Milan, Italy: A local guide on where to eat, drink, stay, and shop
Welcome to Milan, the Italian city on everyone's lips during Fashion Week or Salone del Mobile, its two major events that attract style and design mavens from all over the world. Naturally, Milan is famous for its impeccably dressed citizens, fabulous shops, a bright smorgasbord of food, and innovative design objects. Once you start discovering these, we're pretty certain you will find yourself extending your stay.
One could expect nothing less than a gem of a hotel from the celebrated Italian jewellery house. A converted 18th century Milanese palazzo, the hotel is located in the elegant district of Brera, an area brimming with art galleries and refined restaurants. However, thanks to its generous 4,000 square metres of private lush gardens, it feels more like an exclusive private retreat nestled in the Italian countryside. The design-focused hotel is home to rooms built with stone from Vicenza and Afyon, and black marble from Zimbabwe — as well as high-end Italian furniture design and references to Bulgari's rich heritage. The good news is: there is no pretence — every single member of staff will make you feel at home, seemingly reading your mind to anticipate your every need. Make sure you make time for its outdoor jacuzzi, the perfect antidote to feeling re-energised after a 13-hour flight from Singapore.
First things first; a night out in Milan always starts with an aperitivo. The trendiest spot to sip Aperol Spritzes is certainly Terrazza Aperol, which overlooks the Duomo. The vibrancy of Milan is captured in its nickname 'Milano Da Bere' (Milan To Drink) — and it is here where that essence is captured beautifully.
Founded in 1817, this pastry and sweet shop, located right on shopping paradise Via Montenapoleone, is where the movers and shakers of the media, fashion, design, and finance industrie gather. Cova is the ideal spot for people-watching and appreciating refined recipes like panettone, a traditional Milanese pastry, or the local Cremino chocolate.
Entering Boeucc (pronounced 'beerch', which means 'hole' in the local Milanese dialect) feels almost like you're travelling back to the 19th century, when operas playing at the nearby La Scala aroused the same level of excitement as today's fashion shows. Call for the Vitello Di Ossobuco Con Risotto Alla Milanese (veal with saffron risotto), a traditional Milanese dish that Boeucc has been serving for over 300 years.
Napoleon Bonaparte opened the Pinacoteca di Brera in 1809, with the aim of making it the Italian Louvre. The stunning gallery overflows with masterpieces, from Old Masters like 'The Dead Christ' by Mantegna or the 'Marriage of the Virgin' by Raphael, to modern artists like Van Dyck and Modigliani. Here, you'll also find 'The Kiss' by Francesco Hayez, the famous picture often found on postcards of Milan.
The Last Supper
If the Louvre in Paris has the 'Mona Lisa', Milan is home to another masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci: 'The Last Supper' in the church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie. You will have to book your ticket in advance though — and if you're into the details, choose an option with a guide.
Delve into contemporary art at Fondazione Prada, which is a work of art in itself. 'Upside Down Mushrooms', by Carsten Höller, is a must-see.
Luxury shopping in Milan is concentrated in the Quadrilatero della Moda (Fashion Square) — located between Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga. Most prominent global luxury labels have parked their temples there, alongside Milanese brands such as Missoni, Prada, Etro, and Armani.
Dolce & Gabbana
The new Dolce & Gabbana store is a shrine of its own. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were the first to break the rules of retail consistency, bestowing on each of their stores worldwide a unique identity. Their baby at Via Monte Napoleone 4 mixes Baroque aesthetics with modern features, spread across 1,600 square metres replete with clothes, jewellery, watches, accessories, and several limited edition pieces conjured up exclusively for this address.
For a preview of fashion's current trendsetters, head to 10 Corso Como, where Carla Sozzani (sister of the late Italian Vogue editor Franca) has curated a mind-blowing selection in a unique space which is a collage of experiences. Expect to find elegant satin sandals by The Merchant of Florence, or quirky shirt collars by Vivetta. There's also an exhibition space dedicated to art and photography, a bookstore, and beautiful café in the conservatory where you can prop your legs up for a drink and dessert.
If you're a bibliophile, don't miss the photogenic (and Instagrammable) Rizzoli bookshop in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, near the magnificent Duomo church. With over 40,000 books in store, you'll easily spend hours whiling your day away in there.
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