Milan travel guide

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Dropping in on Italy’s magnificent second city? Let Time Out break your fall. Find the best things to do in Milan, courtesy of our local experts

Famous for its football, fashion, furniture, food and unparalleled frescoes, Italy’s most dynamic city combines history and culture with high-octane living and style. No visit to Milan is complete without a visit to Leonardo’s Last Supper (Cenacolo Vinciano, Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie, +39 02 9280 0360; cenacolovinciano.net), the Duomo rooftop (Duomo Di Milano, Piazza del Duomo; duomomilano.it) and La Scala Opera House (Teatro alla Scala, Via Filodrammatici, +39 02 7200 3744; teatroallascala.org). If the timing is right, catch a match at the world-famous San Siro football stadium, home to Internazionale FC and AC Milan (Piazzale dello Sport 1, +39 02 48798201; sansiro.net), and there’s always time to hunt down the best discount fashion outlets in town.


Teatro alla Scalla

In the run-up to the food-themed Universal Exposition (various locations from May 1-Oct 31, expo2015.org), Milan is buzzing with new museums, skyscrapers, restaurants, bars and shops. Long-standing monuments – from the 500-year-old Duomo to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade (Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala; +02 7202 2656) – are getting spruced up, top chefs are opening gourmet restaurants (as well as more affordable alternatives) and there’s a veritable frenzy of big-brand flagship store openings in the aforementioned Galleria and the glitzy designer shopping district known as the Golden Rectangle.

Essential attractions

There are a host of new architectural and artistic attractions, in addition to old favourites that have been around for centuries, worthy of your attention in Milan. On the cultural front, the shiny new Museo del Novecento in Piazza del Duomo (Palazzo dell’Arengario, Piazza del Duomo, +39 02 8844 4061; museodelnovecento.org) houses 20th-century artworks by everyone from Morandi to Modigliani. Close to the La Scala opera house, the (free) Gallerie d’Italia (Piazza Della Scalla, +02 800 167619; gallerieditalia.com) opened in 2011-2012 in three frescoed and stuccoed palazzi, with bas-reliefs by Canova, contemporary art exhibits and a chic (if somewhat pricey) café.

In the Navigli (canal) area, David Chipperfield’s Museo delle Culture (Museum of Cultures, Via Tortona 56. +39 02 8846 372) is expected to open in spring, with ethnographic displays in a revamped former factory complete with glass-topped courtyard. Not to be outdone, Rem Koolhaas’s Fondazione Prada contemporary art centre (Largo Isarco 2; fondazioneprada.org) opens in spring in an ex-distillery, providing a home for the Milan-based fashion house’s collection of contemporary artworks by the likes of Laurie Anderson and Anish Kapoor.

Milan’s most immediately recognisable symbol, the Duomo now has a rival: the Torre Garibaldi, aka the Unicredit Tower (Piazza Gae Aulenti; unicredit.it). Designed by Argentine starchitect Cesar Pelli and erected in 2011 in the Porta Nuova zone, it’s the city’s tallest skyscraper. In a deliberate echo of the 500-year-old Gothic cathedral, the 231-metre-high bank-owned building is topped with an illuminated spire. Locals wander up to the adjacent Piazza Gae Aulenti to enjoy nighttime viewing from below and to play table football in the surrounding square.

Where to eat
The city’s newest foodie street is Via Solferino in the artsy Brera neighbourhood. Unique among Milan restaurants, Dry (Via Solferino 23, +39 02 6379 3414; drymilano.it) specialises in cocktails and gourmet pizza devised by top chef Andrea Berton. Try combos such as a Gin Gin Mule (gin, mint and ginger beer) followed by pizza with pine nuts, raisins, ricotta and chicory. Across the street, Berton and partners also run Pisacco (Via Solferino 48, +39 02 6379 3414; pisacco.it), a quirkily decorated restaurant serving creative Italian food to a crowd of fashionable professionals. While a few steps away, Zaza Ramen (Via Solferino 48, +39 3679 9000; zazaramen.it) offers something completely different – Japanese noodles with unusual Italo-Nipponic condiments, such as aubergine with miso.

If it’s coffee and cake you’re after, try one of the city’s historic cafés. Deep in the heart of the Golden Rectangle, the Louis Vuitton-owned Cova (Via Montenapoleone 8, +39 02 7600 5599; pasticceriacova.it) is favoured by ladies who lunch and is a great place to soak up a spot of authentic Milanese atmosphere. Not far from the refectory housing Leonardo’s Last Supper, the Prada-owned Pasticceria Marchesi (Via Santa Maria alla Porta 11, +39 02 876 730; pasticceriamarchesi.it) serves coffee and wonderfully old-fashioned cakes to customers standing at the bar in one of the most beautiful, graffito-ornamented buildings in Milan.

Where to go out

Pre-dinner drinks – along with a generous buffet – are a rite of passage in Milan. Anyone who is serious about getting to know the local culture should head for one of the many happy hours dotted around the city and join the nightlife-loving natives as they battle over appetising bar spreads.
Most happy hours run from around 6pm-9pm, and include platters of prosciutto, mozzarella, pasta salads and occasionally even sushi and oysters. But beware: with cocktail prices usually between $70 and $140, the feeling that you’re getting a free dinner can be illusory.

In Porta Venezia, the verdant garden of Hclub at the Hotel Sheraton Diana Majestic (Viale Piave 42, +39 02 2058 2004; hclub-diana.it) has been a stalwart of the fashion crowd’s summer drinking scene for a number of years now, and deservedly so. Featuring magnolias, cyclamens and adult trees, the garden is re-planted seasonally and is a great place in which to sample the salvers of vegetarian sushi and queen olives.

Close by, Mint Garden Café (Via Felice Casati 12, +39 02 8341 7806; mintgardencafe.it) dishes out mini pizzas, dried fruit and bruschetta, served at the table inside a florist’s amid cactii, orchids and bunches of cut flowers.

Though it’s best known as a café and restaurant, Fioraio Bianchi (Via Montebello 7, +39 02 6379 3414; fioraiobianchicaffe.it) provides what is surely one of the loveliest aperitif settings on the Milan bar scene. Admire huge arrangements of irises or lilies against the artfully scraped-down walls while you graze on appetisers like tabbouleh or pasta, which provide a hint of what’s on the menu for the evening.

The best shopping

When shopping in Milan, do as some of the chicest Milanese do and seek out cut-price designer style at the city’s many discount fashion stores. These treasure troves are packed full of end-of-season shop and warehouse returns, stock from boutiques that have closed down and some factory seconds – though even at discounts of 50-70 percent, the price tags can still provoke the occasional ‘Ouch!’ Refunds are pretty much unheard of, so try before you buy.
Among Milan’s best-known and longest-established outlets is Il Salvagente (Via Fratelli Bronzetti 16, +39 02 7611 0328; salvagentemilano.it), which has three floors of top stuff for men and women, all carefully arranged by size and colour, with discounts of up to 60 percent off most big brands.

Equally worthwhile bargains can be found at the more centrally located Dmagazine Outlets (Via Manzoni 44, +39 02 3651 4365; dmagazine.it), wedged between the full-price stores on two of the city’s main shopping drags. Dig deep and you may find women’s lines for as little as 20 percent of their original value.

Vogue readers on a budget should visit the 10 Corso Como Outlet (Via Tazzoli 3, +39 02 2901 5130; 10corsocomo.com), a slightly shabbier version of the über-cool original store, with endless racks of mostly black clothes by Helmut Lang, Chloé, Comme des Garçons et al.

A newcomer in the Navigli area is Bivio (Via Gian Giacomo Mora 4, +39 02 5810 8691; biviomilano.it), a super-cool swap shop where the city’s fashionistas come to trade in last season’s looks. Swapping isn’t obligatory, however, and most customers come here to swoop up the It Girls cast-offs from the carefully edited, on-trend racks.

Where to stay

Budget
In a 19th-century palazzo on the fringe of the bohemian Isola area, LaFavia Four Rooms blends modern and multicultural elements, like 70s lamps, retro sofas and hand-woven Indian rugs. LaFavia Four Rooms, Via Carlo Farini 4, +39 347 784 2212; lafavia4rooms.com. Doubles from $918 per night.

Moderate
The historic Palazzo Segreti is one of Milan’s best-kept secrets, though it’s located close to the city’s heart. Each of the 18 rooms is individually decorated with a modernist palette and features a spacious bathroom. Palazzo Segreti, Via San Tomaso 8, +39 02 4952 9250; palazzosegreti.com. Doubles from $1,836.

Quirky
In a bright red, low-rise structure close to the Darsena (canal port), The Yard has the feel of an eccentric gentleman’s club. The lobby is crammed with sports and travel-related objects (from vintage Louis Vuitton trunks to backgammon sets), all of it on sale. The 28 rooms are decorated in sporting themes, including hunting, polo and golf. The Yard, Piazza XXIV Maggio 8, +39 02 8941 5901; theyardmilano.com. Doubles from $1,652.

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