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9 Best Budget Eats in Milan, Italy

By Allison Tibaldi
updated September 29, 2021
Detail of Duomo Cathedral in Milan Italy
Lonely Planet

For some, the highlight of a trip to Milan is viewing Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. But for the food-obsessed, a visit here revolves around eating supper (and breakfast and lunch, too). In a country revered for gastronomic treasures, Milan's culinary abundance stands tall. Best known for fashion and finance, this chic, sleek, and efficient Northern Italian city will tantalize your taste buds at every turn. History and geography are on its side. Milan is located in the Po Valley, surrounded by fertile pastures and prolific rice fields, which translates to your plate with luxuriously rich cheese and butter, plus the risotto of your dreams. Centuries of foreign conquerors have left their mark with an open-minded food scene and authentic ethnic cuisine.

While posh Milan isn't exactly known for bargains, you won't need to break the bank to eat like a king. Here are nine tasty ways to indulge your appetite on a budget.

Aperitivo

Best place to try it: Radetsky, Corso Garibaldi 105

Sipping a pre-dinner drink is popular with Milan's trendsetters. Many bars offer a plentiful buffet included in the price of your drink for around 8 euros. You'll spy tables laden with pizza, pasta, rice salad, roasted veggies, sausage, and cheese. While residents tend to nibble daintily, forge ahead and fill your plate with prime morsels that can substitute for a light dinner.

Eat in a Neighborhood Trattoria

Best place to try it: Il Caminetto, Via Felice Casati 22

Milan's Northern agricultural traditions have little in common with Southern Italy's red sauces and olive oil. If you don't have an Italian Mama, eating in a neighborhood trattoria is the next best thing. These frugal, family-run establishments make everything from scratch, which translates into low prices and home-cooked flavors. You'll sample rich traditional dishes and receive a warm welcome from owner Clara when you dine at Il Caminetto. The Cotoletta alla Milanese, a breaded bone-in veal cutlet cooked in butter, is crisp and greaseless. Boldly yellow Risotto alla Milanese stars short-grained carnaroli rice cooked with precious saffron threads and enriched with butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Coffee

Best place to try it: Motta Caffe, Piazza Duomo

In Italy, coffee is not just a beverage, it's a way of life. Savor a morning cappuccino under the shadow of the freshly restored Gothic Duomo at Motta. Pair it with a fortifying brioche filled with jam or chocolate, perfect for dunking in your foamy beverage. You'll have a breakfast bargain for a few euros, with the most dazzling view in town.

Burgers

Best place to try it: Quality Beef, Trattoria Della Carne, Viale Pasubio 8

We're not suggesting fast food when you're in the Slow Food capital of the world. Burgers are trendy in Milan and there's nothing fast about the way this lean and luscious source of protein is eaten. Quality Beef, Trattoria Della Carne turns a simple burger into an elevated dining experience. This bastion of beef serves a dressed-up hamburger with pitch-perfect sides that will satisfy your carnivore cravings without making a big dent in your wallet.

Pack a Picnic

Best place to purchase yummy supplies: Peck, Via Spadari 9

Peck is a Milan institution and a temple of edible treats. Gourmets will go gaga for its three floors of elegantly presented cheese, charcuterie and eye-catching prepared foods. Select regal eats for an al fresco picnic in nearby Parco Sempione. Choose a leafy spot in the shadow of Milan's imposing castle, Castello Sforzesco and nosh away.

Pizza

Best place to try it: La Balena, Via Borsieri 28

Naples is the undisputed king of pizza, but Milan makes a noble effort. At La Balena in the Isola neighborhood, you'll enjoy a no-nonsense individual pie accompanied by an icy draught beer (birra alla spina). If you want a quick slice on the go, try the small chain Princi's delicate zucchini blossom variety. The pizza isn't pre-sliced, so you can ask for just the right size to tide you over until the next meal.

Gelato

Best place to try it: Il Massimo Del Gelato, Via Lodovico Castelvetro 18

Italians are passionate when it comes to this frozen treat and the Milanese are no exception. Chocoholics should try a refreshing scoop at Il Massimo Del Gelato, where ten variations of chocolate are served. This city has no shortage of gelaterie, just be sure and look for the words prodotto artigianale and you'll know that it's freshly made.

Sandwich or Panino

Best place to try it: Panino Giusto, multiple locations

Don't think we're suggesting you eat peanut butter and jelly. Milan takes it up a notch with photo-worthy sandwiches filled with quality cheeses, meats and salads piled on crusty bread and eaten hot off the press. Give one of Panino Giusto's outposts a try. One bite and you'll understand why this small chain is packing them in at lunchtime.

Chinese

Best place to try it: Jubin, Via Paolo Sarpi 11

While Italians may have the cultural claim on pasta, most food historians believe it was actually brought to Italy from Asia by Marco Polo. It seems fitting that Asian eateries are flooding this city and savvy foodies head straight to Chinatown. It's main thoroughfare, Via Paolo Sarpi, is car-free, so you can hop on your BikeMi bike share and pedal over to your feast. You can choose from dozens of authentic Chinese options, but unassuming Jubin is a top pick thanks to its quality ingredients and low prices.

This article was written by Allison Tibaldi, a native New Yorker who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto, and Los Angeles. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. When she's not traveling, she's scouring NYC for delectable eats. As a freelance travel writer, she focuses on family, culinary, and car-free travel. She's also a senior travel writer at offMetro.com.

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It's also home to talented artisans with shops including leather artist Valerio Trufelli and ceramic artist Linda Bai. Pienza evokes romance with its wine bars, beautiful sunset views, and cobblestone streets with names like Street of the Kiss and Street of Love. Bibury, England Tiny Bibury dates back to the 10th century, and features one of the most photographed streets in England, Arlington Row, a row of quaint stone cottages that date back to the 1300s. Today the village has a pub and a restaurant (both offer rooms), as well as a woolen mill. Stroll through the hamlet and admire the ivy-covered stone cottages, the lush English gardens, and the small pond in the park filled with white swans. If you like fresh fish, your lunch will never be fresher than when they pull your meal straight from the trout farm down the street. Crookhaven, Ireland This very cute little fishing town, Ireland's most southerly village, is located on a thin peninsula in west County Cork. Surrounded by the sea and rolling green hills, Crookhaven boasts gorgeous views. There is an excellent gastro-pub here called the Crookhaven Inn and next door you'll find Jorg's Goldsmith Studio, where goldsmith Jorg Uschkamp creates unique jewelry with precious metals and jewels. Just outside the town is the Protestant Church of Saint Brendan the Navigator, built in 1717. Orta San Giulio, Italy Orta San Giulio is perched on a hill that juts out into Lago Orta. It offers great views of Isola San Giulio, the only island in the lake, which houses an excellent restaurant and a convent. The convent is ringed by a shady, circular stone walkway, called "The Way of Silence." Orta San Giulio has many great restaurants, a specialty chocolatier, and beautiful views of the lake. Praiano, Italy On the Amalfi Peninsula, next door to the much larger, pricier, and more crowded Positano, Praiano is a quiet, picturesque cliffside town with many little nooks and crannies to explore. There is a walkway that leads to the water's edge, where several restaurants cling to a rocky grotto and serve fresh fish unloaded by the fishermen in the cove just minutes before. The coastal road bisecting the town bustles with shops, bars, a fruit vendor, and a butcher. Driving through the town, one can also see a miniature model layout of Praiano tucked under a little overhanging rock on the side of the road. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany If you're looking for the perfect medieval walled town, this is it. Visitors can walk atop the entire circumference (more than two miles) of the city walls, stopping to admire the buildings, gardens, and countryside below. Aside from enjoying many German lagers without worrying about driving, activities in Rothenburg include the Night Watchman's tour, offering an entertaining and educational slice of life; the Museum of Medieval Torture; and the Christmas market stores, where you can find beautiful German decorations as well as a museum outlining the history of Christmas traditions. If you're there on a Wednesday night, head over to Mario's which hosts the English Conversation Club, hosted by a man who calls himself Herman the German. The town is very crowded May thru September and in December, but in other months you'll have it all to yourself. Certaldo Alto, Italy The modern sprawl of lower ("basso") Certaldo belies the treasure that sits at the top of the hill. Take the long footpath, or ride the cable car ("funivia") up to Certaldo Alto, and you'll have stepped into a timeless, Renaissance storybook village. Explore the charming streets; see the artwork on display at the Church of Saints Tomaso and Prospero and at the Museum of Sacred Art; visit the Civic Museum at the Praetorian Palace, which includes a torture chamber and prison; and have a "cappuccino decorato" (decorated coffee) at the Caffetteria Artistica. Montefioralle, Italy Tiny Montefioralle in Tuscany is known as the birthplace of Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer whose name inspired the name "America". The door of his birth home displays two symbols of his family: their family insignia of the wasp, and the letter V. The hill town is quite small, with one circular cobblestone street that can be walked in about 10 minutes. Like many medieval villages, the stone houses here are all seamlessly connected. Montefioralle's homes have very beautiful and ornate doors, making for a charming stroll. Doolin, Ireland A coastal town in County Clare on the Wild Atlantic Way, Doolin has a few pubs and is well known as a place to hear traditional Irish music, which can be heard nightly or weekly depending on the season. Doolin is also quite close to the famous Cliffs of Moher, and just outside Doolin is the evocative Doonagore Castle. Both Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher are popular tourist destinations, but if you visit in the off-season you can enjoy the music and the sights without the crowds. To experience the Cliffs of Moher completely alone, visit them at daybreak and enjoy your own private, stunning sunrise. Vigoleno, Italy A visit to this ancient and tiny castle town feels like a step back into the past. The castle fortifications and town buildings, some dating back as far as the 10th century, are largely intact. A walk within the castle walls takes just a few minutes, and you'll discover several shops, a bar, a hotel with a restaurant, and a tiny old church that is a popular location for weddings in the area. As of this writing the town has just five residents, and after you've seen the place you'll want to add yourself to that population. Just outside the castle, overlooking the castle courtyard, is a very modest but excellent restaurant, La Scuola Vecchia. The best part: You can stay overnight in a B&B in this fairytale castle town, in a four-poster bed, for less than a budget hotel in Rome. Monteriggioni, Italy This hilltop castle town of Monteriggioni is visible for miles around. Visitors can walk the platforms around the high 12th-century walls and look out over the broad countryside. The wide town square has several restaurants and artisans' shops, as well as the small but beautiful Church of Santa Maria. The Medieval Armor Museum has replicas of armor and weapons from the ages—you can even hold and try on some of them to get a feel for what it was like to defend the ramparts 700 years ago. The town has a full-on medieval festival in mid-July, with costumed musicians and artisans plying their trade just like they did in the 1300s, offering all manner of crafts, foodstuffs, and entertainment. Glastonbury, England Glastonbury is a Mecca for many New-Age and pagan pilgrims, who regard various aspects of the town's tangled history and mythology as sacred. The village is identified most with its links to the Arthurian Grail legend, as well as to tales of Joseph of Arimathea. It is marked by a large hill of mysterious origin, called the Glastonbury Tor. As is the case with many such pagan sites, early Christians built upon and co-opted these sacred places and attached their own legends to them, such as Glastonbury's "Chalice Well," a more than 2,000-year-old natural spring purported to be a holy well with healing properties. The preponderance of all this history and legend gives Glastonbury a different feel from most other smallish English towns. Its commercial center, in addition to the usual pubs and gift shops, is full of book shops and art galleries highlighting the town's mystical background. In the middle of town stands the evocative ruins of the ancient Glastonbury Abbey, the supposed burial place of King Arthur and his Guinevere. Barga, Italy Set amidst the steep forest hillsides of Tuscany's Garfagnana region, Barga is a fortified, walled city. Piled up on a hill, it is overlooked by its Romanesque Duomo, a cathedral dedicated to St. Christopher—if you get there at noon you'll hear its ancient bells ring out and echo across the mist-covered valleys below. No cars are allowed within the old city walls; good shoes and good endurance are a must here, as the narrow cobbled streets are extremely steep. Barga hosts several festivals in the summer including a famous jazz festival. Lyme Regis, England The cute little port town of Lyme Regis is at the center of the "Jurassic Coast" of England, a stretch of coastline known for its rocky exposure of several geological eras spanning some 180 million years, and is therefore of great interest to purveyors of a lot of dinosaur stuff at the gift shops. Lyme Regis is one of those salty towns that is crowded during summer vacation times, but also a lot of fun in the off-season. You'll find many pubs with great local ales and ciders; shops that sell the same; and lots of places to buy artworks, goods, and foodstuffs from various artists and artisans. It is also the home of the Dinosaurland Fossil Museum, great for little kids and grown-up kids. Andechs, Germany The beer brewed by the monks of the Andechs Monastery is regarded as the best beer in Germany, and after trying it, we have no cause to question this claim. This thousand-year-old Benedictine monastery is still an active holy place and a pilgrimage destination. Positioned atop a small hill in the midst of the idyllic Bavarian countryside, the monastery includes a Baroque church and a bell tower topped with a distinctive "onion" dome. The monastery grounds comprise a village in itself, with a restaurant, several shops, and (naturally) a huge beer garden where visitors can enjoy the local foods and of course try the many varieties of masterful brews.