Milan is exactly what you would think— a fast-paced, glamorous city with a thriving cultural scene, full of fashion, beautiful people, Gothic history and incredible food. My trip there was for design—Design Week with Cosentino to be exact. While I knew I would be traveling to iSaloni for the tradeshow aspect of Design Week, I had no idea the entire city would be partaking in the design extravaganza. Instead of questioning it, we just jumped in the fun!
Duomo: Milan’s Cathedral, or Duomo, is a much-loved symbol of the city. The most exuberant example of Northern Gothic in Italy, its dramatic spires and towers dominate Piazza del Duomo, Milan’s beating heart and central city square. The Duomo’s exterior is an upwardly thrusting collection of pinnacles, elongated statues and buttresses. The central spire is topped by a gilt statue of the Madonna, called the Madonnina. Inside, the crucifix is said to contain a nail from the cross of Christ. One of the highlights of a visit to the cathedral is the view from the roof – on a clear day you can see the Italian Alps.
Università degli Studi di Milano: Milan’s former hospital has become the most central campus of Milan State University. It’s definitely worth a visit to admire its long façade – with Gothic-Renaissance terracotta décor – on Via Festa del Perdono and its splendid courtyards. While we were in town the university transformed to house installations from designers and architects from all over the world. The students were buzzing, attending conferences and design presentations, and the courtyards were full of color and designing elements.
Lake Como: Ringed with palatial villas, manicured gardens and snow-capped Alps, Lake Como is one of the most popular day-trip destinations from Milan, and a star of the Italian lake district. Most visitors come to Lake Como via the attractive resort town of Como. Take a wander through the town’s arcaded streets and shops, then buy a gelato ice cream and cool your heels under the trees in the lakefront gardens. While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to go for a lake cruise. My favorite stop was in Bellagio, an even prettier town than Como, with impressive terraced gardens, restaurants, shopping and lakeside walks.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: Grab your shopping bag to go browsing in the world’s most elegant covered arcade, the glass-domed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Many shopping arcades have tried to copy the Galleria’s scale, grandeur and glorious decor, but few have matched it. Completed in 1877, the cross-shaped shopping mall is bright and airy, thanks to its iron and glass curved roof, and the floor is patterned in marble mosaic tiles. Shops with awnings and large plate-glass windows line the ground floor, including luxury Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton boutiques. I found my shopping loot at the more affordable, Massimo Dutti. You’ll also find some of Milan’s most acclaimed and historic cafes, including Biffi and Zucca’s Bar.
Brera District: In a city of many trendy neighborhoods, the Brera district in Milan is one of the most charming. Located very close to the Duomo in the historic center, this is the part of Milan that might make you forget about the city’s hustle-bustle reputation. The Brera neighborhood is a maze of narrow, cobblestoned streets lined with boutiques and cafes – during nice weather, cafe life spills onto the sidewalks and makes for an excellent place to do some serious people-watching. The designer shopping district called the Quadrilatero d’Oro is nearby, so you can get a peek at some of Milan’s shopping class making their rounds, too.
Red flags dot the creative district and during our visit, renovations and window changes were just the tip of the iceberg in preparing for Design Week. Pop-up shops, wine parties, DJs and new product lined the Brera’s streets providing energy and inspiration for all that is design.
Via Montenapoleone: Via Montenapoleone is regarded as one of the most important ‘streets in fashion’, as Milan is recognized as one of the major fashion capitals in the world. Today, several of the world’s top fashion houses have their headquarters or major offices on the street. Full of minimalist design, this square area is extremely expensive and full of luxury. Dazzling jewels from Cartier, clothes and accessories by Gucci, Versace, and Louis Vuitton are just a few of the shops that line the streets of this famed area.
Courtesy of Via Montenapoleone
Saraceno: Located in the charming town of Bellagio, on Lake Como, this store won my heart. The proprietor and designer is the store’s namesake, Silvia Saraceno. She opened her store—and two others—eight years ago, after working for Giorgio Armani for 18 years. Silvia designs all of the eye-catching jewelry, as well as gorgeous silk scarves and tunics, and cutting-edge handbags. Everything is made in workshops in Milan and her husband is the head sales person at their boutique.
EAT + DRINK
La Locanda del Gatto Rosso: Elegant and cozy in the heart of Milan, Gatto Rosso restaurant overlooks the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ll. Hospitality, local ingredients and chef Claudio in the kitchen provide a modern environment with generations of recipes to its guests. Although our visit was a quick business lunch, we discovered wine and the best lasagna we have ever tasted! Ask for Sergio and dabble in the Gatto Rosso’s cellar where more than 200 labels and the best Italian vintage wines are featured.
Bulgari Milano: Tucked in a secret side street, the lobby at the Bulgari is an inviting space where many guests relax on leather couches and chairs arranged around the fireplace. Just off the lobby, the bar is among the most popular in Milan as it overlooks the hotel’s large and tranquil garden. Our group enjoyed gracious ambiance and cocktails with a selection of canapés both indoors and later on the patio. Simply heavenly!
Ristorante Solferino: A well-known restaurant in Milan found in the famous Brera district, Solferino has been a part of the Milanese landscape since 1909. Offering classic fine Italian fare in a historical building, the menu is broad-reaching with a diverse selection of wines. Two well-known and internationally experienced chefs are in Solferino’s kitchen—Savino Antonacci, whose specialty is first dishes, and Francesco Centaro, a specialist in fish and meat dishes.
Il Verde: This neighborhood cozy restaurant has earned the distinction of spawning the city’s first yuppie scene in the ’90s and now proves to be a locals favorite. The menu is interesting and healthy while the clientele is relatively young. The most popular dish is the risotto with pears drizzled with balsamic vinegar, though the salads are perhaps the best in the city, especially those with crabmeat and avocados. My personal favorite was the raw artichoke salad with Parmesan and olive oil. The Malfatti with Pesto also proved to be fantastic with its imperfect handmade pasta pieces and basil sauce.