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August is traditionally vacation time and Milan shuts down. Without any traffic and much quieter than usual, the city has a special charm
In Italy, August is devoted to holidays, with many companies and shops closing temporarily, creating a city pace which is much slower, streets are quieter, and traffic flows more easily. It can be both a blessing and a compromise.
In recent years, and especially after Expo 2015, the situation has definitely improved. Until the 1990s, it was almost impossible to find a grocery shop or bakery open. Today, thanks to big supermarkets, international chains and tourists in central areas, some things are easier. For everything else, it’s „see you in September“.
Mid-August is the worst time of the year in terms of closures. Holidays are normally taken within the second and third week of the month, and most independent or family-run activities shut down. Call in advance to make sure of opening days and hours. August 15 is a national holiday, so many shops close for 24 or 48 hours; so always call in advance – it’s better than trusting Google or the websites, which aren’t often updated.
The city sleeps, and suburbs are empty, so avoid neighbourhoods Iike Isola, Porta Romana or Brera – apart from the monuments, you will find everything closed. Go to the Navigli district or stay in the city centre. The good thing (that no one tells you) is that the neighbourhoods that remain open are very lively and become the go-to spots for those remaining in the city – and the atmosphere is magical.
Chains, restaurants, bars and hotel bistros, Piazza Duomo and international clothing chains will remain open. In the Navigli district and along the Darsena almost all clubs are open, and the atmosphere is great.
Magically, rush hour traffic ceases abruptly. You can finally drive around “stress free”. Even parking is easy! The Area C program that requires a toll for cars entering the centre is suspended in the week of mid-August, while off-street parking within blue lines remain chargeable.
There is nothing better than cycling in August in Milan. Take out a weekly-pass for city bicycles – those you find attached to bike racks throughout the city centre and beyond. They are very practical and the first half hour is free. MOBIKE and OFO are two new free flow bike sharing companies that allow you to rent your bicycle and then leave it wherever you want, all through using an App. Simply download it and register with a credit card. While they are perfect for short distances, the small wheels and heavy frame make them hard to ride, so the first choice may be better.
The frequency of buses, trams and metro is reduced to Sunday and public holiday schedules. If the metro comes every three minutes on a regular Tuesday in April, in August you should expect to wait quite a bit longer.