Even though the capital of Italy is Rome, Milan is the center of fashion and design. This northern Italian metropolis is much more than the gray and industrial city that meets the eye. A leisurely stroll by the trendy neighborhood of Brera confirms that Milan deserves a second chance. Beyond postcards depicting its classic Gothic cathedral, the impressive Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the Teatro alla Scala, emerges another Milan, enjoyable and always elegant.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
One of the city’s noblest areas is the “fashion quadrilateral” comprising four streets: Via Monte Napoleone, Via Manzoni, Via della Spiga and Corso Venezia. The most luxurious firms—both Italian and foreign—are based there: from Bottega Veneta, Alberta Ferretti and Prada to Chanel, Dior, Hermes, Burberry and Kenzo, among others. Nearby, you find imposing houses with beautiful courtyards, simple on the outside, but flowery inside. To poke around this neighborhood is to discover high ivy-covered walls, lattice doors, miniature fountains and stony soils unsuitable for the high heels worn by the Milanese women. Here luxury is understated, and facial surgery seems less obscene than in other latitudes.
This is also the fashion district, the place where you need to be and where you can spot, among bikes and trams, celebrities like filmmaker Nani Moretti. Brera is an ode to romance, which is evident in every little boutique offering unique and delicate items. Giusy Bresciani with its original raffia hats, Callegaro serving its famous raspberry tarts or the always-crowded Mozzarella Bar with its appetizing proposals are fine examples of classic Milanese style. Life explodes in Brera during the aperitif or cocktail hour, which is a favorite after-work activity. In Milan, one always feels underdressed among the comings and goings of the stunning and elegant Milanese: not surprising, design is in the city´s DNA. But it is not advisable to categorize these city dwellers as trendy. Remember that Milan is also the city that lovingly preserves Da Vinci’s The Last Supper in the refectory of the 15th-century church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
But of course it is hard to escape modernity in a city where there are plenty of establishments associated with the fashion industry. There is a Bulgari Hotel, and another called Moschino; a Dolce and Gabbana Restaurant and an Armani restaurant (Nobu), serving superb Japanese cuisine in a setting with 1980’s aesthetic, even a bookstore that bears the name of New York designer Marc Jacobs.
The reasons why Milan is one of the great design capitals of the world can be experienced at the Triennale, a design museum and venue with a stunning library near the sumptuous gardens of Sempione Park, in this city you can also walk on green. But, as it happens in many other European cities, the sun needs to help out, because on gray days you can see again the anodyne and industrial city—which Milan certainly is not. ■