The flight time from Prague to Milan’s Malpensa Airport is a mere hour and a half and your destination in the city’s center is easily reached by taxi or train (Malpensa Express) directly from the airport. Before starting to explore the city, I recommend first checking into your hotel (a great help for finding just the right place to stay is TripAdvisor and Booking.com - here you'll find the current room rates from all the top luxury hotels, including a detailed description of available services, photographs of the rooms and the notes on the experiences and recommendations of past guests; both are also available as a mobile app). And now, what better way to start exploring the city than getting your first taste of an Italian specialty – gelato?
An (Extra)ordinary Gelato
Milan is located in northern Italy, in Lombardy, and it has its own undeniable charm. It is not only a capital of fashion and architecture, but also of great food and drink. There are a wide range of different types of eating establishments – something to suit every taste and every budget. Later in the day, stopping at an aperitivo bar is almost obligatory; but, let’s say we arrive earlier, so I’d suggest looking to taste another Italian specialty, which is gelato, and there is no better place to start than the place reputed to have the best gelato in the city, which is Milan's Cioccolato Italiani – an understated patisserie near the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary in the Piazza di Duomo. The people of Milano don't call this magnificent building anything long or complicated, it is simply the “Duomo”.
I was quite skeptical about the recommendation that the Cioccolato Italiani had the "best gelato in town". I've tried gelato in many different parts of northern Italy and honestly I wasn't too impressed with any of them. In Milan, my tongue was still remembering the taste of the pistachio and salty caramel ice cream from Prague's Angelato ice cream shop and I was looking for something at least as good - but so far in Italy, I hadn’t had any success. Will this time be different?
Cioccolato Italiani is a place that is easy to recognize because there is usually already a long line of tourists lined up to get in the door. Right by the entry is a large blackboard menu. Here you choose your treat, pay and then stand in the next queue for the staff to prepare your selection. You can choose from many different choices and flavors but mine is the famous CioccolatItaliani Cup (Coppa Cioccolato Italiani), which is three flavors of ice cream, two cones of chocolate filled nerofuso and biancofuso and slivers of white and dark chocolate. Another treat is the CioccolatItaliani Cone (Cono Cioccolato Italiani), which includes fresh ice cream, prepared daily, a core of melted dark chocolate and a pastry wafer. Be aware that once paid for, the chosen menu selection cannot be later changed.
If you like, you can also get a simple taste of one of their gelatos but the menu treats, like the ones noted above, are delicious and something really special. The contents of individual cups and cones are wonderfully flavorful and perfectly balanced, so there is really no need to add anything else.
It is also worth noting that, after you have placed your order, you will be surprised at the speed with which you will be served. A notice above the waiting customers announces that they serve a different customer every 60 seconds; so, you can look around and count and you’ll soon know how long it will take to get your order. In the meantime, you can watch the staff as they prepare the individual orders. They have a unique way of preparing and filling the different cones.
The Cioccolato Italiani shop is really quite different from most other Lombardy confectioneries and it is definitely worth a visit while in Milan (even several times).
It has a unique concept and it works with only the most luxurious ingredients and the local staff is great. Just don't count the calories: one serving is worth a big lunch. :-)
If you’d like to wait for or not have a gelato, another great experience is to try a pastry. In the morning, you can try a typical Milanese breakfast, which includes an espresso with something sweet. Milan’s residents like to eat their breakfast out - but on a working day, do not expect a lavish feast taking several hours. Instead, breakfast is quick and often eaten "standing up". This stand-up service doesn't take away any of the charm of eating an Italian breakfast, rather just the opposite.