The Amalfi Coast may have been the hottest destination seen on Instagram this summer, but September is Milan’s month to shine. Italy’s famous fashion week, which this year runs from September 20 to 26, sees the cobbled streets flooded with editors, influencers and publicists, all dashing from show to show (often in heels, no more a little). But it’s during down time – at night or between shows – that the city really shines.
Prepare yourself for an endless parade of pasta, pizza and wine… it is Italy after all. But the city is also bursting with interesting art and architecture, often hidden behind an intimidatingly large door or through an unexpected courtyard. You can visit the work of Leonardo da Vinci and a short walk later you arrive at the Fondazione Prada, where you can walk through the galleries of unexpected modern art and end the day with a Negroni or a big scoop of gianduia gelato. All this to say, it is a city that can please all the senses.
Before you book your next visit, to attend runway shows or just for fun, you’ll want to bookmark these trendy recommendations for everything from 5-star hotels to on-the-wall lunch spots. And, of course, shopping.
Where to stay
If you’re looking for a luxurious experience, artist Jenny Walton recommends the 5-star Grand Hotel (and stop by the Gioielleria Pennisi jewelry store on the ground floor if you get a chance). For a more affordable option, Roommate Giulia is her suggestion for its central location. “You can wake up and have breakfast at Marchesi in the gallery (and then shop at Prada). If you prefer a modern approach, try Viu Hotel Milan, which is a little further from the city center but has a sweeping view from the roof deck (and a pool). Publicist Federica Parruccini’s favorite is Hotel Senato, “there is also the best little garden shelter in the backyard where you can sit all year round for a drink or coffee and the morning papers (I like to read the papers every breakfast in Milan). For me it’s an oasis from the madness of MFW.”
Where to have dinner
Da Giacomo is a favorite place for those who want to see and be seen during fashion week. Another (albiet hidden) favorite in the Brera neighborhood is La Latteria. A tip from Walton:[There are] there are no reservations, so you have to get there early because it’s also very small.” ABOUT CUTthe old fashion writer Emilia Petrarca, it’s hard to go wrong in Milan, but she’s keeping an insider’s secret. “The publicists at Prada recommended Cantina della Vetra when I started going five years ago, and I trust their taste more than anyone,” she says. “I’ve been going to every visit since then. It’s nothing fancy, but that’s why I like it. They also have tables outside in a public square, and once I saw someone get slapped. Classic!”
La Specialita is one of Puccarrini’s top picks if you’re visiting the city, especially if you have special dietary needs. “It’s an extensive menu, and they’re always accommodating with variations on each dish, which can be hard to find in Milan,” she says. “It’s family owned and as a result the owners and staff treat you like family. This is one of my favorite things about Milan… every restaurant has a special family atmosphere and makes the city feel like home.” She also recommends Rugantino, a Roman restaurant she suggests for large groups.
Where to have lunch
Pasta seems to be the talk of the day when it comes to lunchtime (it it’s Italy after all). “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this because there are only a few tables, but the Fresca Brambilla pasta,” says Petrarca. The last time I went, the woman who makes the pasta served me straight from the kitchen.” For Walton, going out to the hotel at noon is a must. “I love a good spaghetti pomodoro at Hotel Bulgari or Armani also has great pasta,” she says. If you’re feeling more like a pizza vibe, Puccarini suggests Papermoon. “Why can’t we have pizza like this for lunch in America?” she says. “In Milan I’ll eat a whole pie, drink a small glass of wine and be in the front row greeting the press an hour later, none the worse for wear.”
Where to drink
“Everyone will tell you Bar Basso, and they’re not wrong,” says Petrarca of the Milan bar where the Negroni was first invented. “It may seem like cheating, but it’s worth it.” If you’re looking for a drink with a view, Walton suggests the upstairs bar at the Armani Hotel for a sunset drink. Go to Cracco if you’re near the duomo, and the Marchesi patisserie is a favorite for snacks and drinks between shows.
Where to stop for a coffee between shows
While great for evening drinks, Marchesi is also a favorite for visitors for a morning coffee. Petrarca suggests visiting the Prada Marchesi from the duomo. “It’s like going to the Plaza for tea, only Prada (and Italian),” she says. If you need an espresso in the afternoon or evening (Italians usually have milk in their morning coffee, but stick to it until after 11am), check out the Biancolatte. “It’s a new place and it’s open from morning to night,” Pucciarrini says. “It’s very Italian and you won’t find any Americans.”
Where to buy
Milan is a city for shoppers. While there are iconic Italian brands such as Gucci, Prada and Bottega Veneta to check out, the city also boasts a healthy selection of vintage. “Try Cavalli e Nastri or Madame Pauline,” suggests Walton. 10 Corso Como (and its exit point) are also popular destinations. One last hot tip from Petrarca: “For gifts, I also go to the top floor of la Rinascente mall, where they have beautiful packaged foods that are easy to throw in a suitcase.”
Where to see
Fondazione Prada is a must-see if you have some extra time in the city, according to Petrarca and Walton. You can also pop into Bar Luce, the attached cafe that was designed by Wes Anderson. “Depending on the time you have, you can do a quick trip [Lake] Como for lunch,” suggests Parruccini. “It is 20 minutes by train. When you get there, hop in a taxi and head right to Villa d’Este for a nice glass of wine or wander around town; it’s so beautiful and peaceful.”
Where to find a Zen moment
When Walton needs a break, she goes to Parco Sempione or the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli “There are some big areas where the dogs can run free, so you can have a great dog-watching,” she says. Petrarch returns to the zen of luxury when she needs some downtime. “The Bulgari Hotel,” she suggests. “I could never afford to stay here, but their garden is enclosed and very luxurious.” Puccarini also suggests visiting La Vigna di Leonardo, a vineyard hidden behind a house where Leonardo Da Vinci lived while painting The Last Supper. She says, “it is probably the most beautiful place in Milan”. If all else fails, you can always relax with a plate of fresh pasta and a glass of red wine.