Despite being Italy’s wealthiest and second largest city, Milan has come under criticism for being industrial, unattractive and covered in graffiti. But whilst it doesn’t have the architectural importance of Rome or the intimate charm of Florence, Milan is a city of tremendous style and culture: cosmopolitan, sophisticated and cultured in a way only the Italians can do.
Whilst Milan is not overtly industrial, there is a feeling of industry about the city – being the capital of Italy’s automobile industry and financial markets gives Milan and air of achievement and power. But the fashion houses and their showcase fashion weeks are equally big business, along with city-wide design expos such as Salone Internazionale del Mobile. It is these events and industries and the people who work within them that give Milan its innate sense of style, flair, drama and creativity.
Milan also has a rich historical and intellectual heritage. It may not be known for its looks, but there are enough architectural and historical gems to give a sense of depth to the city. Having been rebuilt three times after being conquered, it is miraculous that so many historically important artefacts are still in existence, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, which survived a direct hit in World War II and, of course, the magnificent Duomo, which watches majestically over the city.
But don’t go to Milan for its looks alone (spend a night in Florence, a few hours away, or head further north to Venice); it’s lifestyle that counts. Milan is vibrant, exciting, slightly restless and above all, very, very stylish.
Tourist information: via Marconi 1
Tel: +39 02 7252 4301
WHAT TO SEE:
Il Duomo de Milano
Il Duomo de Milano is the city’s biggest cultural attraction, quite literally. Standing 108 metres high and stretching for 158 metres, the gleaming white gothic cathedral is adorned with over 200 marble status and 135 spiraling pinnacles. A gilded statue of the Madonna stands watch over the city at the very top. Take the lift to the rooftop terraces for spectacular views.
Love it or hate it, this remarkable piece of 50s architecture is a bizarre 20th century version of a medieval fortress.
Piazza Velasca, 5
Teatro alla Scala
A stay in Milan without a night at the opera is a wasted journey. Originally opened in 1778, and re-opened in 1946 after it was destroyed in World World II, Teatro all Scala is where La Scala de Milano Opera Company calls home.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Only in Italy would a shopping mall look this beautiful. Built in the mid-to-late 1800s, the Galleria is one of the world’s first shopping centres and is now home to high-end labels, as well as the Townhouse Galleria, one of the finest hotels in the city.
For petrolheads, March is the time of year to visit Milan. Travel 31 kilometres north-east of the city to the nearby town of Monza, and take in the Italian Grand Prix held in March where you’ll rub shoulders with Milan’s high society and fellow speed freaks.
Stadio San Siro
Catch a game at Stadio San Siro, home to Milan’s two football clubs, AC Milan and Internazionale FC. The 85,000-capacity stadium is one of the world’s most architecturally stunning.
WHEN TO GO:
Salone Internazionale del Mobile
Featuring the products of the most dynamic, creative furniture brands on the international market, the Salone del Mobile is a must-visit for interior design lovers the world over and takes place every April. Whatever your fetish – minimalist, eclectic or classical – this fabulous exhibition delivers.
Festival Latino Americando
Each summer, the Festival Latino Americando explodes onto the streets. From sampling Latin American cuisine to craft sales, learning salsa to the best of traditional salsa music, this makes for a wonderful clash of cultures.
Late June to late August
Milano Film Festival
The Milano Film Festival attracts independent filmmakers and industry heavyweights from around the world, showcasing unique films and promoting emerging talents, for whom the festival has always been a springboard to international success. Takes place every September
The Milan Jazz Festival
The Milan Jazz Festival rocks through the city in November.
Fiera Milano – Macef
This year’s MiArt Event at Fiera Milano is shaping up to be even bigger and better than last year. More than 250 exhibitors are presenting original pieces by the world’s most talented modern artists, separated into four categories: Anteprima, Modern, Contemporary and Art & Co.
Milan Fashion Week
During Milan Fashion Week, the city is over-run by top models, media types and fashionistas and their hangers-on, all flocking to feast their eyes on the latest in couture design. Italy’s most famous designers, including Versace, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, are yearly attendees.
WHERE TO EAT:
What a partnership. The perfect place to recharge with a light lunch after a hard morning’s shopping. The lunch menu is particularly good value.
Via Pisoni 1
Tel: +39 02 7231 8645
Seriously delicious food at serious prices for serious foodies. See our full review here. A must-visit for any foodie in Milan.
Via Victor Hugo 4
Tel: +39 02 876 774
Relaxed Italian food and charming service in a laid back but super-stylish atmosphere. Comes alive late at night for post-theatre suppers.
Via Bagutta 1, Milan
Tel: +39 027 602 2297
Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia
Creative and inventive Italian cooking with seasonal ingredients. Well worth the trip out to Milan’s Western suburbs.
Via Montecuccoli 6
Tel: +39 02 416 886
WHERE TO PARTY:
Martini Bar at Dolce & Gabbana
Sophisticated interior (black leather and stunning Murano chandeliers) and clientele. Great Martinis (obviously) and delicious nibbles to soak them up. Perfect for people watching, Milan style.
Corso Venezia 15
Tel: +39 02 7601 1154
Fabulous and super-cool bar-restaurant for the Prada generation. The ideal place In the centre of the restaurant space, a 1950s-revisited ceiling is held up by a huge gold forearm.
Via Molino delle Armi/via della Chiusa
Tel: +39 02 5831 5720
WHERE TO STAY:
Ideally located just minutes from the Duomo, the Straf is Milan’s most ‘designer-y’ hotel, with swathes of concrete, black stone and copper panelling, the hotel attracts cool, urban types.
Tel: +39 028 05081
Slightly further out than its boutique, townhouse contemporaries, the Bulgari is well worth the five minute walk to the city’s shopping centre and it is the only centrally-located hotel with a garden – and a 4000 square metre one at that – which backs onto the city’s own Botanical Gardens. The spa is the stuff of dreams and the design is opulence at its best. If money is no object, The Bulgari would be our hotel of choice in Milan.
Via Privata Fratelli Gabba 7B
Tel: +39 02 805 8051, www.bulgarihotels.com
Park Hyatt Milan
Seamlessly mixing classical and contemporary design, the Park Hyatt has a surprisingly ‘un-chain’ feel to it. The rooms are spacious and beautifully designed and the cocktails in the lounge are to die for. Designed by Ed Tuttle, responsible for some key Asian outposts (including Sukhothai in Bangkok and key Amanresorts’ properties) it has a distinctive Pan-Asian feel to it. Smack bang in the heart of fashion Milan.
Via Tommaso Grossi 1
Tel: +39 02 8821 1234, www.milan.park.hyatt.com
Ex-magazine editor Carla Sozzani’s fashion emporium houses a restaurant, bar, café, boutique and art gallery, and has become a cult destination for fashionistas. The three stunningly designed suites showcase 20th-century design classics such as and Arne Jacobsen’s Egg chairs and Bisazza tiles in the bathrooms. The place to stay during Fashion Week.
10 Corso Como
Tel: +39 02 626 163
Excellently located for serious shopping, right in the middle of the Quadrilatero d’Oro, this hotel is as exclusive and sleek as you’d expect from one of the world’s leading hotel chains. Elegant and understated, you’ll have to beg to get a room during one of the design or fashion weeks that takes place in the city.
Via Gesù 8
Tel: +39 02 77088
Town House Galleria
Sitting pretty above the Galleria’s Prada store, this super-luxe ‘seven star’ hotel offers 26 suites with butler service, and if you need to pop out, feel free to borrow the hotel’s car: a Bentley. One of three Town House properties in the city, this being our absolute favourite.
WHAT TO BUY:
What else would one really buy in Milan? The Quadrilatero d’Oro is the golden fashion rectangle that is home to the flagships stores of almost all the big name designers. Be sure to explore the smaller streets running of this main drag for smaller designers and well stocked boutiques.
10 Corso Como
Formerly a Fiat garage, this is, arguably, Milan’s must-visit shop – see it as Milan’s own Colette – which is connected to the 3Rooms (see hotel guide above). 10 Corso Como houses a serious selection of fashion labels for men and women, quirky antique pieces, obscure perfumes, weird and wonderful works of art and cult music shop, all wonderfully, cleverly chosen by some of the world’s best buyers.
Corso Como 10
Tel: +39 02 653 531
One of Milan’s best kept secrets, it’s a one-stop-shop for the latest must-have clothes and the shoes.
Di Beryl via Statuto 4
Tel: +39 02 654 278
In the canal area of Milan, rummage for fabulous vintage finds from the 1920s.
Ripa di Porta Ticinese 21
Peck is the ultimate Italian deli, and has become a Milanese institution. Head downstairs to their wine cellar for some invaluable advice on Italian wine and what to take home with you. Incredible, irresistible array of mouthwatering goodies. Worth going self-catering for.
Via Spadari 9
Tel: +39 02 802 3161
Maybe it’s just us, but we love a good stationery store – especially one that describes itself as a luxury stationery store. Diaries, bags, wallets, must-have notebooks, photo albums, quirky business card holders and writing and drawing implements of every kind, we pack our suitcases with the stuff on every visit. Browse for hours.
Via Ponte Vetero, 17
Tel: +39 02 76318754