Saunders 1865 | Moving to Milan

Moving to Milan

Are you moving to Milan?  Milan is an exciting, vibrant city, well known for its fashion and footwear industry and booming tourism.
Although it is a highly urbanised region, the surrounding greenbelt and number of public gardens provide areas for relaxation, sports and getting away from the fast-paced city life. The woodlands and farms of Parco Nord Milano, north of the city, and Parco Agricolo Sud Milano, in the south, were proclaimed regional parks in the 90s. West of the centre the Parco Delle Cave features artificial lakes and forests.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Milan report includes info on:

• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city

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Putting Milan on the Map

The capital of the Lombardy region and of the province of Milan, the city is situated in the Northwest of Italy and was founded in 400 BC.  It has survived the destruction of many wars and serious epidemics.  The mixed architecture dates back to Roman times, with several rebuilds throughout the centuries due to wars and bombings.

There have been excellent transport links in the city for a while.  The trams have been running efficiently since 1928.  Initially, there were 1500, and around 100 are still in operation.  The first street cars appeared in 1841 and the subway line dates back to 1964.  Between, buses, trolleys, trams, four subway lines and 5,000 taxis, the choices for public transportation are endless.  Which is helpful considering the traffic congestion!

It has been calculated that Milanese drivers can waste up to 52 hours per year sitting bumper-to-bumper during peak hours.  However, this is five hours less than it was back in 2015, so  it is improving.  Milan is now the tenth worst city in Europe in terms of traffic congestion.  The city has 12 out of 20 of Italy’s most congested corridors.

Milan’s principal airport, Malpensa Airport is 31 miles from the centre of Milan, with 146 train trips per day to the capital.  Long haul international flights generally land here.  The Malpensa Express train takes around 50 minutes to the city centre.

Milan Bergamo airport is 30 miles east of Milan, where Ryanair and other low-cost airlines land.  Milan Linate airport is the closest to the city, only half a mile away.  A smaller airport with shorter-haul destinations in Italy and Europe.  Both have inexpensive bus trips into Milan, or a private taxi is always an option.

The Areas


At the very centre of Milan, this expensive area was once surrounded by medieval city walls.  The luxurious apartments are small, the streets are busy with tourists, but for those wanting entertainment on-tap and total immersion into the rich history and culture of Milan,  this is the area for you.  The Duomo – or cathedral, Teatro Alla Scala opera house and the exquisite Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle shopping mall are all here.  Packed with an equal number of historic monuments and designer boutiques, numerous restaurants, bars and cafes, this is the area for young singles and couples on a large budget.


Situated south-east of Centro Storico, this important business centre has modern facilities, green spaces and historical character.  Apartments are common, with numerous rail and metro transit options. Better for young families, with its good schools and great healthcare facilities, but unlike its wealthy neighbour, leisure activities are limited.


Just north of Milan’s historic centre, this area is more bohemian, perfect for culture-seekers.  Central to business areas and the city centre, mainly singles and younger couples live here.  Rents are expensive, but that’s the price for living in an area with a great nightlife, bars, restaurants, grocery stores and boutiques.


Best known for its convention centre and trade fairs, this fast-paced suburb has classic palazzi apartments on leafy streets, is close to the city but with limited entertainment  options.  Accommodation in Milan is generally apartment living, but Fiera offers both townhouses and villas.

The area is growing rapidly, with a large development called CityLife, built on the former fairgrounds.  This mixed-use project showcases homes designed by famous architects and is popular for its proximity to the metro, schools, parks and shopping.


This busy, bustling Zone 3 neighbourhood is very popular with expats.  Singles, students, families and pensioners live side-by-side enjoying inexpensive public transport and cheaper shopping.

Lacking the elegance and prices of some of the better-known shopping areas, large department stores, supermarkets and budget-friendly clothing and shoe boutiques line the streets.

The wide streets are generally crowded with traffic and pedestrians and are lined with large apartment blocks, built in the early 20th century.  Popular despite its comparatively unattractive buildings, sheer ease of shopping, public transport and price make this an in-demand area.


North of the city, in Zone 9, young families and creative arty residents reside here.  Close to the Porta Nuova business district, with a strong sense of community, good access to hospitals, entertainment and public transport this is a great area for younger couples, with or without children.

Emerging designers, with less well-known names, populate the streets.  This new, bohemian hotspot is full of indie shops and artists’ workshops, with an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars.


Part of Zone 3, this university area is home to a number of campuses.  Attractive and affordable accommodation, with ample entertainment makes this appealing to younger residents.  The students can get a bit noisy and rowdy, so it’s not recommended as  a great area for young families.


South-west of the city and the Duomo, the Navigli District, with its low-rise apartments and Leonardo da Vinci’s canals, dates back to the mid-1400s.  This typical Italian area has lost a little of its attraction, becoming more commercialised and chic as the years have passed.  The traditional Milanese apartments, known as case a ringhiera, surround small courtyards.

Attracting both old and young, an assortment of quaint cafes and restaurants, churches, boutiques, artists’ galleries and gelaterie all intermingle, adding to its charm.  The Sunday market draws locals and tourists, with a variety stalls such as leather goods, vintage clothing, antique furniture, bags and jewellery.

The canals are drained in winter, in order to collect the debris left behind and for general cleaning, before refilling with water from Lake Maggiore in late spring.


Situated close to Milan and popular with many expat families, rentals are more reasonable, transport links are good, and the many green areas will appeal to families.  It will take longer to get to work, around 20 minutes by train, but the relative peace and quiet may be worth it.

The International School of Monza caters for English-speaking scholars, and there is also a bilingual school.

Monza isn’t just about the annual Grand Prix, it is culturally diverse with an excellent education system. Sociology, medicine and surgery schools for the University of Milan Bicocca are here, along with museums, theatres and cinemas.

Its green areas include a 750-hectare piece of land, which is one of the largest protected areas in Europe.  The River Lambro wends its way through the park, forming waterfalls and lakes.

There is ample shopping and a famous Christmas market as well.

Who Lives and Works in Milan?

The population of the city is approximately 1,300,000, while the metropolitan area includes around 4,300,000 people.

Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and is mainly Catholic.  It is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milan but is also home to large numbers of Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Orthodox communities.

Known as Italy’s financial and industrial centre, it generates around 9% of the country’s GDP.  It is the centre of 45% of Lombardy’s businesses and more than 8% of Italy’s, including three Fortune 500 companies.

This important automotive centre also hosts such companies as Pirelli, Alfa Romeo and Techint.

Pharmaceuticals, plastics, food and beverage, chemicals, machinery and health and biotechnology products are all manufactured here.

Telecommunications, advertising and media, national newspapers, RAI – the public service broadcaster and private TV companies Mediaset, Sky Italia and La7, are all here along with major Italian publishers.  More well-known are the large internationals such as Google, Yahoo!, Virgilio, Lycos and Altavista.

The seat of the country’s main banking groups, incorporating 198 companies and over 40 foreign banks, leads many asset management companies to have offices here.  And lets not forget the Associazione Bancaria Italiana, representing the Italian banking system and the Milan Stock Exchange, with 225 listed companies, along with Italy’s Stock Exchange.

FieraMilano Spa, one of the largest trade fair organisers in the world, has its headquarters in Milan and is responsible for Milan Furniture Fair with around 4.5 million visitors per year.

A massive 12,000 fashion companies including  the likes of Armani, Versace, Prada and Valentino are all represented in Milan, inclusive of  800 showrooms and 6,000 sales outlets.  Four weeks are  dedicated annually to major fashion events.

Many global banks have their Italian Headquarters here, such as Bank of America, HSBC, AXA, BNP Paribas to name a few.

Tourism should not be forgotten, with 7.65 million registered arrivals from around the globe in 2016.  It is the world’s 14th most visited city.

Strange but true, a third of the Filipino population in Italy resides in Milan.

The Best Bits

The Milan Fashion Week, Milano Moda Donna, with top designers presenting their creations is held in September.

In April, the Milan Furniture Fair is hosted, setting trends and standards for all the major cities.

The Italian Grand Prix is held in nearby Monza in autumn.

The Duomo di Milano cathedral and the Santa Maria Delle Grazie convent house Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”.   The landmark attracts more than 9 million visitors per annum.

Milan has the second-most Michelin-starred restaurants in the country.

AC Milan and FC Internazionale are both based here, two of Europe’s major football teams.

Numerous art galleries, theatres and museums are dotted all over the city.  Sforza Castle houses artwork by Michelangelo and da Vinci.  Pinacoteca di Brera, an elegant palazzo, once used by Napoleon, showcases art from northern Italy, in both Renaissance and medieval styles.

Extravagant shopping streets attract many wealthy patrons.  Via Montenapoleone is the street for luxury shopping for brands such as Prada and Valentino.  Others include Corso Venezia, Corso di Porta Ticinese, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, and Corso Buenos Aires. All good for a bit of retail therapy or just window shopping.

The gargoyles adorning the façade of the Cathedral are for sale at 100 000 euros each.  This campaign is to preserve the historic buildings in the city.  So you could become the proud owner of a piece of history!

Bringing the Kids

The city has various international schools teaching a variety of programmes.  These include Baccalaureate, British, French, German and American curricula.  If you are looking to ease your child into the Italian way of life, without too much stress, these schools are definitely worth the pricey fees.  Admission is tricky, with long waiting lists.

Public schools have to, by law, provide Catholic religious education.  However, children are permitted to attend non-religious classes.  These schools are free of fees but are conducted in Italian, which may work if your child is just starting school.

Private schools also receive state funding.  However, they have to adhere to certain government educational standards, and they tend towards operating under religious philosophies, such as Catholicism.  Lessons are conducted in Italian.

Milan Quirks

Italians are quite laid back.  There is a strict balance between their work and social life.

It is important to understand the “pausa”.  All the shops close during the middle of the day for up to 4 hours.

Dinner is usually served from 9pm, with the kitchens close around 11.30pm.  It won’t be unusual to see children running around the restaurant while the parents eat.

Relocating to Milan

The vast number of monuments, churches, museums and historic landmarks give Milan its character.  Modernisation has taken a role in the betterment of the city, but history is still of the utmost importance.

A low crime rate, good education, fantastic shopping, the Grand Prix, a surfeit of culture, and a thriving economy make this a great place to relocate to.

It’s always difficult to move to a country where a different language is spoken, and learning the basics of Italian is advised, although English is generally spoken.  Getting around may prove difficult at first, along with choosing accommodation and schools near to home or work.  Saunders 1865’s team of relocation specialists will guide you through all the processes, finding the right place to live close to the right school, helping negotiate leases, aiding in form-filling and dealing with the red-tape involved.


City Centre
Green space
Museums & Galleries
Average Monthly Rent - Milan
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre €971
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre €679
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre €2,064
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre €1,283
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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