My first trip to Milan left me with plans to return. This energetic city oozes luxury, fashion, innovation, history, architecture, and aperitivos. The people are refined, elegant, confidently fashion forward.
The above image is of the Piazza del Duomo, with the Duomo in front and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele To the left. (More on that below) Because my time was limited in this beautiful city, this area was a priority on my short list, and it did not disappoint. Piazza del Duomo marks the center of the city, geographically and because of its importance from a cultural and social point of view.
I was fortunate to stay in a hotel on Corso Buenos Aires, one of the busiest streets of Milan … that happens to have over 350 shops and outlets, the highest concentration of clothing stores in Europe. This area is a visual feast of people watching, window shopping, and architecture. Milan is a fast-paced walking city with the added convenience of the Milan Metro. The metro is by far the most efficient way to get to Salone del Mobile during Design Week. But to clarify, Design Week takes place all over Milan, in showrooms and various venues. SO MUCH to see and experience, necessitating the right shoes.
The architecture of the area is mostly late 19th- and 20th-century style; the street and its surroundings are pointed with several neoclassical and art nouveau buildings.
A city gate of Milan
Arco della pace (arch of peace), a Neoclassical Triumphal Arch in Milan, in Piazza Sempione, Lombardia region.
the world-renowned opera house Teatro alla Scala
And then there’s this-
not what you may think…
Within walking distance from everything that you are seeing in this post is the Milan stock exchange at Piazza Affari. This famous sculpture, named L.O.V.E., sits out front. Bear with me, because the backstory is worth the read. Artist Maurizio Cattelan, known as the jokester of the sculpting world, named this sculpture L.O.V.E., standing for liberta, odio, vendetta, and eternita, which translates to ‘freedom, hate, revenge, and eternity’.
While it may appear that the 36’ tall Carrara marble sculpture is flipping you or the stock exchange off, a closer look reveals that the other fingers have been severed from the initial fascist statue. The other item to note is that this piece was commissioned in 2008 during the European financial crisis- and created in 2010 as a giant f bomb to both facism and the financial world in Piazza Affari. So now you know the meaning of L.O.V.E.
The construction of the Duomo of Milan began in 1386 and ended in 1965, over a period of five centuries during which different architects, sculptors and artists made their professional contributions.
If crowds and long lines aren’t for you as covid lingers, there is another way to get up close with the Duomo rooftop, sans tour- which is the department store, La Rinascente, literally right there with a rooftop restaurant. A meal inside or outside will place you at eye level to majestic spires, with delicious Milanese fare and a long wine list.
Due to the cooler climate of the northern regions of Italy, dishes tend to be heartier and richer: more slow braised techniques rather than frying, stock/wine/butter rather than tomato sauces and olive oil, and more rosemary and sage than basil and oregano. Risotto and polenta in many interesting variations grace the menus.
Because Milan led the way in the invention of the schnitzel- I had to experience Veal Milanese, known as cotoletta alla milanese on their menus, and I’m glad I did because it was memorable.
Did you know… Campari is made in Milan?
An aperitivo is a cultural ritual, a pre-meal drink. Derived from the Latin aperire, the tradition is meant “to open” the stomach or stimulate the appetite before dining. “Cheers” in Italian is – cin cin – said over drinks and appetizers in the early evening hours between work and dinner.
One of the many welcomes to Salone across Milan, in a park across the street from Teatro alla Scala.
In Milan, the major fashion brands’ presence extends beyond fashion to home decor and restaurants.
Above: Dolce & Gabbana’s grand entrance to their posh patio eatery and martini bar seems perfectly fitting, with D&G Casa and D&G fashion next door and down the street. Same goes for Armani, Versace, Hermes, Ralph Lauren, and others. It’s a lifestyle thing here.
Dolce & Gabbana Casa
The Bar at Ralph Lauren
Not to be confused with the Ralph Lauren flagship store and restaurant on Via Spiga is the Ralph Lauren Italian Palazzo on Via S Barnaba, a private invitation-only club for fashionistas (top clients) that opened in 2015. The location is fortress-like with no signage. The 12,000 sq ft mansion is one of not many of the Rationalist style, built in the 30’s and 40’s in Milan. This one was built by the Campanini family in 1941.
Ralph Lauren Palazzo feels like a luxurious home inside.
Another Design Week venue,Villa Necchi Campiglio– location of Gaggenau‘s Design Week exhibition, with an incredible event including tours of the villa and Gaggenau innovations, a certain 3 star Michelin chef, and serious food. More to come on this…
If the deco decor looks familiar, this is where House of Gucci was filmed. Villa Necchi Campiglio was among the first Milanese homes to have a swimming pool and tennis court (and a smoking room, library- you get the drift…). The Necchi Campiglio family (of the Necchi sewing machine business- integral to the success of the Milan fashion industry) had this place designed for serious parties and living large. Mission accomplished.
Milan is internationally recognized as one of the world’s most important fashion capitals, and especially renowned for its role within the pret-a-porter (ready to wear) category of fashion.
Adjacent to the Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, shopping mecca for any luxury brand you have ever heard of and some you haven’t- packed with tourists taking advantage of tax free shopping and surprisingly better pricing than in the US.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Every high-end fashion name is here. Pack your wallet.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele walk up view, gorgeous architecture.
Extra points for Moncler’s a sense of humor