Immerse yourself in the ultimate Euro-chic elegance of Italy’s most sophisticated city. Milan is an ambitious, dynamic city with superb shops, restaurants, architecture and culture.
But Milan’s treasures don’t present themselves to you – you must go find them and Milan is a “secret” city that prefers to be revealed slowly.
In our ongoing quest to present an insider’s view of great destinations around the world, we asked Albarosa Simonetti, Interior Designer and Principal of Brillante Home Décor to share her favourites.
WHERE TO STAY
A luxury design hotel in the centre of Milan, a few steps from the Galleria and the Cathedral, not to mention Prada.
Location, luxury, comfort and style.
Via San Raffaele, 6
WHERE TO EAT
You are in for a treat when you enter this Genovese-style patisserie; they make the best Cannoncini in the world, a flaky puff pastry that’s filled with delicious custard. Try their other specialities. I suggest the Crostata, so buttery that it will melt in your mouth.
Three locations: Via Speronari, 3; Piazza San Nazaro in Brolo, 15; Piazza Santa Francesca Romana, 1
For a Sicilian feast, here you’ll find the most colourful marzipan fruits and the Cassata Siciliana, a cake filled with ricotta and candied peels, and decorated with the most delicious candied fruits.
Viale Monte Santo, 10
If you are in the city around Christmas time, try their Panettone, which was created in Milan during the Renaissance. Soft and buttery, it is the best in the city. The décor is also worth a visit, since it maintains the atmosphere of the early 1900s.
Via Santa Maria alla Porta 11/A
Famous for its hot concoction of chocolate, coffee and whipped cream (Barbajata in Milanese), as well as delicious cakes and pastries. If you are lucky, you could find the Hungarian Dobos, a chocolate delight.
Via Montenapoleone, 8
La Bottega del Gelato
50 flavours made from the highest quality natural ingredients – the best fresh fruits, local or exotic – whipped into the creamiest delight. Try also some of the tropical fruits filled with ice cream.
Via Pergolesi, 3
Best aperitivo at the counter
If you go during Happy Hour, be prepared to sample the best cold and hot hors d’oeuvres. There are tables inside or outside, but aperitivo can sometimes be better enjoyed standing at the counter – in the Milanese style.
Corso Matteotti, 7
Best aperitivo sitting down
Sheraton Diana Majestic
For a relaxing hour in a beautiful bar that is a meeting spot for the fashion, design and art crowd. In season, the private garden is an oasis of quiet beauty.
Viale Piave, 42
This pizza is soft, not crusty, and they only have one kind: mozzarella, tomatoes, anchovies, baked in a wood oven and served at the table hot and tasty. Take-away is also available. Be prepared to wait in line; this place is always full. And don’t expect chips or coffee – you go there only for pizza.
Via Gaspare Spontini, 4 E
Best casual restaurant
Pane e Acqua
A historic “tabaccheria” in the established Magenta neighbourhood, now transformed into an innovative restaurant which follows the spirit of the nearby concept store, Spazio Rossana Orlandi. Charming mix of old and new in a very relaxed atmosphere.
Via Matteo Bandello, 14
Best restaurant with a garden
Restaurant with an emphasis on Lombard cooking, elegant traditional décor. In season, you can sit in a very pleasant garden in the centre of the city.
Via Manzoni, 12/A
Best hidden restaurant
If you can find this modern and refined restaurant, you’ll feel right “at home” enjoying the delicious and creative cuisine.
Via Tortona, 12/
Bar Ba del Corso
Don’t sit at the table – drink the espresso at the counter as the Italians do. And remember: for us, cappuccino is only for breakfast.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele, at the corner of Via Agnello
WHERE TO SHOP
Best food store
The building’s gorgeous Liberty façade is a testimonial of the history of Salumeria Peck, a temple of gluttony and pleasure. It was founded in 1883 and it is still at the top.Gastronomy with butcher, bakery, cheeses, patisserie, coffee and tea shop. They also have an enoteca with the best selection of wines and champagne.
Via Spadari, 9
Rubelli has a five-century tradition as a producer of sophisticated hand-made fabrics. The showroom is in a beautiful building in one of Milan’s oldest districts.
Via San Maurilio, 19
Best shoe store
Here you’ll find shoes with an edge and a blue sole, original and trendy. This is a beautiful and elegant store, recently renovated to perfection, in the most fashionable part of Milan, the Golden Quadrant.
Via Sant’Andrea, 1
Best perfumes, bathroom products
A refined old store that exudes a reassuring air of tradition, wooden shelves and counters from the 19th century, displaying a wide choice of historical perfume brands, shaving soaps, a range of razors and scissors, manicure and pedicure accessories. There is always an emphasis on elegant, hand-made items.
Corso Genova, 28
Gallia e Peter
At the end of a magnificent courtyard, you’ll find custom-made hats like nowhere else. Laura Marelli continues the family tradition begun in 1932 by her grandmother, a tradition passed first to her mother and now to her. She also designs hats for fashion shows that range from Armani to Dior, to Moschino and Versace, to name just a few.
Via Montenapoleone, 3
Very elegant jewels with a clean and contemporary design. The shop itself is a jewel, featuring paintings by artist Michael Lin.
Via San Pietro all’Orto, 17
Best interior decorating accessories
This store and interior decoration firm is located in an 8-room apartment filled with incredible antiques and accessories. From the moment you enter the courtyard, you will feel you are visiting a wealthy old family. Everything is displayed with great flair.
Corso Magenta, 69
Spazio Rossana Orlandi
From newly made items to vintage pieces, you can be sure anything you find here is unique in the world of interior and fashion design. This establishment is worth a visit, even if only to pause for a coffee and a piece of cake in the courtyard.
Via Matteo Bandello, 14/16
Vetrerie di Empoli
A triumph of glass and rare collections in an extraordinary building.
Via Montenapoleone, 22
Best art bookstore
Established in 1775. Everything you need to know about art, especially painting, but also sculpture, archeology, architecture and ceramics. You’ll be amazed by the floor, which is composed of 103 tiles, each individually created by famous artists.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, 12
WHAT TO VISIT
The historic house museums
There are four great homes museums in Milan where you can see how aristocrats or wealthy families of the past lived.
Palazzo Bagatti Valsecchi represents the Renaissance period.
Via Gesù, 5
Poldi Pezzoli, in a 19th century building, displays collections that span several centuries.
Via Manzoni, 12
Villa Necchi-Campiglio is a 1930s house full of antiques, mid-century furniture and modern art, set in a rare city centre garden. The house was featured in the movie, ‘I Am Love’.
Via Mozart, 14
Casa Boschi-Di Stefano is an apartment of modern art collectors, now open to the public.
Via Jan, 15
Best not-so-famous churches
San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
A real jewel and a superb example of Milan’s 16th-century wonders. Every wall and corner is stunningly beautiful. The most important artwork of the church is the frescoes covering the walls. If you go to the presbytery, you’ll find a gorgeous 1554 organ and more frescoes.
Corso Magenta, 15
San Bernardino alle Ossa
This church is not for the faint of heart: it features a bizarre ossuary chapel built during the 17th century, decorated with symbols and patterns of human bones that came from the nearby Ospedale del Brolo, plus skulls of decapitated criminals. You can also find bright and colourful paintings to cheer you up after the freaky experience.
Piazza Santo Stefano
Not a church but surely a religious place, this cemetery, opened in 1866, is where wealthy or notable Milanese are buried. It is an open-air museum, full of superb sculptures and works of art from several major artists. A leisurely walk through the avenues of the cemetery will help contemplate art, life and death. It has also a non-Catholic section and a Jewish section.
Piazzale Cimitero Monumentale
Best contemporary art gallery
One of the most dynamic galleries in the international scenery of modern and contemporary art. The new space is a stunning 20,000-sq.ft. white cube, full of light, made of white concrete and glass.
Via Stilicone, 19
Best photography galleries
Forma per la Fotografia
A permanent centre of photography founded in 2005 in a former historical tramway warehouse in the Ticinese area. There is also a nice restaurant and a bar.
Piazza Tito Lucrezio Caro, 1
Galleria Carla Sozzani
It opened in 1990 as a place devoted to art, photography, design and architecture. It is located in a former industrial building, typical of the Milanese working-class architecture. It is part of a complex with a unique concept store, fashion store, bookstore, and café.
Corso Como, 10
Albarosa Simonetti is principal of Brillante Home Décor with many years of experience decorating homes and managing home improvement projects in Milan, Italy and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Albarosa is currently living in Vancouver but has spent most of her life in Milan and is regularly visiting Milan for business, going there on shopping trips for clients and to be in touch with the latest trends.
“I always favour furniture and accessories with a past. A good designer is a good editor, achieving harmony between past and future and creating an appealing and personal home.” explains Albarosa “Plus living in Vancouver for many years, whatever the reason, I love combining the classic appeal of the Old World with the contemporary flair of the New”.
Albarosa is also the editor of a popular blog on Italian Design