Milan treasures

We typically fly in and out of Milan when we visit Italy, because there are direct flights from both JFK and Miami. The return flight, however, is early in the morning, which means we always have to spend at least our final evening in Milan.

The good thing about this, however, is that it has allowed us to make friends and find favorite places. And that was particularly helpful to me on my final night in Italy after my summer adventure.

There’s only one part of Milan that has ever really wowed me: the Navigli district, which boasts tons of restaurants and bars surrounding a canal. And in fact, there are three bars and a restaurant all owned by the same people, and those places have become our go-to haunts in Milan.

Our first encounter was at a trendy cocktail bar called Mag Cafè. The drink menu includes many clever cocktails, each with a story and a collectible card to take with you. They’re pricy, but it has the feel of a swanky lounge, and if you’re willing to drop some cash to sip something creative and delicious, this is a great place to camp for awhile.

While at Mag Cafè the first time, my husband noticed someone lurking outside by a strange door, and declared that there must be a hidden bar behind there. Sure enough, there is a tiny room the size of a closet, with two bar stools, a space for a bartender, and walls lined with bottles. This is BackDoor43, the self-styled “Smallest Bar in the World”. You make a reservation, and you have the bar to yourself for one hour with the private bartender. This is the kind of bar where you talk about what kind of tastes you like, and the bartender will create something customized just for you… and it’s practically guaranteed to be stunning.

Knowing that I would be in Milan for the night, I made a reservation at BackDoor43 a few weeks ago, and began my evening with a few bespoke cocktails before dinner. The drinks were phenomenal; one based on whiskey, one based on mezcal, and a finale that was a bit more tropical (based on rum). The sun was still up, so the lighting was a bit better than it often is, and I snapped a few photos. (They’re misleading; they don’t at all give you a sense of just how small the bar really is!)

After my time was up (thanks for everything, Cosimo!) I wandered ’round the corner to the restaurant that these folks run: Iter. This is a really amazing concept restaurant, where every six months or so the staff will completely overhaul their menu of food and drinks, based on a trip they’ve taken to some new part of the world. On this visit, the menu was inspired by France.

Quick shout-out to Idris for being a fantastic host, really making me feel at home and cheering me up when I was missing my friends from Siena.

The same owners have another cocktail bar, but it’s a true speakeasy: there’s no sign outside, the entrance appears to be something entirely different, and you need to be on a guest list to even get the address and be admitted. It was our third visit that we finally schmoozed our way to an invitation, and it was an incredible setup unlike any bar that I’d ever seen. (New Yorkers, this makes Raines Law Room seem commercial.) I’m not about to post the name or photos of it here, but by all means, come to Milan with me and I’ll get us a reservation.

I do have one final favorite place in Milan — an Irish pub (no, really!) — but my friends who work there were unavailable, so I skipped it on this trip. If you’re in Milan, though, check out Murphy’s Law for a great afternoon visit.

Thanks, Milano, for giving me shelter and comfort on my final night in Italy. I’ll look forward to seeing you soon.

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