Deseo (Corso Sempione, 2, 20154 Milano)
Located on the corner of Arco della Pace – the summer hang-out spot for young Italians - Deseo is a trendy bar, popular for after-work drinks. The stylish ambiance lives up to Milan’s fashionable reputation, so it's perfect if you're in the mood for dressing up.
Drinks prices range from €10-15 with an extensive variety of cocktails on offer, but my go-to here is the timeless aperitivo classic, the Aperol spritz. An impressive selection of food spans the length of the bar including pizza (obviously), hot and cold pasta, sandwiches, salads, meats, cheeses and more. You definitely get your money's worth.
But the prime reason Deseo makes it into my top five is the enormous chocolate fountain, surrounded by bowls of marshmallows, sponges, brownies and fresh fruit. I suggest visiting Deseo on an empty stomach as you will be more than satisfied!
READ ALSO: A beginner's guide to aperitivo in Italy
Yguana Café (Via Papa Gregorio XIV, 16, 20123 Milano)
Only a 12-minute walk from Piazza Duomo, Yguana Café is ideal for those in search of an informal atmosphere, typical Italian dishes and cheap cocktails. This modern, tropical-themed bar offers a relaxed alternative to the chic but pricey rooftop spots and cocktail lounges that inundate central Milan.
Not only offering innumerable exotic cocktails for €10, Yguana café allows its customers the option of choosing the size of their drink for a minimal extra cost; I usually opt for the ‘MAXI’ mojito, because why not! Yguana offers an assortment of hot and cold snacks, typically pizza, pasta, gnocchi, salads, meats and cheeses. Make sure to save some room for the tiramisu and chocolate brownies!
As you can see, the ‘MAXI’ really is maxi… Photo: Izzi Wilkinson
Madeira (Viale Monte Nero, 3, 20135 Milano)
Less well-known than the previous two bars, Madeira – situated in the slightly more provincial area of Porta Romana – offers its customers an all-encompassing aperitivo buffet well worth the trip! For only €8 on weekdays, Madeira is a must if you are craving food fit to cure even the worst of hangovers, or feel in the mood to indulge.
Hot dishes are updated throughout the night, always including some type of pasta (with a lot of cheese!), chicken nuggets, chips, mini sandwiches, sausages, prosciutto or salami bruschetta, and if you desire a healthier option, there are several salad and vegetable dishes to satisfy your palate, such as grilled courgette, or the olive, feta and tomato platter.
At the weekends, for €2 extra the buffet also supplies a selection of freshly baked Italian tarts. The laid-back staff create a relaxed and casual atmosphere, making Madeira a great place to go for a chilled evening out.
Princi (Via Ponte Vetero, 10, 20121 Milano - Brera district)
Located on various street corners and piazzas, Princi crops up all over the city, beloved by both locals and tourists for its excellent coffee and first-class pastries. What many don't know about, however, is that it also serves a high quality aperitivo from around 5pm.
Opening earlier than most aperitivo, Princi is perfect for a late afternoon snack after a shopping spree or a lazy day spent sunbathing in Parco Sempione.
The Spritz one of the best I've ever tasted (and I've tried a lot!), and the extensive array of six kinds of pizza, several salad and pasta options, and a DIY bruschetta platter always leaves you wanting more… a bonus when it’s all you can eat!
The perfect Spritz Aperol. Photo: Izzi Wilkinson
Fonderie Milanesi (Via Giovenale, 7, 20136 Milano)
If you are looking for something off the beaten track, try searching out this spot. Hidden away in the backstreets of Navigli, beyond the crowds that swarm the canals, you will find Fonderie Milanesi.
At first you might feel as though you've taken a wrong turn somewhere, but as soon as you step inside the vintage-style bar it all makes sense. Fonderie Milanesi is popular among those in the know, so get there early or make a reservation as it can get crowded.
The collection of signature €10 cocktails is unique - I recommend experimenting with your choice of drink here rather than opting for a classic as you will not be let down by the more unusual mixes. Among the aperitivo dishes, my favourites are the freshly-baked focaccia and the flavourful Thai Green curry. All the food here is of great quality, as are the drinks, and paired with the rustic interior and quirky outdoor courtyard, Fonderie Milanesi is beyond compare.
Vintage bikes hanging of the ceiling and crumbling brick walls… if this isn’t ‘off the beaten track’ then what is!? Photo: Izzi Wilkinson
Izzi Wilkinson is an English and Italian student from Warwick University currently studying in Milan and in love with all things Italian! As her year there comes to an end, she hopes to share some of her experiences and observations from living in an Italian city.
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Photo: Olivier Morin/AFP