In the early years, the action on stage was but a distraction from the real draw: seeing what the wealthy aristocrats were wearing and doing in their private booths. Now only the sound of applause is expected from the audience. Recent modernizations to the stage allow the facility to host 270 to 280 performances a year, more than double the previous number. Buy tickets for a Sunday afternoon (it’s cheaper and the dress code is more relaxed than for the evening performances), and don’t worry about language barriers: the closed captioning system on the back of every chair allows audience members to follow along with either Italian or English subtitles.
See the Last Supper
Seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s famous work The Last Supper is quite a contrast to viewing the Mona Lisa. While Mona Lisa surprises with its diminutive size, The Last Supper inspires awe. It is an enormous painting, (roughly 28 x 15 feet), stretched across what was the dining hall of the Dominican convent Santa Maria delle Grazie. Because of its popularity — and the painting’s delicate nature — only small groups are allowed to view the painting in 15-minute increments. Book tickets in advance at the official
Cenacolo Vinciano Last Supper Museum
A great way to see Leonardo da Vinci's works and learn more about his life is by taking the
Leonardo Da Vinci Gay Tour
. Their knowledgeable LGBTQ+ friendly guides can enhance tours of notable landmarks by adding queer context.
Where to Eat
Courtesy Boeucc Restaurant
With pasta, pizza, and international restaurants (plus tantalizing gelato, and espresso cafes), there are endless options for delicious food in Milan. One truly memorable gourmet option is
, located in the center of the city. This restaurant has been operating for an incredible 325 years, first opening its doors in 1696. The style here is decidedly old world and high class, with crystal glasses, linen tablecloths, silver cutlery, and impeccable service. Try their Milanese-style risotto, but make sure to save room for some fantastic tiramisu. You’ll be dreaming of the meal — and your whole Milan experience — for years to come.