[Milano soundtrack. Volare (but, of course!)]
Our love affair with the North of Italy began at the age of 18, when a strapping, young Italian boy from Milan, named Diego, came and lived with our family in Melbourne for a few months. Quickly becoming our Italian “brother”, we have since spent the next 17 years going back and forth between our hometowns.
Perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing and romantic as say Florence, or Venice…and with fewer secrets to uncover than in Rome…what Milan lacks in history and beauty, she makes up for in wealth and style. We love Italy’s largest city for the smell of jasmine in the air, the beautiful green spaces, the Milanese food and way of life, her style, the aperitivo, the coffee, the shopping, and the close proximity to the lakes region, and the coast. Oh and the Duomo – how could we forget Europe’s third largest church (after St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome, and Seville’s cathedral) – this Gothic beauty dominates the great piazza, and is a feast for the senses.
La Dolce Vita.
For coffee and breakfast…
Al Buon Convento Bistrot Caffetteria: this cute little spot was located at the bottom of our apartment building. Great coffee and delicious pastries. We also found another great local spot two doors down from Al Buon Convento (walking away from the Duomo) as well.
Gattullo: this is our favorite place in the city. Gattullo has been a Milanese institution since 1961. Come to this incredibly beautiful corner pasticceria for excellent coffee, delicious pastries and incredible old-school decor. Check out the staff uniforms. Supremo. Great sandwiches as well.
Marotin: we love this super cute and colorful corner bakery. Great croissants to-go.
Giacomo Pasticceria: in the same area as Marotin, another excellent option for a breakfast croissant on-the-run.
Bastianello (near our favorite shoe store): for great coffee and breakfast.
Pandenus: a few locations around town. Good coffee and cakes.
Sant'Ambroeus: it has been in the heart of the Milan Fashion District forever: a real classic, anytime of day.
Pavé: very popular at the moment. Desserts are amazing. Brunch is good too.
Sissi: for croissants.
Radetzky: it's been the bohémienne Milanese circle's meeting point forever. Always packed at aperitivo time. A beautiful spot for a late lunch on sunny Sundays.
Al Fresco: for brunch, lunch or dinner in a beautiful outdoor courtyard.
California Bakery: there are a few of these in town. A chain, yes, but great for an easy lunch – we like to grab a picnic basket from the Sant'Eustorgio one and take it to a park on a sunny Spring afternoon.
Ceresio 7: owned and designed by the twins from DSquared - on a rooftop with a pool, in the building of their DSquared HQ.
Baretto: a classic. Perfect for a lunch break on a shopping day
Al Mercato: for a break from pasta and pizza…come here for great burgers!
Eately: this amazing food and beverage company was founded in Turin, Italy, but has made waves in a whole host of other countries. We have been regular visitors at the NYC outpost…and were blown away by this, eately smeraldo – their most impressive retail showcase – located here in Milan. Located at the teatro smeraldo, this is a gourmet paradise. Come here and grab lunch to-go…or check out the in-house library for amazing cook books, or even try a cooking class. It’s all here, and it’s amazing.
Excelsior food court: another great spot for lunch to-go…this beautiful food haven, in the basement of the Excelsior, is worth checking out even if you are not hungry. Super impressive.
Il Salumaio: come here for the amazing courtyard.
Paper Moon: a traditional restaurant in the heart of the Fashion District. Nice pizza. Also try the beef with artichokes.
Martini Bar: located within Dolce&Gabbana’s men’s boutique. A nice verandah and great (people-watching) crowd. Perfect for a casual (Milan-style) lunch.
Refeel (Porta Romana area): also nice for aperitivo and breakfast
Great for an afternoon break: Biancolatte. Come to this gorgeous spot for coffee or gelato.
10 Corso Como: always beautiful on any afternoon. Great for afternoon tea in the magnificent courtyard.
The Small: our favorite dinner spot at the moment. A cute, colorful and kitsch bistrot. The owner Alessandro is unbelievably friendly and hospitable and will ensure you have an amazing night. More a “home”, than a restaurant. Great food. Grab a table outside.
U Barba: we love this spot. Located as part of a bocce ball court that is still operating. Serving amazing food from Liguria. Grab a table out the back, and play a few rounds of bocce throughout your meal.
Petit Bistro: always busy, grab a table outside and enjoy the people watching (and good food).
Head to Navigli for lots of cute bars and restaurants dotting the canals…. a few favorites:
Pont de Ferr: for something more high-end. Influenced by Ferran Adrià, among others, chef Matias Perdomo is a friendly Argentinian who favors molecular gastronomy. This kind of cooking can be a little fancy for our tastes these days, but this one Michelin restaurant offers a beautiful experience and gorgeous setting along the canals of Navigli.
Rebelot: for great tapas and sangria, and good vibes.
Erba Brusca: for a beautiful farm-to-table dining experience. Come here and grab a table on the beautiful garden terrace, surrounded by their veggie patch, and enjoy delicious Italian favorites.
Temakinho (there are two in town – one in Navigli, and one in Brera): Japanese/Brazilian fusion. Come here for an awesome combo of Japanese temaki + caipirinhas! Great cozy atmosphere.
Finger's and Finger's garden (weird name!): but more great Japanese/Brazilian fusion, an amazing location and amazing service. Finger's Garden offers a beautiful Japanese garden for Summer time.
Yuzu: a tiny spot, offering some of the best sushi in town.
Giacomo Bistrot: this great bistrot is loved by the Fashion industry. Giacomo all’Arengario: located right on Piazza Duomo, next to Museo del Novecento, has a unique and stunning view over the Duomo. Same chef as Giacomo, but super chic and elegant. Not to be missed.
Osteria del Corso: for soccer player and showgirls spotting. Traditional Italian food. The Sicilian owner, Mimmo, is a Milanese classic.
Mimmo Dondup: same owner as Osteria del Corso. Great for lunch as well.
Porteno: very cool Argentinean restaurant.
La Briciola: a Milanese classic – best cotoletta and meatballs. Located in Brera area. Also check out “Il Giallo”: same owner, same area and same food, though slightly more casual and open till late at night.
For apertivi (our favorite time of day!).... you can find a great little bar on every corner, sometimes the more low-key the better, but here are a few we also recommend:
Straf (next to Rinascente): cool crowd and music. Everybody stands out on the street, pretty casual.
Hotel Bulgari: always very chic. Love the garden in Summer time, a beautiful oasis under the trees in the heart of Milan.
Bar Rinascente: come here for the amazing views of the Duomo, if nothing else. A great rooftop.
Diana Majestic: grab a table in the beautiful garden.
N'Ombra de Vin (Brera): nice enoteca. A favorite among the banker/lawyer crowd.
Bodega del Tasca: according to our local friends, this is popular with the Milanese bohemian and wealthy crowd.
Rita (Navigli): best cocktails in town, fun after dinner as well.
For after dinner drinks…
Bar Principe di Savoia: this is the place to be during Fashion Week…but ONLY during Fashion Week. Rest of the year is not recommended.
Frank: (Porta Venezia area).
The Excelsior: our new favorite department store, reminiscent of Colette, Merci etc. This luxury hub opened its doors three years ago, taking over a former movie theatre along the Galleria del Corso. Amazing luxe brands – cosmetics, apparel, shoes, accessories. All brands sourced by Antonia Giacinti – the talented buyer behind renowned Milanese boutique, Antonia. An amazing food court downstairs as well.
Antonia (Brera): do it.
Marni outlet: our favorite of all the Italian designers, this hidden-away outlet store (at the bottom of a residential building in the middle of a non-descript neighborhood), is an essential stop on any visit to Milan.
For shoes: La Vetrina di Beryl.
For everything, including a coffee break in the gorgeous courtyard, check out 10 Corso Como.
Others… Gio Moretti (Via Sant’Andrea); Banner (Via Sant'Andrea); Biffi (Corso Genova): and by the same owner of Banner, Antonioli (Navigli): best selection of Givenchy, Rick Owens etc; Profumeria Mazzolari: any beauty or hair products you need can be found here.
A day trip to Lago di Como (A MUST): for apertivo at Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, followed by lunch atTrattoria del Glicine. This is quite possibly the most beautiful place we have ever laid eyes on in our life. Spend the day (or lots of days) cruising the lakes…by car, by foot, by boat…or all of the above. Heaven on earth.
Teatro alla Scala: come and experience a show at this, Italy and Milan’s world renowned, Opera House.
For Spa and Beauty…Violette: for the most chic manicure in town. A Vogue favorite. The Studio by Davide Diodovich: amazing peaceful hair salon. Best colorist in town. A fashion industry favorite. Hotel Bulgari, if you want to splurge on a spa treatment. Hotel Armani, for another amazing spa experience (on the rooftop).
Malpensa Airport is a long way from the center of town (a cab will cost 90euro). Much better to jump on the train, super easy.
City bikes easy to use, and a great way to get around town.
Aperitivi (6-10pm) is crucial to the Milanese day: be sure to embrace this daily routine, Campari and bar snacks. The best.
Coffee etiquette: caffè/espresso is a single shot, doppio is a double shot, Americano is a long black. And if you request milk in your coffee after lunchtime, you will get some strange looks. Cappuccinos and lattes are only for breakfast!