Insider’s guide to eating, shopping and partying
Milan’s Piazza del Duomo at dusk.
If New York never sleeps, Milan sometimes allows itself the luxury of drowsing for a couple hours. Productive and hyperactive, cosmopolitan and curious and the home of Italian design, Milan is the driving force behind the country’s economy.
Fashion and trends are set here although it has become a tourist destination more for its glamour than for its beauty. It boasts the perfect copy of Champs-Elysees built by Napoleon, and until 1870, had more navigable canals than Amsterdam. In short, Milan is a city full of secrets, all to be discovered.
where to sleep
This former squat in the heart of Isola, the most friendly neighbourhood of Milan, has now become a hostel with 26 beds with free Internet. Alcohol-free. Max seven nights. Via A. Pergola 5. http://reload.realityhacking.org.
Town House Galleria
The only seven-star hotel in Europe, this 25-suite hotel is set in the glittering gallery opposite the Duomo and offers butler service, babysitters, 24-hour restaurant, Bentley limousine, and exquisite accommodation. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. www.townhousegalleria.it.
Former industrial building converted into a four-star design hotel with Asian-inspired interiors. The peaceful garden is the perfect place for drinks or a business meeting. Corso Sempione 91. www.enterprisehotel.com.
what to see
• Duomo, with its golden Madonnina on the top, is the city symbol. Don’t miss the stained-glass windows and the neo-gothic façade. (www.duomomilano.it)
• The Sant’Ambrogio Basilica, which dates back to the 14th century, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Cenacolo inside Santa Maria delle Grazie are a must. Booking necessary. www.cenacolovinciano.it/html/eng/home.htm.
• The Sforzesco Castle dates back to 14th century, www.milanocastello.it.
• Brera is the student and artists’ neighbourhood, where you’ll find galleries and the famous Pinacoteca collection in the same building as the School of Fine Arts.
•The Museum of Modern Art (Pac) hosted in the neo-classical Villa Reale, www.pac-milano.org.
• The best week to visit Milan is during the International Furniture Fair (April 16 to 21) for indoor and outdoor events, shows and workshops all around the city. Designers and artists compete to show the most spectacular and attractive novelties in design and furniture. Not to be missed, www.cosmit.it.
where to shop
Visit Peck, the gourmet temple in the heart of Milan for salami, cheese, conserves and other specialities. Lunch here is expensive but created by star chef Carlo Cracco. www.peck.it
Just outside Milan, close to Linate Airport is Parco Esposizioni Novegro, an exhibition park that hosts different markets, from vinyl and book fairs to flea markets and comic festivals, www.parcoesposizioninovegro.it.
Plenty of choice, from Montenapoleone the designers’ street, to the trendy Via di Porta Ticinese, or the small vintage shops in Isola (via Garigliano), and Corso Buenos Aires, where you can find almost everything.
Fnac in Via Torino, close to Duomo, is the temple of music and movies. You can find everything, from hits to reissues or old records, www.fnac.it.
Kitsch lovers can buy a small copy of the Cathedral or a snowdome with Castello Sforzesco inside it near the Duomo.
where to eat
Osteria dei vecchi sapori
A little gem in the heart of Isola with simple, traditional dishes including pork “caseola” (typical Milanese dish with pork), tripe and ossobuco. Reservation advised. Via Dal Verme, in front of n. 14, www.vecchisapori.it.
L’Antico Ristorante Boeucc
Dating from 1696, this is the oldest restaurant in town, located in the centre of Milan, close to Teatro alla Scala, Galleria and Corso Vittorio Emanuele. European cuisine. Piazza Belgioioso 2, www.boeucc.it.
This trendy bar and restaurant down a hidden street serves Italian and international cuisine and doubles as an art gallery. With its high-tech furniture and friendly staff it’s a laid back place to hang out. Via Torti, corner of Corso Genova., www.lebiciclette.com.
where to drink
This bar, established in 1907, is a real Art Nouveau gem. Locals agree that it’s the best place in town for an aperitif, a real must for Italian and foreign students. Open until midnight. Via Carducci, 13.
In the heart of Isola, every day there is a new event — international jazz music, art exhibition or wine tasting. On Sunday, you cannot miss the brunch, served from noon to 3 p.m. Excellent whisky selection. Via Borsieri, 35.
Dolce & Gabbana opened this glamorous gilt space around the corner from its headquarters two years ago. Since then, it has become the haunt of choice for trendsetters and Milan’s movers and shakers, drawn to the stunning restaurant, bistro and coffee shop and its bar with DJs imported from the U.K. Not cheap but worth a visit. Via C. Poerio, 2.
With its elegant black furniture and wide brightly-coloured sofas which invite relaxation, this chic bar is like a set from Sex And The City. Popular with models and their managers. Piazza Sempione, 2.
Long-established club in the heart of Navigli with excellent live jazz music and reasonable prices. With its mahogany interiors, it’s an impressive place for cocktails or dinner. Via A. Sforza, 49, www.scimmie.it.
The most famous disco in Milan and the VIP meeting place for footballers, TV stars, models, and people who want to show off. The transparent mirror that separates men and ladies toilets is unforgettable. Commercial music and a strict selection at entrance. Corso Como, 15, www.discotecahollywood.com.