With more cultural, gastronomical, and shopping opportunities than ever before, Italy’s fashion capital proves to be the perfect locale for a stylish weekend trip
Fashionistas may flock to Milan for the city’s famous catwalk shows, but it’s not just designer names that dazzle in Italy’s industrial capital. The city has seen a recent boom in new venues, including CityLife, a redeveloped neighborhood crowned by skyscrapers designed by Daniel Libeskind and Zaha Hadid, as well as the forthcoming Museum of Contemporary Art. Local preparations for the 2015 Expo (or World’s Fair, themed “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”) continue apace. For high culture and glamour in Italy’s most moda of cities, spend an action-packed weekend exploring Milan’s bevy of boutiques, museum must-sees, and gourmet eateries.
A luxurious room at the Seven Stars Galleria hotel
First stop: Drop your luggage at one of the options among Milan’s latest crop of hotels. Each is a mirror of the city’s fashion industry: sleek, sassy, and reassuringly expensive. Newcomer Palazzo Segreti is set in a palatial mansion decked with burnished iron furnishings, organic bath products, and reclaimed wooden floors. Vietnamonamour, owned by Parisian ex–fashion editor Christiane Blanchet, is a firm fashionista favorite. Serial shoppers should bed down at Town House Galleria, tucked above the flagship stores that line Milan’s elegant Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Milan’s Duomo is the third largest cathedral in Europe. In true Italian style, this elaborate Gothic masterpiece took 500 years to complete. Clamber up to the Duomo’s rooftop terraces (stairs for the adventurous, elevator for the athletically challenged). Sublime vistas stretch across the city all the way to the snowcapped Alps.
Next door, Palazzo Reale is showing 200 masterworks on loan from the Musée National Picasso in Paris through early January. The nearby Museo del 900, Milan’s newest cultural gem, houses a unique collection of 20th century Italian artworks, including sultry paintings by Amedeo Modigliani.
(Left) The Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II is one of Milan’s many architectural gems (Right) Picasso’s 1937 Portrait of Dora Maar is one of the works to be showcased at Milan’s Palazzo Reale
Check out the sleek new Excelsior building, a department store designed by Jean Nouvel. Linger over lunch at Eat’s Bistro, or sample a glass of Barolo at the wine bar. For gourmet snacks to go, Excelsior’s lower-level food store offers chunks of Parmesan cheese, aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, and hazelnut-studded Tuscan chocolates.
The sleek Excelsior department store is a must-see for serial shoppers and foodies alike
Take a stroll through the Quadrilatero d’Oro (Golden Rectangle), Milan’s exclusive shopping district. Pick up iconic luxury kitchen gadgets at Alessi’s flagship store; playful furnishings at Kartell; or bold resin bracelets, unique baubles, and other jewelry at Donatella Pellini.
Local cuisine doesn’t come any more classic than the saffron-infused risotto alla Milanese. It’s best sampled at Antica Trattoria della Pesa, which has been bustling since it opened in 1880 within a former city gate weigh station.
If you’re in town between September 12 and 23, catch an arty flick at the Milano Film Festival. Then hit Corso Como: This tiny enclave of streets harbors clubs aplenty. Try Tocqueville 13 (“il Tok” to locals), often crowded with Italian actors, soccer players, and catwalk extras. Alternatively, 10 Corso Como’s candlelit courtyard café is a romantic spot for a nightcap.
Aesthetes can begin the day by exploring the luxuriantly leafy Parco Sempione, formerly Milan’s royal hunting grounds. Here the building that houses the Triennale Design Museum was constructed in 1933 for the city’s first Arts and Architecture Fair. Panoramas from the park’s 350-foot Eiffel Tower–esque viewing platform, perched atop architect Giò Ponti’s Torre Branca, are equally impressive.
The Arco della Pace, one of the city’s most famous landmarks
Milanese ease into Sunday with a belly-busting brunch. The most languorous lies at the Sheraton Diana Majestic, which serves up plenty of prosciutto crudo, frittatas, and cappuccinos.
A peek at the city’s most famous artwork, Leonardo da Vinci’s ethereal fresco The Last Supper, is a Milan must-see.
Leonardo da Vinci also designed Milan’s intricate system of navigli, or canals, best explored from aboard one of Navigli Lombardi’s canal boat tours. Or scope out the Mercatone dell’Antiquariato, the canal neighborhood’s monthly antiques market.
Milan’s canals are best explored by boat tours
Aperitivo is a citywide institution. For the knockdown price of a happy hour caipirinha, locals chase down evening cocktails with a gourmet buffet. Among the best are Cape Town Café’s minty mojitos and loaded focaccias.
Most of the city’s high-end restaurants are closed on Sundays. Make like the Milanese and opt for one of Premiata Pizzeria’s crispy margherita (mozzarella and tomato) pizzas instead.
U.S.-born, Italian-raised Kathryn Tomasetti authors travel stories and guidebooks about France, Croatia, Turkey, and her native northern Italy. Her features and photos—from as far afield as China, Syria, and Chile—have appeared in numerous travel publications, including Time Out, National Geographic, and The Guardian.
TOWNHOUSE SEVEN STARS GALLERIA
Picasso masterworks exhibition, on view from September 20, 2012, to January 6, 2013, Piazza del Duomo 12, mostrapicasso.it
MUSEO DEL 900
The neighborhood around Via Montenapoleone, Via Sant’Andrea, Via Manzoni, and Via della Spiga
ANTICA TRATTORIA DELLA PESA
MILANO FILM FESTIVAL
The Fourth Wall
TRIENNALE DESIGN MUSEUM
SHERATON DIANA MAJESTIC
THE LAST SUPPER
CAPE TOWN CAFÉ
Via Vigevano 3
- © Gary Yeowell/Getty Images
- © GM Grimaldi
- (Left) © mbonaparte/Shutterstock (Right) © Succession Picasso by SIAE 2012
- © Excelsior Milano
- © pcruciatti/Shutterstock
- © Stefano Panzeri/Shutterstock