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In addition to exploring the city itself, staying in Milan will allow you to do any number of day-trips and excursions across northern Italy. Lake country, and particularly Lake Como, is just a short drive away; cross the Swiss border and visit the still Italian-speaking Lugano; take a day-trip to the Mediterranean coast and return to Milan for an evening aperativo. In the wintertime, find cheaper accommodation in Milan and then head to the mountains for a few hours to ski instead of paying a fortune for lodging near the slopes themselves.
Italy is a vacationer's paradise, and Milan is no exception. Mid-June through mid-September is peak travel time, and the price of accommodation can skyrocket. While there are honeymooners vacationing in Italy at all times of the year, you can easily find cheaper places to stay (http://www.simonseeks.com/when-to-go/europe/italy/lombardy/milan__169973) in Milan during the winter months.
Be aware that Fashion Week takes place twice a year in Milan -- usually February and September -- and the city blows up. Locals rent out their flats and charge enough for a couple nights to cover the whole month's rent. It’s nearly impossible to find an empty taxi, and restaurants are packed to the brim. Hotels are booked months in advance, and can essentially set any rate, since rooms will fill up no matter what. If Fashion Week is the reason for your visit, be prepared to pay the price -- otherwise, for budget travel, it's best to look up the exact dates and avoid them.
Another major event in Milan is Design Week, which usually occurs in April. Designers from all over the world come to Italy to showcase their work, and there are expositions, parties, speakers, food, and drink all over the city. This event is more accessible to the average traveler than Fashion Week, as many of the events have free entrance. Still, accommodation prices do go up.
In general, as in most cities, the farther from the center you go, the cheaper accommodation you can find.
Maciachini is a neighborhood in Milan where you may have an easier time booking cheap lodging. However, it’s slightly run down compared to other zones, and can be a bit riskier at night. From Maciachini you can arrive at the city center by metro in about 20 minutes, so it may be a good option for those really looking to cut costs.
Bovisa is another cheaper option, and it is slightly more upscale than Maciachini. It's a recently constructed development on the outskirts of the city center, and many young people live in Bovisa because the Polytechnic University of Milan is nearby. While Bovisa is not connected to the city center by metro, there are trains that run to the center as well as buses that run day and night.
Navigli is very central and has a more hipster feel; it is full of boutiques, outdoor markets, bars, and young people. While it will cost you more to stay here than in the outskirts, Navigli is still much more affordable than other upscale zones like Moscova. Navigli sits along a series of small canals and is a fantastic place to take an aperativo before dinner.
Porta Ticinese is also another money-saving option. The neighborhood is still rather central, very close to the major attraction Colonne di San Lorenzo. Here you'll find cheaper accommodation, a younger population, and more affordable bars and restaurants.
You won't need a car in Milan no matter where you stay -- in fact, having one would be a major hassle. Milan has a wonderful network of buses, trains, and metro stations, and the historic center is also very manageable on foot.
While there are certainly some hostels in Milan -- this is Europe, after all -- they are fewer and farther between than in other large cities. There are only around 20 hostels in the city limits, and unfortunately, many don't receive great reviews. While dorm beds in Milan are priced above the European average, hostels are still a great money-saving option to keep your visit to Milan affordable.
Ostello Bello is located right in the city center, near the Colonne di San Lorenzo. Dorm beds cost around $40 a night, and the hostel is highly rated thanks to its fantastic decor and amenities. The hostel sits above a bar that serves up a great aperativo in the evening, and many locals go there to eat and drink without staying in the hostel itself.
You can find dorm beds in Milan for as low as $25 a night, but of course, ratings are sure to dip. Check out reviews before booking to get a general feel for the state of the hostel.
Fortunately for budget travelers, there is a huge number of Airbnb listings at really reasonable rates in Milan. Airbnb is the most economical option if you're traveling as a couple, since renting out a private room with Airbnb can be cheaper than purchasing two dorm beds in a hostel.
In the historic city center, private rooms on Airbnb go for as low as $70 in the off-season. Entire rentals are only a bit more expensive, and you can find small places such as studios for around $100. Of course, the price will climb depending on location and number of rooms, but most apartments in Milan are modern and kept in great shape. Would you expect anything less from the fashion and design capital?
While Milan may not boast the Colosseum or an ancient city buried in ashes, it is still Italy, after all -- which means there is no shortage of worthy places to visit.
Check out the Colonne di San Lorenzo, a row of towering columns and the most well-known Roman ruins in Milan. The Duomo of Milan is the third largest church in Christendom, after Rome's St. Peter's and Sevilla's massive cathedral, so it’s well worth a visit.
The Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II is not just a shopping mall, but a magnificent work of architecture standing opposite the Duomo. Admire the incredible vaulted glass roofs and shops, though perhaps avoid a coffee inside if you’re trying to stick to a budget.
The Teatro alla Scala is one of the world’s leading opera houses, and it hosts world-famous ballet performances. It’s located just a stone’s throw away from the Duomo.
While all these sights are worth visiting during a trip to Milan, a low-cost activity in which both tourists and locals partake is theaperativo. At many bars and restaurants throughout the city, you can purchase a pre-dinner drink and then indulge in an all-you-can-eat buffet of finger food and traditional Italian fare. For a set price (usually around 10 euros) it’s an absolute steal, especially considering the high cost of dining in Milan. Aperativo time is generally between 7 and 9 pm, before dinnertime. If you’re a smart traveler, you may choose to fill up at the buffet and skip the $25 plate of pasta at the restaurant later.
As the second largest city in Italy, Milan is incredibly well-connected by air and train. Three airports in or near Milan serve the city, making it a central hub in the north. Due to the strong presence of budget airlines flying in and out of two of those airports, it's often the cheapest place in Italy to fly within Europe.
Linate airport is the most convenient for heading directly into the city. Most international flights use this airport, and it's a short ride to the city center by bus.
Malpensa airport is an hour outside of the city center, served primarily by low-cost airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet. You can reach the center by train or bus, and a one-way ticket costs 10 euros
Bergamo is the third airport, and the smallest of the three. It's located outside of Milan, in the city of Bergamo, and it is also served by the budget airlines. The trip to the city center is also an hour, though the bus ride is half the price, at 5 euros one-way.
While Milan may be one of the more expensive cities in Europe, don’t let the high prices intimidate you from taking what could be an incredible Italian getaway. By planning your trip during low-season, staying a few blocks farther away from major sites like the Duomo or La Scala, and capitalizing on private homes or shared dorms, you can keep costs down and enjoy Italy’s pulsing fashion capital.
© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.
© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.