The film industry did a great job of representing southern Italian culture, and many of us believe that all of Italy is a relaxed, wine and dine type of country. This is far from the truth in the north. The Milanese; while still emotional and appreciative of good food, also value and cultivate a culture of hard work. The city is busy and fast paced, and people mind their own business.
Bars are everywhere in this hip Italian hotspot. Although alcohol is readily available, typically when a Milanese mentions a bar, they really mean cafés. Furthermore, when you order a coffee, don’t expect to get a cup of coffee. Coffee generally means a small shot of espresso and if a cup of coffee or latte is what you actually desire, order a latte macchiato.
In Milan, it is always the rainy season. As a visitor, it can be difficult to know where to go to purchase an umbrella. It is much easier to just pack a small umbrella or raincoat wherever you go.
Although the financial capital of Italy, Milan is not nearly as adept at the English language as Hong Kong or Frankfurt. Most people do not speak English, although they may understand a little when hand gestures are used. Even at airports, the cashiers and staff at restaurants and cafés will only know a limited amount of English.
You can buy tickets at any of the cafés featuring a big T sign. The T stands for ‘Tabacchi cafés’, which means they will sell tickets for public transport use. You can also purchase them at magazine and newspaper stands, or at the Metro stations. In Milan, tickets allow you to use any transportation as many times as you need for 90 min at a time. Tabacchi cafés are everywhere; there is usually one per block.
The Milanese admittedly do dress well, especially in comparison to some other parts of the world. They do take particularly great care of their shoes, which are typically always polished and in shape. However, as with all areas of the world, people dress for daily functions. Don’t expect to arrive in Milan to be greeted by everyone wearing high-end fashion.
Some visitors have been known to describe Milan as a dirty city. However, if you know which parts to make a bee line for, you will fall in love with it. There are various areas that are furnished with beautiful architecture, fashionable window displays and inviting cafés and restaurants. Some of the best places for leisure are Brera, Corso Como, and Navigli. These areas are considered non-tourist spots, perfect for quieter shopping, eating and drinking.
Apéritifs occur everyday in the late afternoon to the early evening. For a few euros, you can get drink and food served buffet style. These happy hours are common across all restaurants and are always popular. Navigli has some of the best apéritifs, where people sit outside by the canals and enjoy their late afternoons in true relaxed Italian fashion.
In Milan most businesses close from 2pm to 4pm. Many businesses are also closed on Mondays. On weekdays and Saturdays, almost all businesses close by 8pm or 9pm. On Sundays, everything closes early around 6pm. The Milanese are famously late diners; typically they eat a big lunch around 1pm, and then have a lighter dinner around 9pm Keep in mind if you go out during any non-business hours, very few businesses will be open, unless you are in a tourist area.
Italy is typically very traditional; preferring to call rather than text and making espresso in an espresso pot rather than using a machine. The Milanese wash hands in the old school way as well. The preservation and continued use of foot pedals is partially also because the Milanese like to maintain the integrity of the architecture and appreciate old buildings. If you go to a restaurant or any other building that has the hallmarks of age, look to your feet to find a foot pedal for the faucet.