In a city where bus drivers wear Prada and policemen wear Armani, it's no wonder they take their clothes shopping seriously. Welcome to the fashion-conscious streets of Milan
Shopping in Milan
is every bit as good as you’d expect, and the city’s quadrilatero d’oro
is as posh as it gets, with its clean cobbled streets lined with Ferraris, and shops showcasing the best in high fashion, from Gucci to Valentino. A city where bus drivers wear Prada and policemen wear Armani, Milan feels its duty is to keep the world looking good. It has beautiful architecture, impressive art galleries and a wonderful social atmosphere. The onset of shopping frenzy is your only worry, with typical side-effects including sweaty palms and the loss of ability to judge what you need over what you want.
Overindulgence is expected and if you can’t control the urge to buy new shoes, a bespoke suit or that handbag you’ve always wanted, I’d leave your credit card at home. That said, even with no money, Milan is still a great place.
The quadrilatero d’oro, or golden quad, is a set of streets off Monte Napoleone and Via della Spiga in central Milan, and houses enough designer clothing shops to make London’s Bond Street quiver in shame. World-famous brands such as Dolce and Gabbana, Fendi and Gucci offer the usual high fashion you’d expect, with jaw-dropping window displays. Watching the rich and famous strut their stuff spending big bucks is fun in itself but joining in is better. Berluti is a great boutique for men’s shoes with unusually stained leathers that will have your work colleagues admiring your style. Ladies boutique Patriza Pepe deals in expert tailoring, creating curvy cuts with daring colours. Once your credit card has taken a pounding, stop for a bite at classy Café Cova and ease those nerves with a glass of their own label Prosecco. Try the fresh Iranian caviar beluga open sandwich for £15, followed by dark chocolate balls with vanilla cream covered in whiskey sauce for £7.50. Then spend the afternoon strolling round the medieval art gallery Pinacoteca di Brera for a glimpse of Renaissance genius from Raphael and Tintoretto.
Il Salvagente is such an excellent outlet store it crossed my mind to keep it a secret. Tucked behind a nondescript business block in Via Fratelli Bronzetti, it’s an Aladdin’s cave of designer gear at ultra low prices. Although both men’s and women’s wear is sorted into brands and sizes, for ease it’s crammed onto rails like a charity shop. Finding last year’s must-have Prada dress isn’t easy - but when you do, and the decimal point has been moved, it’s worth it. Marcato di Papiniano market in the south west of the city is rammed with local women literally throwing clothes over their shoulders to get to the best stuff. The goods aren’t especially great quality but the odd item may appeal. Look out for the fake goods for sale - I’m not encouraging such activities, but they are excellent copies and with a bit of bargaining exceptionally cheap!
Food is taken very seriously in Milan. Art Café on Via Brera, near the Pinacoteca, has a comfortable, hip atmosphere, and serves excellent pasta and fine wine, situated in a buzzing side street. The Milanese pioneered the aperitif, an excellent device to lure customers to bars during the normally quiet 6-9 pm period. It’s basically the same concept as the happy hour except food is the draw. With the purchase of one drink, a free unlimited buffet of cold cuts, salads and sometimes seafood pasta is offered. Where bars are over populated, the competition to outdo each other creates better selections! Also try Bar Jamaica in Via Brera.
Sunglasses. It doesn’t matter how you wear them - on your face, propped on you head or tucked into your jumper - as long as you have them. Big and dark is best and of course a designer pair is preferable. Channel or Gucci will do the trick and set you back around £120 a pair.
Head to one of the many city spas, like the fabulous ESPA at Gianfranco Ferre. Its black and gold mosaic interior and soothing smell has an instantly calming effect. The relaxation room overlooks a pleasant and rare sight in Milan – a garden. When showering, the chromatherapy lights turn the experience into a psychedelic dream. After a holistic firming facial with hot stones and life saving back massage you’ll be ready to start again. The two-and-a-half-hour package costs around £189.
Sleep it off
The Four Seasons Milan in Via Gesu, located in the golden quad, is so close to the shops you can keep popping back with all those bags. It’s a sumptuous hotel with all the trimmings you’d expect. Inside, huge vases of fresh flowers grace the custom pear-wood furnishings and the staff are so attentive you feel individually special. The interior is so exceptional even Armani couldn’t hold down the position of interior consultant. Rooms start at around £450 per night.
Neatly situated near the Duomo, in Via San Raffaele, is the modern Straf hotel. Located near the cheaper high street shops at Vittorio Emanuele II, it’s a good alternative at around £150 a night.
British Airways flies from Heathrow to Linate. Fares start from around £130 return; service operates four times daily. From Heathrow to Malpensa, fares start from around £110 (four times daily). From London City to Malpensa, flights operate once daily except Saturdays; from £98.