Aperitivo in Milan

aperitivo1Milan is an expensive city, and when you are visiting on travel it’s probably even more difficult to have dinner without spending a fortune. During the day the ubiquitous bakeries allow you to eat on a budget easily but at night it’s easy to have to shell out a small fortune for a dinner, however nice it may be. If you take into account that children’s menus and small portions are hard to find, then the bill will be even higher for families with small children.
A nice solution might be to make the best of the Milanese aperitivo or “happy hour”. The hour is happy not because you get two drinks for the price of one, but because by paying for a drink you get unlimited access to a free buffet. (more…)

Play-brunch at the San Vittore

sanvittoreItalians, or possibly just the people from Milan, have come up with their own version of brunch. In the last 10 years many restaurants have specialised in a particular Sunday lunch, that goes by the name of brunch.
It’s not too dissimilar from what the international crowd believes brunch should be, but it has its own peculiarities. First of all it happens at lunch time, not in between breakfast and lunch. The experience normally involves a big buffet table that offers food in a very wide range. You’ll find lasagna, pasta and risotto next to meatballs and sausages. All sorts of grain salads next to grilled vegetables. But also scrambled and hard boiled eggs, brownies, pancakes, fruit, yogurt and cereals. So it’s really hard not to find something everybody likes.
That’s why it has become a favourite family event — informal, quick and with lots of choice for the fussy children.
Today we tried the play-brunch at the San Vittore restaurant, named from the prison it faces (in the center of Milan!). (more…)

A smart idea

regalo.gifMy son goes to a state school — teachers are well prepared, it’s nearly free and it’s around the corner. What else? Food is not great and the teachers face a constant lack of funding. Parents chip in on many occasions (Christmas and end of the year) and bring everyday supplies of tissues, wipes and plastic cups.  The teachers though came up with an additional way of supplementing their class endowment: each child brings a present for the class on his birthday.
It’s a system that is working beautifully — parents ask for suggestions and teachers get what the class is in need of. But also the children love it!  After all, they spend so much time between those walls and have no problem at all in giving a present to the class on their birthday because it’s a new toy that they will use too!



bac_01.jpgBAC is the acronym for “Bambini Arte Cultura e Creatività” which is a pilot project by MUBA in cooperation with the Triennale Bovisa here in Milan. It has been running for three weeks but it will reopen permanently in September.
The idea behind BAC is to foster creativity in children ages 3-12 (and their parents and educators) through the re-interpretation of industrial waste.
Children are invited to enter the cute Pink Pavilion and choose 7 objects from the loads of materials neatly stacked on shelves. Pieces of frames, old glasses, light reflecting plastic, wires, valves, plastic cones, and feathers are some of the objects available. They are then led into one of the Triennale workshops where they can take part in 4 activities using their chosen pieces. (more…)


orango1.JPGA couple of weeks ago I discovered the cutest little shop here in Milan. Orangorilla is owned by Marta who will welcome you with a gentle smile and guide you through all the nice things she has in her shop.
Orangorilla sells a variety of products ranging from children’s clothes and shoes, to handmade jewellery, plates and frames. Everything is chosen by Marta either because it’s useful or because it looks good.
My favourite pieces were part of the collection from the the shop’s original brands Orangorilla and Tototti (the nickname of Marta’s 3-year-old daughter). They are mainly simple and classic designs made with Liberty prints (and not the most obvious ones) together with cotton and linen.  The quality and the care in the making are great, and on top of it all the pieces are nearly unique as she makes just one per size in all her styles. The Orangorilla brand also offers stylish polo-shirts for little boys, in nice colours or stripes. (more…)

Raise the curtains for the Babyccino City Guides!!!

Babyccino city guidesCan’t believe how excited and proud we are. It was a full-term, healthy pregnancy, and after a long but painless delivery we have finally given birth to four wonderful, beautiful city guides!!!

Their names are Amsterdam, London, Milan and Paris and even though they are still tiny, all the features are present.  So with a lot of love and nurture from their mummies, they will soon grow up to become big, complete travel guides!

No kidding. Visiting cities with kids in tow doesn’t mean you have to spend your days in the swimming pool of the hotel (if it even has one) feeling guilty about disturbing the other hotel guests who, without a doubt, are hoping to spend their first romantic weekend-away-from-kids in 15 years.
Or… ending up in the local Rainforest Café or McDonald’s restaurant because you’re hungry and frustrated and all those fancy-looking local restaurants didn’t look very kid-friendly.

No way. From now on, just check out the Babyccino city guides with inside information of all the cool places we like to visit in our cities, carefully selected and tested and proven to be kid or parent friendly!  Discover the coolest kid-friendly restaurants, the cutest kiddie shops, the best parks and playgrounds, the most interesting museums, the best local products and more!
Of course, this is a work in progress so we will keep updating them — and we would love to hear back from you with feedback and tips!


Love, the Babyccino girls

(Phew – time for a beer now!)

il Rosa al Caminetto

rosa2.JPGIl Rosa al Caminetto is the restaurant of a 4 star hotel behind the Duomo, in the very centre of Milan. Thanks to Marcello Forti, a young entrepreneur and new dad, the restaurant has taken a turn and become quite family friendly.
First of all, children under 8 eat free on any day, lunch or dinner. Then they have a big amount of crayons, markers and colouring books which they will happily bring to the young customers to keep busy while waiting for their meals…or while waiting for their parents to eat their own (a rare thing to find in Milan!).

We were there on a Sunday lunch when they serve an Italian version of brunch. There was a starter buffet with cheese, cold cuts, salads, quiche and grilled vegetables. This was followed by an entree and a main course, and we finished the lunch with a trip to the dessert trolley! (more…)

Natural History Museum

museo.jpgLast Sunday we spent the perfect winter day visiting the Natural History Museum. We met there quite late in the morning, with another family with two children.
We first toured the ground floor where the main attractions for children are the skeletons and reproduction of dinosaurs; there is a life-size triceratops that is really impressive.
Then we headed to the cafeteria, which is on the top floor with a gorgeous view over the roofs and trees of this very central neighbourhood of the city. While, as usual in Milan, the cafeteria does not cater especially to children, the staff there are really patient and will help you compose a plate for the little ones. I was not sure what my little daughter was going to like, so they let me pick and mix among the various foods available. The quality is good and the price quite reasonable.
Then we headed to the first floor so that the children could burn off some of the energy accumulated while sitting at the table. They roamed enthusiastically through the corridors, looking at wild animals set in nicely restored dioramas that really help them envision where lions, polar bears, elephants and the like live in reality. (more…)

Pane e acqua

paneacqua.jpgA couple of weeks ago my husband and I did something we had not done in a while; we went out for dinner on a Wednesday night. We picked a relatively new restaurant in our neighbourhood on the basis of a couple of reviews we had read (and their website) and we were so pleased with our choice!
Pane e Acqua is a very small restaurant opened by chef Francesco Passalacqua when he decided that the experience he had accumulated over the years working in the best Milanese restaurants was enough to start playing solo. The cuisine is delicious — a modern and elaborate take on traditional Piedmont recipes. The people who work with Francesco are all young and friendly; you can tell they enjoy what they do.
What also helped me fall in love with this place is the décor. It’s so not Milanese I’m afraid… it’s so young, understated and cool, not flashy but vibrant and colourful. It is a clever mixture of old, new, rich and poor!
I keep recommending it to everyone I talk to, and I can’t wait to go back!


p.s. photo by studio Calatroni

Christmas tram

tram.jpgI know it’s totally commercial, plus it’s always the same drink, but I just love this special holidays tram that travels around Milan these days. When you spot it on the street at night it really looks like a magic chariot!
Merry Christmas from Milan!


The Villaggio delle Meraviglie

Villaggio delle MeraviglieFor the second year running Milan will have its own Christmas Theme Park — the Villaggio delle Meraviglie. It all takes place in the lovely surroundings of the Giardini Pubblici Montanelli, one of the nicest parks in the very centre of Milan.
From the 6th of December until the 6th of January a fairytale village inspired by everything Christmas will be put in place for the entertainment of children and adults together.
There will be Santa’s house where children can meet Santa Clause and hand him their Christmas letter. After Christmas his place will be taken over by Befana, an old witch-looking lady, who flies on a broomstick and brings sweets and presents to well-behaved children on the night of the 6th of January. Next to Santa’s house there will be a toy factory where children can draw their favourite character and then see an animation of it.
Under the Ice Palace (though not really made of ice) there will be entertainment for the very little ones, a circus school and face painting.
One of the biggest attractions for children will be a rollercoaster in the shape of Santa’s sleigh that will ride along on mountains of snow. For a quieter and more tranquil ride, one can choose the “Park Express” train that will take adults and children on a tour of the park where they will meet the fairytale characters that live in it. (more…)


panpo.jpgPanpepato is a lovely little shop that faces Parco Solari, a small but very child-friendly park in Milan. This tiny space overflows with trendy clothes, cool jewelery, scarves, hats, bags — anything but shoes! It is the creation of Martina and Giulia who, after a degree and a few years behind a desk, decided to make their lifetime dream come true and open a shop. This shop is not ordinary in that it sells the products of over 50 artisans, making everything you buy original and often unique. They also stock clothes from small young producers like skunkfunk and Lo Spaventapasseri.
Next to the women’s collection of clothes and accessories they also sell baby and children’s clothes. They are all handmade by Monica and Roberta (both WAHMs) in a simple timeless style with nice colourful fabrics and often decorated with big matching fabric-covered buttons. They do not normally have a huge selection in stock, but if you see a style you like you can pick the size and the fabric and they will have it done for you at no extra cost.
The shop is not easy to spot, so look out for a pink wooden bench — it’s their sitting room and on sunny days many friends and locals alike stop by for chat. There is a good chance you’ll find me there with one or two of my children.  Why? Because Martina is my sister!


Last-minute getaways…

Going PlacesCookie Magazine’s Going Places blog is featuring a week of last-minute getaway ideas, perfect for the holiday time.  All their ideas are for easy-to-plan and relatively affordable holidays with kids.

The four of us have written about a quick, last-minute getaway from each of our cities.  Check it out here, and also make sure to check out their other ideas… like, how about a sunny trip to Mauritius?!! Oh, how I’m craving some sunshine…



radiomamma_logo.gifYou have heard me say many times how kid-unfriendly Milan is, but all I have done so far is to complain! My journalist friend, Carlotta Jesi, took it to a different level and started working to build a family-friendly Milan.
How? She set-up radiomamma.it — a portal for everything “family” in Milan. It has a diary that lists all children’s activities for that week, a section with nice walks you can do with a pushchair, interviews of people who have acted to bring about some welcomed change in the society, interviews of normal mums and dads, and best of all a list of family-friendly shops and restaurants… and professionals!
What is a family friendly professional? He or she will be somebody willing to work around a family’s schedule — happy to open his office after dinner or on Saturday afternoons, or someone who is willing to come to your home to do business.  (more…)


marinellatot.jpgTies made by E.Marinella must be the most famous Italian ties. This family boutique opened in Naples in 1914 by Eugenio Marinella and it has been in the same family ever since. This family, now for nearly a century, has been the synonym of elegance and style first in Naples and now all over the world. The first historical shop in Naples is on one of the best sea promenades you can find, the second one is in Milan. You can now find a selection of Marinella ties in some of the boutiques of luxury hotels, but nothing beats the atmosphere of their flagship stores.
The shop in Milan is in a very old and elegant building, the décor of the place is antique and classic yet airy and not stuffy at all! You will find many tables covered in big wooden boxes full of ties, all of them quite classic, but never boring and you can always find ties in the season’s fashion colours. Very smart looking shop assistants will help you pick the right one, so do not be put off by the reputation. (more…)

Panettone, not just for Christmas!

panettone4.jpgAlthough it is now the symbol of Christmas lunch and dinners all over Italy, Panettone is the ultimate Milanese Christmas dessert. Its origin is the subject of many legends, but what is certain is that it dates back to the XV century. It is shaped like a cylinder with a rounded top, it can be high (30cm) or low (15cm), and in its original recipe the dough contains eggs, butter, raisins and candied oranges.  These days you can find it without candied fruit or raisins, or with chocolate chips and custard cream. But, as any true panettone lover would say, those may taste good…but they are not the real thing!
Italians normally have it at the end of a special meal (lunch or dinner) together with coffee or a sweet wine. When one feels really indulgent you can have some fresh mascarpone cream on the side. panettone2.jpg
Panettone should not be heated before serving, but does, especially in the winter, benefit from a few minutes in a warm place, like in front of an open oven or on top of a radiator. Left-over panettone makes for a very delicious breakfast. You can find loads of industrially produced ones, and some of them are quite good but nothing beats the panettone which comes from one of the traditional patisseries in Milan. (more…)

A real submarine

totiblog.jpgThe Science Museum in Milan hosts, in its backyard, a real war submarine. The “Enrico Toti” was built in 1967 and was used during the cold war to spy, and possibly destroy, the big missile ships of the Soviet army. In 2000, after 30 years of service, it was decided it would gloriously end its career and reside in the Museum named after Leonardo da Vinci. Children, but not only they, could not be happier.
Visits are organised in groups of six, helmets must be worn, and children below 3 are not allowed. Once you are in, the first thing you realize is how cramped it is inside. (I couldn’t imagine actually living in one of those!) Then you are shown the periscope (and get to see the nearby roofs!), the sonar and the big slots to launch torpedoes. Admittedly the explanations may be a bit complicated for 3-year-old kids, unless they are already acquainted with the terminology, but I would think that a 5-year-old would really have a blast here. (more…)

Fungo Matto

fungomatto1.jpg Fungo Matto means ‘crazy mushroom’ and such a funny name is perfect for one of my favourite clothing shops in Milan. It is a tiny one-window shop in the Navigli area that has been carefully decorated with red mushrooms with white dots, vintage wooden toys, antique but simple furniture and a sweet collection of antique children’s chairs.
Anna Barbavara realised there was a gap in what Milan had to offer in terms of children clothing: shops were either selling very expensive traditional outfits which made children look like miniature versions of very stuffy parents, or offered scruffy-looking clothes full of big loud prints and stitched teddy bears.
She set the style of her shop when she discovered the Imps & Elfs collection.  But she didn’t stop there; she continued to look for cool, good quality brands, designed with children in mind. (more…)

Park and aperitivo

parco-castello.jpgMilan is not a city full of spaces for great outdoor activities; people just make the best of what is available! The biggest park in the center of town is Parco Sempione, bordered by the Sforzesco Castle, the Triennale, the Arco della Pace and the Aquarium. It’s no wonder it has been central to Milanese leisure time activities since its creation in 1888.
So even if it’s not comparable to the beautiful (and unique) London parks, it constitutes a very good and effective outlet for kid’s energy. They can run, ride bicycles and play football, and on the side nearer Arco della Pace there is a nice playground with big climbing structures that will appeal even to the most experienced kid. Nearby there are kids’ electrical motorbikes and cars — the dream of every preschooler, and a cute (and old) electrical train that will be the joy of the younger ones. (more…)

Città del Sole

cittasole.jpgThis chain of toy shops is really a ray of light in a town where (nice) toy shops are difficult to find! The Città del Sole was founded over 30 years ago by Carlo Basso who still today carefully chooses the selections of toys that will be part of the catalogue.
Since my childhood Città del Sole has been a synonym of good quality educational toys. They sell funny, imaginative toys from big and small brands with a particular predilection for traditional toys. For example, you can find Schleich  animals, Sigikid stuffed animals, Plan Toys pull-alongs, Galt toys and a big selection of arts and crafts material. (more…)

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