Many believe that if any city could ever challenge Paris for the title of global fashion capital, it would be Milan. This ultimate Mecca for all fashion addicts never fails to amaze with the number of designer flagships it’s home to. The exclusive boutiques and studios sell some of the most sophisticated fashion.
Milan was the birthplace for a number of labels that evoke the utmost respect in anyone familiar with the basics of fashion design. Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Armani all set up their original boutiques here. For those looking for something more affordable, Milan offers a multitude of shopping options for both new and second-hand fashion.
Here's your recommended itinerary:
- Quadrilatero d'Oro is the collective name for the streets holding the greatest concentration of top designer studios, such as Montenapoleone, Della Spiga, Borgospesso, Sant' Andrea, Manzoni and Santo Spirito. Even if you're not planning to shop for high fashion, take a stroll down these boulevards to experience their unique chic atmosphere. Who knows, maybe you'll come back to your hotel full of unique designers good.
- Navigli is home to several noteworthy second-hand female shopping venues. For the best bargains, browse at Eliogabaldo, Biffi and Floretta Coen Musil.
- Corso Buenos Aires is a street holding some excellent male vintage fashion shops. You’ll find rock-bottom prices at Darsena, Calzaturifico di Parabiago and Il Drug Store.
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, located between the Duomo and La Scala, is an original 19th-Century shopping mall that continues to impress as one of the city's most elegant landmarks.
- Corso Vittorio Emanuelle II is the place to visit for popular international labels, including Zara, H&M and Furla.
Interior Design & Houseware
For the Milanese, the trendy decoration of the self is as important as the stylish organisation of one's surroundings. Artistic design connoisseurs will surely appreciate the wide range of interesting stylistic solutions displayed in the numerous interior design studios of Milan. The most prominent venues include:
- Alessi, with its main showroom on Corso Matteotti, has been a major Italian houseware brand since its establishment in 1921. Famous designers have contributed to its wide selection of cutlery, kettles and bottle openers.
- Memphis is the legendary team that virtually reinvented industrial design in the 1980s. Many of their influential projects can be admired in the showroom at Via della Moscova.
- Richard-Ginori is an important outlet of discounted porcelain and crystal, to be found at Corso Buenos Aires.
- Frette and Etro, situated at Montenapoleone, are major centres of home decor. Look here for interesting ideas for wall and furniture decoration and elegant accesories.
Milan's numerous open-air markets are an excellent source of antiques, clothes and deliciously fresh food products. Be sure to stop by at least one of the most popular ones:
- Mercato di Viale Papiniano is the largest city market and the best one to hunt for clothes and accessories bargains. It takes place every Tuesday and Satruday morning.
- Mercatone dell'Antiquariato, held on the banks of the Naviglio Grande on the last Sunday of the month, is the place to visit if you love browsing through antiques.
- Via Armorari is a collector's market offering old stamps, postcards and coins. It’s held on Sundays at Piazza Cordusio.
- Fiera di Sant'Ambrogio is a Christmas street fair organised at Piazza Sant'Ambrogio every December.
Did you know... ?
1. The list of famous designers and architects that have worked for Alessi includes Frank Gehry, the creator of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
2. The traditional flower market of Lunedì dell'Angelo has been organised for 400 years.
3. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built between 1865 and 1878.
4. The Prada fashion house used to be known in Italy as the Prada Brothers.
5. The Hoepli bookshop sells over 150,000 titles on six floors.
6. The shopping centre of Mulino Docks Dora is an old bus station.
7. Prada shops feature interactive high-tech dressing rooms.
8. The windows of La Rinascente department store were co-designed by Giorgio Armani.
9. Dresses from the Gianni Versace Couture line can reach a price of up to 10,000 USD each.
10. Versace owns 82 boutiques all over the world.
1. Top Milanese designers collections can be usually bought cheaper in Milan than anywhere else in the world.
2. For the best of the local bread, visit Panificio Tre Spighe beside the Inganni underground station.
3. The Fantasy Craft at Via della Capinera sells a multitude of beads and jewellery elements.
4. The best central location to shop for groceries is the Standa supermarket at Via Torino.
5. Il Libraccio is a popular chain with second-hand and new books.
6. Via Paolo Sarpi is Milan's Chinatown with many shops offering oriental goods.
7. Saldi is sales in Italian.
8. For English newspapers and magazines, stop by the stands near the Central Station or Piazza del Duomo.
9. The Central Station Pharmacy is open 24 hours a day.
10. Don't leave your high fashion shopping for the last minute. Malpensa and Linate Airports don't have much to offer in terms of designer labels.
Shop Review: Spazio Armani
Located in close proximity to La Scala, the Armani Megastore is the beating heart of Milan's fashion world. This spectacular establishment of nearly 750 m2 of floorspace was opened in 2000 to celebrate the company's successful 25 years of business. Customers can spend hours admiring the the Armani fashion lines as well as the newly created home decor collection of Armani Casa. The centre houses an art shop, an Emporio Café and a branch of the exclusive Nobu sushi bar. The basement is home to an interesting high-tech Sony electronics boutique and play-centre.
Address: Via Manzoni, 31
Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 9 a.m-5 p.m.
It's difficult to think of a better symbol of Milan than an item from a major Italian designer line. Unfortunately, this class of souvenirs is affordable only to some.
Regardless of whether it comes from a top designer boutique or a small artistic workshop, classy Milanese houseware helps brings something Italian and chic into your house.
This traditional Milanese cake is made of glazed fruit, raisins and chocolate and is particularly popular at Christmas time.
This famous cream cheese comes from the Milan area, and is used to prepare the delicious dessert of tiramisu. Look for it in the excellent Milanese specialty shops.
An AC Milan or Internazionale T-Shirt
Milan is the hometown of these two world-famous football teams. Supporters should feel obliged to stop by the merchandise stores.