Anyone with a stylish bone in their body is easily inspired by Milan. It truly is the epicenter of the fashion world and just walking around the city puts you right in the middle of it – store windows along most every block reveal the latest and greatest designer looks, and the Milanese themselves showcase some of the capital’s di-moda styles. Fashion is the art here and, as a rule, these masterpieces come with a price tag to match. My Milan assignment: 48 hours to sniff out some under-the-radar, “value” stores. I can’t say my trip was successful, but I did come back with a list of places you must visit either for the inspiration (to channel your inner fashionista) or to actually pick up something special for a worthy splurge.
For window-shopping second to none, you must at least stroll along the Quadrilatero d’Oro (rectangle of gold) which is home to Via della Spiga and Via Montenapoleano – Milan’s most famous and crazy-expensive shopping streets, chockablock with stores like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Versace, Valentino, Armani, D&G, and the like.
Then, to buy said labels, head to one of the designer outlets for season-old fashions discounted up to 70 percent. There are a few located around Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Il Salvagente (www.salvagentemilano.it) is the most popular.
10 Corso Como (www.10corsocomo.com) houses the kind of couture you see on the pages of fashion bibles like Vogue. In fact, owner Franca Sozzani, also editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue, does stock her store with items that have appeared in the book. Amazing shoes (oh, the shoes!), clothes, and accessories start from around €750! Yowsa.
The courtyard Corso Como Café is a chill lunch spot. Being that it was fashion week when I was there, I was surrounded by stick-thin models and fashion industry people while I scarfed down pasta and put back a glass of wine.
Another great lunch spot is the Fioraio Bianchi Café, attached to a flower shop in Brera (Via Montebello, 7). The petite eatery is frequented by fashionable Italians who come for the excellent and well-priced food.
Culti Boutique (www.culti.it) showcases creations by master Italian designer Alessandro Agrati. Culti is most famous for its home fragrances which are refreshingly light; my favorite is Tessuto. Fun Fact: Alessandro was the leading architect on the now-everywhere fragrance diffusers. The store also has sophisticated home furnishings and décor (ladder-style racks, glass blowfish napkin rings, and pretty woven baskets with leather covers).
Culti Day Spa (www.cultidayspa.it) which is not attached to the store, but located on Via Angelo Mauri, has been racking up the accolades. Pop by for a refresher in their super-sleek space with hair salon, sauna, and marble treatment rooms.
Head to the Navigli District for apertivos (a buffet of nibbles for the taking when you order a glass of wine) and for some affordable shopping at a glut of boutiques and vintage shops lining the canal. Love Shirt is a cute little shop with reasonable fashions and accessories for ladies. Maxwell & Williams, also in the area, has great designer housewares (though an Australian company, most of the items in the Milan store are made in Italy).
Where To Stay
Wattredici Hotel This hotel, in the hopping Navigli neighborhood just south of the historic center, is that Milan rarity, a place that's both palpably hip and noticeably easy on your wallet. Read more.
The Gray This decidedly posh 21-room boutique hotel was a trendsetter when it opened in 2003, and it still turns heads with things like a two-toned fuchsia daybed in the lobby that's suspended by ropes over the gleaming black macassar floor. Read more.
Alitalia (www.alitalia.com) introduced its first Airbus A330 and is planning to add four more in the coming year. The Alitalia A330s will fly long-haul routes (New York to Milan and Rome; Miami to Milan) and feature more legroom in all three classes (thanks to 68 seats fewer than what's found on the typical A330), Frette blankets, and individual TV screens with on-demand entertainment.