Shopping in Milan: the cheap(er) side of the street

by melissa.shales

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.

Markets

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).

More shopping

Visit my overview on Shopping in Milan or read my other guide: Shopping in Milan: do it in style.

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.

melissa.shales

 A freelance travel writer, editor and photographer, I have made my living for longer than I care to admit writing and editing articles, magazines, guidebooks and, increasingly websites on travel. Brought up in Zimbabwe, I made my very first trip to Italy when I was eight. We travelled on a rock bottom budget for three weeks and all I remember of Milan at the time was the milk bottle ad flashing outside our hotel window. Venice didn't fare much better - highlight there was the family of stray kittens living on the roof outside our hotel window (until they ate our picnic supper). Then I grew up and discovered the real delights of these extraordinary cities...

Now I live in London (another extraordinary city) and am fortunate enough to be able to travel the world for a living. It's about one part travel to eight parts sitting in front of a computer at home, but I get to see fabulous places and do wonderful things (usually at high speed) and call it work. Along the way, I started in travel as editor of Traveller magazine and have edited various other small magazines and websites. I have written about 30 guidebooks for companies including the AA, Thomas Cook, Insight, DK, Berlitz, Michelin, Globetrotter, Fodors and Frommer, winning three Best Guidebook Awards along the way. Destinations have included places from India to Barbados, France, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Turkey, returning repeatedly to Italy, one of the great love affairs of my life.  I have edited over 100 other guides.

Currently, in addition to being the Simonseeks Milan expert, I am the South Africa travel correspondent for About.com and have just stood down after a hectic two years as Chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers (www.bgtw.org). In 2009, I was awarded a Winston Church Travelling Fellowship (www.wcmt.org.uk) which allowed me to research a project I had long wanted to write, on the history of the railways in Africa. I am currently writing the book. The website and blog is www.steel-safari.co.uk. In November, I was named the British Guild of Travel Writers Best Online Travel Writer 2010.

My Milan

I really got to know Milan for the first time a few years ago while researching the Insight Guide to the Italian Lakes. Often overlooked in favour of more obviously beautiful cities, I loved its combination of edgy modernity and traditional conservatism, mixing high fashion, Mama and Papa's pizzeria and heavy industry in one heady cocktail. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

For unexpected views: the roof of the Duomo, walk amidst the Gothic spires and gargoyles.

For a song in the soul: La Scala, one of the world's greatest opera houses.

For sheer lunacy: window-shopping in the Quadrilatero d'Oro. No normal person could afford (or fit into) many of the designer creations but the windows are super-cool.

For caffè with style: Café Design at La Triennale, the design museum in Parco Sempione. Every cup and chair is different and a design classic, with park views.

Homage to the Maestro: It would be impossible to visit the city – at least the first time – without glorying in one of the greatest paintings ever created, Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper.