MILAN - Italy’s fashion capital sometimes gets a bad rap.
“Oh, it’s just a big city,” I was told by one friend.
“There are so many other places in Italy I’d rather see; Milan is low on my list,” shared another.
So I went in with low expectations and came out pleasantly surprised.
Sure, Milan doesn’t have the endless beautiful architecture or the rolling green hillsides of Florence. But you also won’t be surrounded by swarms of tourists. And besides, most people come to Milan to shop. And on that score, this city never disappoints.
Above: The Gray is the in place to stay in Milan.
So, here are some tips on where to shop and stay when visiting Milan.
Where to Stay
The Gray, Via San Raffaele 1 (www.hotelthegray.it)
This chic boutique hotel is just steps away from the cathedral and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Italy’s oldest shopping “mall”). The sleek, well-equipped expansive suites with über-soft Pedersoli Luxury bedding and swanky Jacuzzi are just what your weary body will need after a day of power shopping.
Even better, three suites look out into the Galleria (how appropriate for the retail therapy focus of your visit). And when searching for food proves to be too much of a chore after a long day, you won’t go without: the hotel’s contemporary restaurant, Le Noir, serves up some of the finest, inventive cuisine I enjoyed in Milan. If it’s on the menu when you’re there, order the sheep cheese ravioli with bottarga, lemon peel and anchovies.
Where to Shop
Even if you don’t want to spend a bundle, walking through the grand Galleria is essential for window shopping and people watching. Here, tourists mingle with well-dressed business people dining in the many restaurants, and chic women who lunch while shopping at Prada and Louis Vuitton.
Look up for a stunning view of the sweeping vaulted glass ceiling where natural light streams in, and look down at the intricate marble floor.
If you’re out to fill your luggage with some luxury labels, focus on the famous shopping mecca, the Quadrilatero d’Oro. Formed by via della Spiga, via Manzoni, via Sant’Andrea and via Montenapoleone, this rectangle has Missoni, Moschino, Dior, Balenciaga, Versace — pretty much every design house has a flagship here. A quick price check also revealed that items will cost you less here than buying them in Canada. For a pick-me-up espresso, pop into the Caffe Cova.
Above: The iconic Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II is a Milan landmark.
Where to Find Deals
If spending the equivalent of a mortgage payment doesn’t fit your shopping budget, you’ll find more mainstream retailers such as Oltre and OVS along the via Torino. For designer clothing and accessories at reduced prices, pop into DMagazine Outlet in the Quadrilatero d’Oro. Just be sure to budget lots of time to pick through the crowded racks.
If haggling is more your style, head to Fauche, where you’ll find a variety of vendors hawking everything from fresh produce, toys and kitchen accessories to designer shoes.
If you’re in Milan over a weekend, plan to shop every day other than Sunday. Most shops are closed on Sunday, so save that day for sightseeing.