Our trip to Milan was quite spontaneous, without any detailed plans, except for Joia. Just simple wandering, enjoying and getting to know the city better. After all it was our first visit in Milan, we wanted to explore it slow with no huge expectation. I didn’t expect that I would have much to write about it. But since day one, we were extremely lucky in finding good places to eat (as you could follow on Instagram). And you keep asking about vegan Milan guide, so I’ve decide to make one.
I didn’t even use camera during this trip, all photos are taken by iPhone. When I’ve started to write, it seemed like a short story, but the text has expanded enormously, so I’ve divided it into two parts, as you can see below.
taste vegan Milan, part one
- BIKES AND PLANTPOWER
- MILAN, CHINA TOWN
- SPECIALITY COFFEE & NAVIGLIO GRANDE
- FONDAZIONE PRADA
Taste vegan Milan, part two (in progress…)
First of all I want to emphasize that this guide is mostly about food. Of course, we did the sightseeing part too, but I’ve figured that there are better blogs and guides to read about it. The vegan food we tried in Milan was really superb, so I think you don’t need to be vegan or vegetarian to appreciate those places. Vegan cuisine in Milan rocks!
We spent two and a half day in Milan and one evening and morning in Bergamo. Wandering about narrow streets of Bergamo, surrounded by beautiful tenement houses, it was easy to feel this atmosphere of a little Italian town, most tourist crave for. Yes, Bergamo enchants with colourful shutters and balconies full of plants, but in Saturday evening there is nothing idyllic about this town. The atmosphere changes completely, families and friends from neighbourhood towns and villages come here to feast together. And as wonderful as it is, slows downs food and restaurant hunting. Almost all places are stuffed and there are plenty people on the streets. Talking, laughing, celebrating.
Hungry, but seduced with Bergamo atmosphere and architecture, we decided to eat Italian style. After getting lost few times, a restaurant hidden in tiny narrow street popped just in front of us. What we saw was quite confusing though. The restaurant looks like a mixture of Italian and Indian style. No risk, no fun. We sat surrounded by mirror, huge colourful lamps and heavy furniture. Luckily the dishes recompensated us this weird picture. Contrary to the restaurant decor, dinner was all about simplicity: focaccia with rosemary and sea salt, classic marinara and the best artichokes ever, cooked and seasoned just with olive oil and garlic. They were perfect. Dear Bergamo, for me, you will always taste like those artichokes.
CICCIO PASSAMI L’OLIO; VIA SANT’ALESSANDRO, 24, BERGAMO MAP
In the morning, just before we took off to Milan, we had the most delicious vegan breakfast. We stopped only for a cup of coffee in Pasticceria Sweet Irene. The town was mostly asleep after last night feast, so we had been first one here. But just few minutes later, the cafe became crowded with locals. We thought it was a good sign and indeed it was. Menu was bursting with vegan options. I think all the dishes were vegetarian or vegan and made of organic ingredients. Our ‘just coffee’ resolution started to fade away. A moment later I was eating granola with fresh fruits and plant-based yoghurt (yum). We also tried their sandwich (I cannot recall what was inside) and apple pie with delicious almond-orange sauce. The coffees were the weakest point of this breakfast feast. Stuffed, but filled with happiness and sugar we left Bergamo with extra brioches in backpacks.
Bikes and plantpower
We chose bikes to explore Milan. It’s really a simple and convenient option. You just need to install the app on the phone, choose a subscription (4,5 euro per day or 9 euro per week) and pick up a bike from a nearby station. They charge extra only when you ride over 30 minutes without stop, but it’s not much (0,5 euro for 30 minutes). You can change the bike, but you need to wait 5 minutes before you take another one. Sightseeing on bike is really convenient, we were able to see a lot of the city, but sometimes riding a bike in Milan is not a piece of cake. There is not much room on some streets and divers doesn’t pay much attention to bikes. So, I’m taking back all my complaints about riding a bike in Cracow. It’s not that a bad after all.
Still, I recommend taking a bike in Milan, just avoid the rush hours. Most of my time on bike were pleasant and without any troubles.
Another plus of bikes is that you get to know the city faster and better, as you can come back to some places and discover new details. We often chose the tracks though parks and green areas which are plenty in Milan. Plants rules in Milan, they are basically everywhere; on the rooftops, balconies, shop, restaurants. First thing we saw after leaving the train station was this gigantic apartment block, all covered with plants. Awesome. Inspired by Milan‘s admiration for plants we decided to plant something on our balcony, too. Pigeons, who tends to occupy our balcony, will love it too! (unfortunately)
On our very first day in Milan, we explored Chinatown. It’s not much for sightseeing and if there were no signs and few decorations form time to time, you wouldn’t notice, your are in Chinese neighbourhood. Waking down the main street, we passed plenty of food markets (with plethora of different food to choose from), boutiques and uncountable number of restaurants. It’s a heaven for foodies.
Especially in food markets with tones of tofu, fake meats, spices and vegetables. If I lived in Milan, I would be constantly in there.
For tofu fans, or maybe for tofu haters too, there is a little shop Da Zhong selling tofu in different flavours and textures. Our favourite was the spicy one (obviously), some of them were weird (skin like). If tofu from this store would’t convince you, probably only visit in China or Japan would.
Da Zhong, Formaggio di Soia, Via Paolo Sarpi 4, Milan MAP
Restaurant offers similar menu, so you should go with your instincts. You can also try some street food, like dumplings or bao. Usually there is a line, but you can watch how they prepare them. We chose the restaurant which was serving some pak choi, since I’d really missed their taste, plus I saw a few in a food market, so I couldn’t resist. One again during this trip simple stuff won. We ate pak choi with shiitake, the most delicate tofu with mushrooms and spicy sauce and some dumplings with cabbage and vermicelli noodles. Pretty delicious, especially that we didn’t get our hopes up for anything super tasty.
I love visiting such districts. You just make a short trip and find yourself in different culinary zone. Isn’t that awesome? OK, maybe I’m overexcited, but there is not such thing in Cracow or other Polish cities I suppose. So even preparing a simple dashi, could be a trouble sometimes. Anyway, I’m definitely going back to Milan China Town, to dive into food markets and restaurants and you should too.
CHINATOWN, start from VIA PAOLO SARPI
The second day started with accidental visit in Eataly. We were just in neighbourhood, switching bikes and spontaneously decided to take a quick look (not to buy anything!). I realize that most of product from Early can be easily found in many regular, cheaper shop. But taking a glance, wouldn’t hurt anybody. Eataly is not only a grocery shop, but also a cafe, restaurant and bakery. And there is a little cookbook store, of course my favourite part. I even manage to find two books (‘Raw’ from Phaidon and ‘Vegetables’ by Antonio Cartalucci), that I’m going to buy someday, for sure. Well, it was rather predictable that I found something. Yes, I’m a cookbook addict, but to my defence I didn’t buy any books in Milan.
But we bought and consume gigantic focaccia from bakery and I have no regrets, it was the best! And we were stuffed for all day.
EATALY, PIAZZA VENTICINQUE APRILE 10, Milan MAP
The real target for the second day was cafe with speciality coffee. We drink mostly alternatively brewed coffees at home. In Italy, the kingdom of espresso, we always try to fit in and drink espresso. But we were eager to find out how speciality coffee tastes in Italy. We found Taglio, a cafe/mini-reastaurants, co-working space and coffee shop. The sell three blends of speciality coffee for alternative methods and more for espresso, mocca etc. We enjoy the atmosphere, the interior and the coffee of course (plus the wine). Although there’s not much for vegans to eat, menu seems to be rich in simple, high-quality dishes. It’s cool that every brewing method is described in the menu (but only in Italian). So if you are a speciality coffee geek and you like nice surroundings, you definitely should visit.
After coffee, we wandered a little about Naviglio Grande. The main streets reminded me of Ljubljana, but this neighbourhood is also called a Little Venice due to canals. The area is dominated by cafes and restaurants, very lively, with plenty people. We also looked for Mercado Metropolitano, a food market, but we couldn’t find it, so maybe it’s closed or we are just bad explorers. If you are planning to visit Naviglio Grande check out the when the flea markets and flower markets take place.
Before we headed to the Joia (the most important point of second day), we’d stopped by Fondazione Prada.
Fodnazione Prada is a contemporary art complex of 10 buildings adapted from an old distillery. The space is designed so meticulously, that even while being in a toilet you begin to wonder if it is just toilet or maybe another installation. Minimalism from a top shelf. And the icing on the cake is Bar Luce, cafe designed by Wes Anderson. I would strongly recommend to see Extinct in the Wild by Micheal Wang, unfortunately is no longer available. And of course Haunted House by Robert Gober and Louis Burgeois. If you are in Milan you should definitely visit Fondazione Prada, even to see Haunted House, totally worth it.