Milan may be one of the world's fashion capitals but there are ways to make your euros stretch that little bit further.
Design at a discount
Inevitably, even the top designers end up with seconds, leftovers and over-runs. Some designers run their own in-city outlet stores and there are some extremely interesting warehouses and pop-up shops in the city centre for those with the patience to keep trawling the rapid turnover of stock, specialising in everything from high fashion to baby clothes, shoes, jewellery, furnishings and kitchenware (this is the home of Alessi).
Many of them are found around Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. Il Salvagente (Via Fratelli Bronzetti 16; 02 7611 0328; www.salvagentemilano.it) is a three-storey treasure trove handling designers from Cavalli to Chloe. The Dmagazine Outlet (Via Montenapoleone 26 and Via Forcello 13; 02 7600 6027; www.dmagazine.it) handily has a store right in the heart of the fashion district. Over near Brera, try Matia’s Outlet (Piazza C. Mirabella 4; 02 6269 4535), while for nightwear, you could try Lo Spaccio (Via I. Newton 12; 02 404 6445).
Milan Fashion Tour (02 5831 2172; www.milanofashiontour.com) offer weekly scheduled tours and personal shopping trips around the city-centre discount outlets at very affordable prices (from 45 euros, minimum two people).
Just out of town, the city is ringed by about eight huge outlet malls filled with designer stores handily placed both for those heading to the airports or the Swiss or French borders. Expect discounts of 30-70 per cent. Serravalle Designer Outlet (www.mcarthurglen.it/serravalle/home/home.php) is the biggest of the lot, with 180 stores, including headliners such as Bulgari, Dolce & Gabbana, La Perla and Prada. Also amongst the biggest, Fox Town, actually just across the border in Switzerland, (www.foxtown.com) boasts 3km of shop windows, 160 stores and 250 major brands including Armani and Fendi. The Style Outlets (www.thestyleoutlets.it) at Vicolungo has 150 stores. A number of local operators run shopping day tours from the city, including City Sightseeing Tour.
Finally, if you live outside the EU, remember to take your passport with you when shopping and look for the TaxFree stickers, as you can claim back the VAT, which can run to 20 per cent.
www.factory-outlet-italy.com/en/FO is a useful web link with a long list of outlets and discount options.
As elsewhere in the world, in Milan there are sales in January and July.
For many, markets are more fun, more affordable and certainly more photogenic than the high fashion or the High Street. Milan has plenty to choose from with a wide range of wandering produce markets, superbly eclectic weekly flea markets and vast monthly antique fairs.
The Fiera di Senigallia (Saturdays; Darsena basin; metro Porta) is the city’s leading flea market, with a wonderfully eclectic mix of things from old vinyl records to ethnic artefacts and vintage clothing.
On another of the canals, the Mercato di Viale Papiniano (Tues and Sat; metro San Agostino) is one of Milan's largest markets, stocking everything from cut-price clothes to household goods, plants and shoes and food.
Via Zivetti (metro Centrale FS) is open on Wednesday mornings.
On the last Sunday of each month, the Mercatone del Naviglio Grande (Alzaia Naviglio Grande) is a huge antiques market with some 400 stalls, with a mix of furniture, books, jewellery and other objets d’arts.
Other markets worth a stroll include Viale Fauché (Tuesday and Saturday), which includes discounted clothes and shoes, the Mercato di via Lorenzini and the flower market in the Piazzetta Reale, both held on a Sunday morning. Finally, remember Milan’s Christmas Market, held in early December to mark the Feast of San Ambrogio (Piazza Sant'Ambrogio).
Where to stay
For a full list of my recommendations on where to stay in Milan, see Milan Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Milan.