Milan is a great place to visit year-round, but there are certain times when the city is just buzzing with energy and fun. If you plan to come to Lombardy to see one of these fabulous Milanese festivals, you are in for a real treat! Here are the ten best festivals in Milan to plan your trip around!
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The Best Festivals in Milan
From the religious to the haute couture, these are the best Milan festivals:
Milan Fashion Week
Starting as early as in January (men’s fashion) and February (for women), the Milan Fashion Week is held twice every year and it lasts over a month on each occasion. This impressive fashion festival is bound to last longer in the upcoming years to be able to accommodate the ever-growing number of new designers and artists that present their collection in the fashion capital of the world.
Milan has a long and exemplary tradition in the textile industry which goes on stage during September and October when the fall collection is presented at the Fiera Milano Exhibition Centre.
Mercatone dell’Antiquariato Antiques Fair
Those visitors who love shopping sprees and retail therapy adore Milan also for its unique antique fairs and vintage markets. The famous Antiques Fair takes place every last Sunday of every month. However, if you visit in July, remember that this is the month when the fair takes its annual leave.
The fair is also known as the Mercatone dell’Antiquariato, and it is held in the Naviglio Grande, Milan’s oldest canal. Here, dozens of merchants prepare unique stands with curious selections of furniture, silverware, clocks, vintage bags and sunglasses, porcelain, dolls, jewelry, books, even magazines.
F1 Grand Prix
The popular Italian Grand Prix is not held in the center of Milan but in the nearby city of Monza, about half an hour from the city center. Monza hosts one of the first Grand Prix tracks ever built in Europe. The Grand Prix takes place at the beginning of September and it attracts fans and visitors from all over the world.
Saint Ambrose Festival
Milan’s most beloved saint and the city protector is Saint Ambrose (Sant’Ambrogio). Milanese citizens as well as people coming from all over the Lombardy region gather at the“O bei O bei” festival (which in Milanese dialect stands for “so beautiful”).
On December 7, the day the saint is remembered the Sant’Ambrogio Basilica and the surrounding area sees stalls selling local arts and crafts as well as numerous food trucks and stands offering Milanese street food like roasted chestnuts, rice fritters, pizza, sandwiches, and generous glasses of vin brulé, a local spiced wine that Milanese love to enjoy during the whole cold season.
Milan Jazz Festival
Fond of art and music, the Milanese love to celebrate jazz music during the popular annual festival. Every November, the Milan Jazz Festival takes place around different music venues in town, which host Italian and international jazz musicians attending especially for over a month.
Carnival is a heartfelt celebration in Milan and it represents a joyful moment for the locals who dress-up ad enjoy old-time traditions. The festival usually begins on the first Saturday of Lent (check the calendar accordingly since it’s a date that changes according to when Easter is celebrated).
One of the most beloved outfits locals love to wear is called Meneghino, a traditional character related to the Italian Commedia dell’Arte. Kids especially enjoy the endless parades and the delicious fritelle, Milan’s Carnival sweet fritters.
Tredesin de Mars
Locals celebrate Tredesin de Mars to commemorate the religious conversion of the Milanese into Christianity under Saint Barnabas. Despite being a popular festival, it has no real connection to historical fact, since it has been repeatedly proved that the famous saint never made it to Milan.
According to the legend, Saint Barnabas came to the city on March 13th and made thirteen signs with his cross on the floor of Santa Maria del Paradiso church which caused the pagans to convert.
Tredesin de Mars is also a celebration in which locals welcome better weather, flowers blossoming, and the arrival of spring. In the Tredesin Fair, people sell and buy sweets and flowers, while there’s a religious procession in the central area of Porta Romana.
Milano Film Festival
Considered one of the best and most prestigious film festivals as far as documentaries are concerned, the festival is a great opportunity for directors who want to present short films.
A special characteristic of this event is that films are not categorized and that meetings and workshops with the audiences are the main opportunities that filmmakers have to learn about the opinion that the audiences have on their work. This festival usually takes place in September.
More of a happening event than a festival, locals love and take full advantage of this Open Day (in Milan known as Oggi Aperto, or Today Open). On this special day, usually during the last weekend of March, every historical monument or building of architectural relevance that is usually private and impossible to access is open to the public.
Latin American Festival
Milan’s most important summer festival is the Latin American Festival which sees thousands of visitors during June and July. During these days, the city celebrates the hundreds of Latin Americans that live in the city and the special bond that this part of the world has long had with Milan.
The festival is a great culinary event, with food from every Latin American country, but it’s also possible to enjoy shows, dance, buy arts and crafts, or take part in many different cultural events.
5 Things to Bring with You to Milan
The Lonely Planet Italy guidebook or the Rick Steves Italy guidebook for your trip. It can be kind of a pain to find the major guidebooks once you arrive in Italy, or you’ll find them overpriced. I always like to pick mine up ahead of time.
An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use an Italian sim card while here to help navigate the trains.
Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.
A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for Italy because it has many anti-theft features.
More Milan Travel Resources
Here are some resources to help you plan your trip to Italy. First, here are the best things to do in Milan and what to do in Milan at night. Plus here’s what to eat in Milan so you have a delicious trip!
If you’re planning to see DaVinci’s Last Supper, here’s a guide to getting tickets for Santa Maria delle Grazie so you don’t miss it! (Tickets sell out early).
Next, while you’re in Milan, you should make time to see these other beautiful Milan Churches.
If you’ll be spending time in Rome, check out my interview with Mike Duncan on the history of The Roman Forum. I also have several episodes of my travel podcast, Rick Steves Over Brunch about Rome and Venice. Plus I have 101 Italy Quotes for Italy Instagram captions.
Finally, check out my list of books to read before your vacation in Italy.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for Italy make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities (like Milan…ahem) where tourists can be the victims of pickpockets. Italy is the only country I’ve been to (out of almost seventy) where I’ve had someone try to pick my pocket…and it was in Milan!
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.
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