The Quadrilatero della Moda
Situated slap bang in the middle of historic Milan, the Quadrilatero della Moda is a luxury fashion district delimited by four streets (Via Monte Napoleone, Via Manzoni, Via Sant’Andrea and Via della Spiga). Visitors can pop into the most famous stores (Valentino, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Gucci) and most exclusive jewellers, including Palazzo Cartier, Damiani and Bulgari in Via Monte Napoleone and Tiffany in Via della Spiga, while Armani basically has a whole block to itself in Via Manzoni.
Via Monte Napoleone and the more intimate Via della Spiga in particular are known as Milan’s quintessential high-end shopping streets. Having begun its rise in the days when the Naviglio canal still flowed in these parts (it was covered up in 1930), the area still maintains the charm of the historic shops and elegant showrooms that have sprung up in buildings that once housed the Milan aristocracy.
The streets were once home to some of the most illustrious figures in the history of Milan and indeed the world, such as Giuseppe Verdi, who composed his Nabucco here. Don’t miss some of the stunning houses-cum-museums, including the 18th-century Palazzo Morando, which has been home to the City of Milan’s Fashion and Costume Collection since 2010.
The elegance of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and its world-famous Galleria
A mere stone’s throw from the Quadrilatero della Moda is Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, stretching from Piazza San Babila to Piazza Duomo. One of the oldest streets in Milan, it has now become a vibrant shopping destination constantly thronged with locals and tourists alike. Prêt-à-porter fashion stores and big-name shops are everywhere you look, providing everything from home accessories to gastronomy, clothing and more. One must is a visit to the Rinascente department store, an eight-storey shopping Mecca with a panoramic terrace for visitors to treat themselves to an exclusive aperitif.
If you head in the direction of Piazza Duomo, you will eventually get to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the home of all things great and good in Milan which was restored to its original splendour for Expo 2015. Inside are Borsalino, Prada and Louis Vuitton, plenty of famous restaurants (Savini, Cracco) and historic bookstores (Bocca), as well as the La Feltrinelli megastore. In 2015, a rooftop walkway opened at the Galleria, providing an unparalleled view of the steeples and spires of the Duomo.
Palazzo Trussardi Alla Scala (Piazza della Scala 5) is also well worth a visit. This multi-functional hub was the first flagship fashion store to be home to a showroom and boutique as well as a Michelin-starred restaurant and bistro with views of the Teatro alla Scala. Opened in 1996, it encapsulates the philosophy and dynamic spirit of the Trussardi brand.
The bohemian spirit of Via Brera
The go-to place for on-trend shopping and a haven for lovers of happy hour, Brera is a great place to get lost among the many boutiques, jewellers festooned with precious handmade creations, art galleries, showrooms and antiques stores.
Walking along the cobblestone streets of the district, one can still detect the bohemian influence of the artists and intellectuals who attended the nearby Accademia di Belle Arti and Pinacoteca di Brera in between the 1950s and 1970s.
A stop-off at the Caffè Jamaica – opened in 1911 – should be a compulsory part of any visit to Brera. The café served as a meeting point for Milan’s bohemian community for years, its tables occupied by the young artists and penniless intellectuals who would go on to make Milan the centre of Italian culture: Piero Manzoni, Lucio Fontana, Salvatore Quasimodo, Ugo Mulas, Renato Guttuso and Giuseppe Ungaretti, to name a few.
Every third Sunday of the month, Brera hosts a traditional antiques market where visitors can find anything from jewellery to vintage clothing, prints, paintings and more recent pieces.
Discover Italian fashion in Via Tortona and Via Solari
The more adventurous will be entranced by a visit to two exhibition spaces that once again confirm Milan’s status as the world’s fashion capital. Opened in 2015, the Armani Silos (Via Bergognone 40) is a 4500m2 space containing a permanent exhibition collating a selection of pieces by Giorgio Armani (600 outfits and 200 accessories), providing a snapshot of the designer’s most significant creations from 1980 to the present day.
A little further along Via Bergognone, in one of the ancient squares of the Solari area, is Nonostante Marras (Via Cola di Rienzo 8), a concept store by the designer Antonio Marras. Open to the public, this stunning space brings together the latest collection from the Sardinian designer as well as a range of art installations and design objects. Kitted out in perfect harmony with the designer’s philosophy, complete with unique reclaimed objects, retro armchairs, period furniture, paintings and photographs, the store is devised as a meeting point where people can relax, have a cup of tea, chat with friends or get lost in a good book.
- If you love all things vintage, be sure to visit the charming area of Isola, where traditional Milanese houses coexist with futuristic skyscrapers. Another good bet is East Market in Lambrate every third Sunday of the month.
- If you’re in need of a tailored suit for a special evening, head to Corso Como. The Corso Como 10 concept store – a multi-brand space founded by Carla Sozzani in 1991 – is definitely worth your time.
- If you want to indulge yourself, hit Milan’s new CityLife shopping district. With three contemporary towers by Zaha Hadid, Arata Isozaki and Daniel Libeskind, the area includes a pedestrianised zone spanning 32,000m2 entirely dedicated to the art of shopping.
- If your style is cool and quirky, Corso di Porta Ticinese is the place for you. One of the most popular areas in the city among the locals, it’s packed with small, independent stores and is perfect for casual or underground styles.
- If you love shopping but aren’t sure exactly what you want, make a beeline for Corso Buenos Aires. With 350 stores lining the way, it’s one of the longest shopping streets in all of Europe.
- If you prefer to keep things classic (but not too classic), Corso Vercelli is your place. One of the most well-known streets in Milan, it’s home to the biggest names in jewellery and watchmaking, but you’ll also find toy stores and wellbeing shops as well as fashion for men, women and children.
- If you love the magical atmosphere of Christmas, the new Piazza Gae Aulenti is filled with fairy lights and stalls selling craft products, clothing and delicious food in December and January.
- If you want one of the latest brands, Via Torino has a comprehensive selection ranging from underwear to soap via the hottest sneakers.