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MILAN

Why do Milan residents get a day off on December 7th?

If you live in Milan, you may get an extra day off work on December 7th. Here's what the city is celebrating and how.

Milan's Duomo
Milan residents commemorate their patron saint, St Ambrose, on December 7th. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

December 7th is a public holiday in Milan as residents commemorate their beloved patron saint, St Ambrose. 

The annual Festa di Sant’Ambrogio, which happens to fall on a Wednesday this year, is one of the city’s most anticipated recurrences, giving residents an opportunity to catch up with family and friends and unofficially marking the start of the festive season in the northern metropolis.

READ ALSO: The Italian holiday calendar for 2023

As in the case of other local public holidays across the country (Saints Peter and Paul in Rome, St Mark in Venice, St Orontius in Lecce, etc.), children will be home from school and most employees will be given the day off – by law, those who are asked to work on the day must be paid above their regular hourly rate. 

So why do locals celebrate Saint Ambrose, who lived and died in the northern city in the second half of the 4th century AD?

Ambrose served as Bishop of Milan from 374 AD to 397 AD, but it could be argued that his influence on the city went far beyond that of an ordinary clergyman. 

Chritsmas tree in MIlan's Piazza Duomo

Milan’s traditional Christmas light displays will be switched on on December 7th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Ambrose was known for the eloquence of his public speeches, his exceptional diplomacy when handling political matters and, above all, his efforts to promote social justice in the city as he regularly urged Milan’s richest citizens to care and provide for the poor. 

Ambrose’s commitment to the betterment of Milanese society is ultimately why he is cherished by thousands of residents to this day, with local commemorations peaking, of course, on December 7th.

So, how do locals celebrate the day?

Well, the most faithful residents head to the Basilica of St Ambrose, the church named after the saint, for morning mass, with the service being usually held by Milan’s Bishop himself.

After mass, families get together to celebrate in the best way known to Italians: with a big lunch, featuring local delicacies including Milanese-style risotto, mondeghili (meatballs) and rostin negàa (veal cutlets).

The meal usually ends with people enjoying their first seasonal taste of panettone (many more sampling sessions generally follow in the weeks after) or eating some home-made ambrosiani, traditional shortbread biscuits made precisely to celebrate Milan’s patron saint.

After the meal. people tend to go out ad enjoy some of the many things to do in the city on the day. 

Firstly, locals will have a chance to visit the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Market, a fair thought to date back to the early 1500s.

READ ALSO: Seven of Italy’s most enchanting Christmas markets in 2022

The market’s stalls, which are meant to open to the public exactly on December 7th, will be set up in front of Milan’s iconic Sforza Castle, selling anything from hand-crafted Christmas decorations and gadgets to local delicacies.

Christmas market in Milan

One of the best things to do in Milan on December 7th is to visit one of the city’s traditional Christmas markets. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Those who are not so fond of traditional markets might instead head to Piazza Duomo in central Milan to attend the Christmas lights switch-on event.

This year, the traditional light displays will be turned on at 5pm and will be followed by a party organised by cosmetics company VeraLab.

Finally, the premiere of the famous La Scala opera house will also take place on December 7th. While tickets to the event are no longer available, the musical performance – ‘Boris Godunov’ played by an orchestra under director Riccardo Chailly – will be aired live in several locations across the city.

A valuable reminder: Thursday, December 8th, the day following the Festa di Sant’Ambrogio, is a national public holiday, so you shouldn’t be too worried about staying up till late on Wednesday. 

READ ALSO: Why is Italy’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception a public holiday? 

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TRANSPORT

Metro, bus or tram: Milan’s tickets, passes and apps explained

Whether you’re moving to Milan or just visiting, getting to grips with the city's public transport system will be one of your first priorities. Here's what you need to know.

Metro, bus or tram: Milan’s tickets, passes and apps explained

Public transport in Milan is efficient, reliable and relatively cheap. 

However, navigating the dense network of trams, buses and metro lines servicing the city might not exactly be a piece of cake at first, especially for foreign nationals. 

So here’s a guide to help you get to grips with Milan’s public transport system sooner rather than later.

Overview

Milan’s urban area is serviced by four metro lines (M1, M2, M3, M5) – a new one, M4, is currently under construction and is expected to be fully operational by late 2024 – and over 130 bus routes and 19 tram lines. 

Milan metro lines

All metro lines and stops in Milan. Source: ATM Milano

All of these services are conveniently managed by a single operator, ATM (Azienda Trasporti Milanesi). This means that a single ticket or pass will allow you to hop on any given means of transport in the city and freely switch from one to the other without additional costs, provided, of course, that you haven’t exceeded your ticket’s validity time. 

Aside from your ticket’s duration, you should also always pay attention to the city’s fare zones. 

READ ALSO: What are the best Milan neighbourhoods for international residents?

Standard tickets and passes only cover the three first zones (Mi1 to Mi3), so a journey to any location outside of those zones (Mi4 to Mi9) requires a different ticket or the addition of a supplementary fare to your pass (tariffa integrativa). 

Be advised: travelling on the wrong ticket will cost you dearly as fines for transgressors start at 120 euros. Also, ticket inspectors in Milan are famously unreasonable.

Tickets and passes 

ATM offers a wide range of tickets and passes to customers, so you’ll never be short on options. Here’s a brief overview.

Standard single ticket (zones Mi1-Mi3): A single ticket is valid for 90 minutes and allows for unlimited journeys within the given time window and, of course, only within the relevant fare zones. Each ticket costs 2.20 euros.

Daily ticket (zones Mi1-Mi3): A daily ticket will get you unlimited journeys within a 24-hour window for just 7.60 euros. The time window starts when first validating the ticket.

Fare zones in Milan

Fare zones in Milan, from Mi1 to Mi9. Source: ATM Milano

Three-day ticket (zones Mi1-Mi3): A three-day ticket will cost you 13 euros. As for daily tickets, the time window starts when validating for the first time.

10-ticket bundle: A 10-ticket bundle will set you back 19.50 euros. Each ticket is valid for 90 minutes. 

Monthly and annual passes: While tickets are the best option for visitors, getting a monthly or yearly pass would be the best course of action for a resident. 

Monthly passes for Milan’s urban area cost 39 euros, whereas annual urban passes go for 330 euros. In both cases, a number of generous discounts are available for under-30s, low-income residents and the elderly.

READ ALSO: Five things you’ll only know if you live in Milan

It’s worth noting that, unlike standard tickets, monthly or yearly passes must be loaded onto a personal ATM travel card. To get one, you’ll have to submit a request through the relevant ATM web page and then ask for the card to be delivered to your address or pick it up yourself at one of the given metro stations. 

Where and how can I buy tickets?

From paper tickets to contactless payments, there’s no shortage of ways to pay your public transport fare in Milan. Here are your options.

Paper tickets

They might not be the most eco-friendly option but paper tickets are still around in Milan. 

The best way to get them is from a self-service machine at your nearest metro station – card payments are accepted – though you can also find them at a number of edicole (newsagents) or tabacchini (tobacco stores) across the city. A full list of authorised sellers is available here.

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Milan?

Validating paper tickets is fairly straightforward as you’ll only have to insert the ticket in the appropriate slot (you’ll find one on every metro entrance gate and on brightly-coloured boxes on buses and trams) and wait for it to be stamped. 

A passenger waiting for a train in a Milan metro station

Milan has four metro lines but a new one is currently under construction. Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

However, you should keep in mind that you’re meant to validate your ticket every time you switch to a different means of transport. Also, when using the metro, you’ll need the ticket to both get in and out of the underground, so make sure you don’t lose it during the journey. 

RicaricaMI card

All types of tickets except monthly or yearly passes can be loaded onto a RicaricaMI travel card. 

The card can be bought at any ATM point in the city or at any of the above-mentioned authorised sellers. 

This is a good alternative to paper tickets, not least because you’ll only have to tap it against the given reader to validate it.

ATM app

The quickest (and possibly the easiest) way to get a ticket is through the ATM Milano app.

No registration is required and you can pay for tickets with your credit card, PayPal or Satispay. 

READ ALSO: Six essential apps that make life in Milan easier for foreign residents

After validating your ticket, a QR code will appear on your screen and you’ll have to scan this to get through the metro barriers. However, scanning isn’t required on buses and trams. 

The app can be downloaded here

Contactless

Finally, all metro lines and three bus lines (56, 70 and 73) allow travellers to pay their fare via a contactless bank card – Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Maestro e VPay are all accepted – or any other contactless device (phone, smart watch, etc.).

You’ll always be charged the cheapest available fare (find out more about this here) and there are no extra costs or commissions.

Linate Airport just outside of Milan

ATM’s bus 73 connects central Milan to Linate Airport. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

That said, ATM recommends that people use the same card (or device) to tap in and out of metro stations so as to avoid being charged twice. 

Airport travel

ATM’s bus 73 connects central Milan (Via Gonzaga, behind Piazza Duomo, to be exact) to Linate Airport and a standard single ticket will be enough for the journey.

Naturally, there are other ways to get to Linate, including the Linate Shuttle and several Autostradale coaches, but these are not managed by ATM so you’ll have to get your tickets elsewhere.

As for Malpensa, all services between central Milan and the airport are managed by companies other than ATM. 

However, prices are still very affordable: the Malpensa Express costs 13 euros, whereas a one-way journey on the Malpensa Shuttle is 10 euros.

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