From Rome, it will only take three and a half hours: what are you waiting for to pop over to the Lagoon?
Every major city in the world has its Chinatown. Milan is no exception: the Chinese quarter of Lombardy’s capital city is a fascinating place close to the center; stretching between the Moscova district and the Monumental Cemetery, it is centered on the famous Via Paolo Sarpi.
The neighborhood is now fully integrated into city life and culture, yet still retains its characteristic colors, scents of oriental spices, and ideogram posters and signs in the streets. This place is definitely worth a visit if you want to immerse yourself, at least for a while, in an alternative Milan among dumplings, bubble tea, and small stores. Come and discover with us the history and peculiarities of Milan’s Chinese quarter, a location we also recommend for a two-day tour of the city.
Milan’s Chinatown: a bit of history
The history of the Chinese community in Milan began in the 1920s when an initial group of people from the poor Zhejiang region arrived in the city: to this day, 90 percent of the immigrants come from that area of great inequality. In the Lombard capital, these men and women chose to settle in an area that favored the concentration of workshops in the backyards of homes: via Canonica and adjacent streets. The first activities were related to silk crafting and later expanded to clothing and leather goods.
The late 1990s saw the beginning of the boom, with the explosion of hundreds of retail establishments: thus was born the Chinatown of small stores that we know today. It is estimated that about 27,000 Chinese people live in Milan today: not all reside in Chinatown, but almost all of them go there often.
Via Paolo Sarpi, the heart of Milan’s Chinatown
Via Paolo Sarpi is the central artery of Milan’s Chinatown. Redeveloped between 2010 and 2011, it is now a pleasant pedestrian street with stone paving, flower beds and green spaces. The street, located a stone’s throw from Piazza Gae Aulenti, the buildings and skyscrapers of the new Milan, is bustling with technology, clothing and grocery stores.
What is there to see in Milan’s Chinatown? Stores and attractions not to be missed
A walk through the Chinese quarter is evocative because of the special atmosphere of the place. The many stores in Milan’s Chinatown are one of Milan’s most popular shopping destinations, where you can get real bargains. We also recommend you take a trip to the Oriental Mall, a five-story shopping mall where you can buy spices, matcha, seaweed, tofu and all the typical ethnic produce, and to Kathay Food, Italy’s largest ethnic supermarket.
The area becomes even more interesting during Chinese New Year in February when it comes alive with events, performances, and the colorful traditional parade (with the ever-present giant dragon!).
Restaurants in Milan’s Chinatown
Milan’s culinary diversity is unparalleled: there are those who prefer the more traditional dishes (if you’re in that category, don’t miss our guide to the best Milan cutlet in town!) and those who like to explore the tastes of other cultures, preferring, for example, a good sushi in a Japanese restaurant.
What can you eat in Chinatown? First of all, you must stop at Ravioleria Sarpi to sample the best of oriental street food: handmade dumplings, rolls, Mo (baked rolls stuffed with braised pork), and many other delicacies to enjoy on the go. Alternatively, you can order a fondue chinoise (bowl of simmering broth with meat, fish, or vegetables) from Little
Lamb or, between meals, enjoy a bubble tea from Chateau Dufan. What is it? It’s the craze of the moment: a tea and milk drink that contains tapioca, fruit, or coconut jelly balls that explode in the mouth!
How to get to Chinatown in Milan
With our tips, we have stirred your desire to visit this alluring place, haven’t we? Take one of the many trains to Milan that Italo provides from all Italian cities; arrive comfortably at the Central Station and from there, reach the Chinese quarter by public transport in just a few minutes (the nearest metro stops are Monumentale on the lilac line and Moscova on the green line): you can immerse yourself in the colors and flavors of Milan’s Chinatown and maybe even indulge in some great low-cost shopping!