I love Milan, I’ll make any excuse to go there. I studied abroad there and had a brief stint there after graduating. In Milan, you have the style and elegance, the Italian sprezzatura with Northern sensibilities. Head to San Babila during lunchtime; the men in their impeccably fitted suits definitely give Saville Row a run for it’s money. I have friends that I imagine would be friends for life, that I’ve made in Milan. Unfortunately as I’ll be in New Orleans, I wasn’t able to attend Milan Fashion Week this time around but I have wonderful memories of the fashion weeks past — look out tomorrow my Milan photo diary of Fashion weeks past, but in the mean time, here’s a quick guide of what you should hit up while in my cittá.
Where to stay:
When in a city that I know and love, my favorite places to stay are more often than not with friends and Air BnB. From living in Milan as well as staying with friends, I’ve experienced some beautiful areas of this city, like Chinatown, near Corso Como, the beautiful Brera district. Even feeling like a local, here are some of my favorite haunts.
10 Corso Como. One of my favorite destinations in Milan for everything from a quick coffee, to dinner at the beautiful cafe and restaurant, shopping, 10 Corso Como is a must on your list. If you can snag a stay at one of it’s 3 rooms, yea, only 3, it’s definitely an experience. It has that art focus, quirky elegance that is signature of Carla Sozzani — sister of the late Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani (who’s memorial service in Milan was today). corso Como, 10.
Bulgari Hotel & Spa. The Bulgari Hotel & Spa holds a special place for me as I would spend spend a bit of time here as a student while studying in Milan. Pretty lux huh? Well for the services and the prices, you’d be surprised, the Bulgari hotel is one of the best spa experiences I’ve had in the world. One a private street near Milan’s golden triangle, the Bulgari is worlds away from the city buzz. It’s almost as if you’d entered a tranquil time capsule. via privata Fratelli Gabba, 7b.
Rosa Grand Milano. A favorite of several of my fashion editor friends — or maybe their publication house — the Rosa Grand Milano is chic, luxe and steps away from the Duomo, so it’s in the heart of everything. It’s one of the best places to stay during fashion week, primarily because of this, however, the hotels other amenities, like Turkish baths makes it appealing any time of year. piazza Fontana, 3.
Vietnamonamour. I had to include this B&B after a friend raved about it, saying it was like being transported to Vietnams while in Milan. I also hear wonderful things about the Michelin star rated restaurant downstairs! via Pestalozza, 7.
Where to eat:
You’re in Italy! The food is going to be delicious! Pastas, breads, they taste stupendous. It’s hard to have a bad meal in Italy. My least favorite meals, throughout all regions of Italy have been in places that I found to be tourist traps. Having spent so much time there, I decide that a particular restaurant’s pizza is “Che schifo” like a pro, knowing the same pizza would make my mouth salivate back here in the US. Here are a few of my favorite food haunts in Milano.
Sheraton Diana Majestic. Milan’s catching on but if you’re ever craving an American style boozy brunch. Try the Sheraton Diana Majestic. A friend took me hear a few years ago on a Sunday (when many Italian restaurants aren’t open) and it was just what I needed weary from my earlier travels. The courtyard is magnificent so spend an afternoon relaxing. It’s also a wonderful place to have an aperitivo, more on that later.
Le Specialitá. My favorite pizza place in Milan, I was introduced to it by Shala Monroque and her Milanese friends. Definitely off the beaten drag, but the Milanese that come here know. Delicious, quality pizza with toppings like fresh seafood or a spicy salami (love the arrabbiata or the pescatore). You can’t go wrong with the pizza here. Whenever I’m in Milan, I spend at least one afternoon, a delicious pizza and a glass (or two of wine). I’m craving it right now. Via Pietro Calvi, 29
Da Giacomo. Da Giacomo is a Milan institution and rightly so. Michelin starred, it’s an old Milanese trattoria dating back to the early 1900s and is favored by Milanese and international celebs alike. Seafood is the specialty here a favorite of mine being a yummy prawn spaghetti. You’re lucky if sea urchins are in season! via P. Sottocorno, 6
Da Ilia. A friend who worked at Cavalli introduced me to Da Ilia and while meeting her for drinks at the tail end of her meal, spied food being brought to the table nearby and immediately regretted that I was full. The next afternoon, my cravings of a typical Milanese meal of risotto milanese with osso buco brought me back to Da Ilia. Since then, I’ve made Da Ilia a stop whenever I’m in Milan. via Lecco, 1.
Bussarakham. The international cuisine landscape in Milan has definitely improved since I was a student but for a while, there was definitely a drought on Asian food, especially if you’re used to the options in New York or London. Bussarakham, in the Navigli, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Milan. The magical interiors, replicating an old colonial Southeast Asian mansion is an Instagram dream (I couldn’t stop taking pictures there and the first time I went was pre-Instagram!); your dining companion might wonder what’s taking you so long in the bathroom! The ingredients are fresh and the flavors are delicious. It’s definitely worth a visit, whether you’ve had your fill of Italian food or not. via Valenza, 13.
Just Cavalli. The food is pretty damn good, but who’s eating when you’re surrounded by this much decadence. I’m talking animal print interiors, big crystal chandeliers. From famed fashion mogul, Roberto Cavalli is restaurant and nightclub Just Cavalli. This is the perfect place to have those large group dinner and really let loose afterwards. But, I must admit I did go on a pretty awesome date here once. It was Sunday night! I wasn’t in town for too long and we wanted to dine AND dance! True Italian style. via Guglielmo Shakespeare c/o Torre Branca (it’s in the park).
Da Giannino-L’Angolo d’Abruzzo. On the Adriatic, east of Rome, beautiful and mountainous with towns built into cliffside, Abruzzo, Italy is one of the many regions I fell in love with. And the food is delicious, wonderful, with flavors drastically different from what you would get up north. If you can’t make it to Abruzzo, this amazingly charming trattoria Da Giannino-L’Angolo d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo’s corner) will most certainly do. Yummy, generous portions, checkered table cloths, have them stretch the cheese right there at your table! via Rosolino Pino, 20.
Tip: The “Bar” isn’t the kind of bar that you’d find here in the US, closer to the pub from the UK actually. Think of the bar, like the cafe (which there is primarily coffee), the taverna, the diner. I take a coffee and brioche there in the morning, at lunchtime, I’ll return there for a homestyle meal cooked by nonna in the back, maybe a lasagna or something simple and I’ll have an afternoon coffee as well. Eating at bars for lunch when I couldn’t make it home was my saving grace as a student. You can get an amazing meal with a coffee or wine accompaniment, often under 10 euros!
Where to shop:
We are celebrating the end of Milan Fashion Week after all so this guide wouldn’t be complete without where to shop. Milan is a city with fashion in it’s pulse. The shopping is world-class from high street to haute couture. Here are a few shopping experience must.
Right next to the il Duomo, delight in the beauty of Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, the world’s first mall.
While in Vittorio Emmanuele, take in a little fashion history and stop at the Prada. This was the original Prada store opened in 1913 and you can even see their original cash register! Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, 63-65.
10 Corso Como. My favorite concept store in the world. I can spend hours at the 10 Corso Como store, gallery, cafe, restaurant, and then the outlet. From the mastermind of Carla Sozzani, as mentioned above, 10 Corso Como is an amazing shopping experience that really excites all of your senses. Check it out! (And the outlet around the corner has some amazing buys).
What to do:
Milan gets a bad rap for not being too industrial, or not as pretty as say Rome, but to me, it’s the Italian’s Italian city. The business capital, Milan keeps the country afloat. It’s where I chose to go because not only is it a travel hub, but I also wanted to learn Italian and not be only spoken to in English, or only have friends from the US as many of my peers experienced in Florence or Rome. I like to think of Milan as having a discrete, luxe charm with secret gardens and tree lined neighborhoods that missed the destruction of World War II. Here are a few things to do in Milan, besides the Duomo.
Check out the galleries in the Navigli. Considered the “Brooklyn” of Milan, the galleries in the Navigli district are a must for any art lover.
Have a cocktail, or two. Apperitivo culture in Italy is wonderful. For the nominal price of a drink or two you have free reign of delicious charcuterie at a bar, and who doesn’t love that!
Take in an opera at La Scala. Opened in 1778 this world renowned opera house is right in the heart of Milano. So incredibly beautiful, it really never gets old. via Filodrammatici, 2
Parco Sempione. It’s like Milan’s Central Park, replete with English style gardens and it’s own beautiful castello, Castello Szforzesco.
Take the 1/2 a day to go to Bergamo, it’s gorgeous! You can easily get there via bus or train, this beautiful city often sits in big sister Milano’s shadows, but it’s worth a trip!