Milan. It’s a city made for shopaholics, gourmets and culture buffs. After all, where else can you be admire the finest examples of Gothic and Renaissance architecture one minute, and Giorgio Armani’s superstore the next, before unwinding with a cocktail (or gelato), Milanese style.
The city is also one of the world’s fashion capitals (along with New York, London and Paris), and with the fashion week in full swing, there is no better time to visit. It’s that time of year when top designers like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace pull out all the stops to create some of the world’s most elaborate fashion shows, attracting the likes of Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore and Cindy Crawford to town.
So make yourself comfortable and take a nice, deep breath because you’re about to discover Milan from a whole new perspective, from the best spot to drop by for a meal to the Presidential Suite where only people whose bodyguards have bodyguards stay…
Where to dine during the MFW
Vun Andrea Aprea at the Park Hyatt Milan
When a restaurant has two Michelin stars, you know it’s doing something right, and the VUN Andrea Aprea restaurant at the Park Hyatt Milan offers nothing if not the best gourmet Italian cuisine in town- think salt cod, linguine with sardines and burrata cheese and red prawn with poplar mushrooms. The refined setting matches the food with its neutral color palette and custom drapery- the kind you would only find in a 19th-century palazzo-turned hotel.
Il Ristorante at the Bulgari Hotel Milan
This restaurant by three-Michelin-star chef Niko Romito is in league of its own. There is the food, of course, with intriguing variations of classic Italian dishes like potato ravioli with red prawns and modified versions of the traditional lasagna, but the dining room is as much of a draw. The space exudes glamour with its wood and black banquette-filled interior, and when the temperatures warm up, you can have your meal outside, in a garden that sits right next to (and is an extension of) the Botanical Garden of Brera.
Where to drink and people-watch
Il Foyer at the Four Seasons Hotel Milan
The Milan Fashion Week is a time when Italy’s already fashionable capital gets just a little more chic, and the best spot to drop by for an aperitivo (and some people-watching) is at the heart of the city’s ‘rectangle of fashion’: the Il Foyer at the Four Seasons Hotel Milan. It’s a place where live piano plays, a cozy fireplace crackles, and your gin and tonic is always served with a smile.
Il Bar at the Bulgari Hotel Milan
This bar has perfected the art of the aperitivo, but that’s not what you’ll remember of it. You’ll remember its picturesque setting for cocktail hour, overlooking the only garden within the city walls. This side of Milan, the boxwood topiaries are as enchanting as they get, and the house classics like the Touch of Greece, made with Armagnac, Rakomelo and jalapeno, are the definition of perfectly mixed drinks.
Where to stay
At the grande dame herself, of course…the Hotel Principe di Savoia
Whenever the Milan Fashion Week kicks off, the Hotel Principe di Savoia (otherwise known as the grande dame on Piazza della Repubblica) becomes a lair for models, editors, fashionistas and celebrities. It’s the place to see and be seen, boasting a charming 1927 neoclassical facade and an interior decor to match.
Our coup de cœur was the lobby and adjacent Il Salotto that border on the theatrical with their traditional Milanese design- think revolving doors, fin de siècle furnishings, hand-painted frescoes and crystal chandeliers wherever your eyes fall. The decor is also dominated by sumptuous silks and velvets for that warm and cozy touch we all love so much.
Upstairs, the rooms are just as impressive, blending 19th-century decor with contemporary touches and Art Deco flair. And although the hotel sits at a busy junction, you’ll never know it with the insulated walls and sound-proof windows.
Those who like their hotel room grand should check into the Presidential Suite with a decor that can only be called ‘eclectic’- though ‘over-the-top’ would do just as well. Everyone who is someone stays here: Woody Allen, Lady Gaga, Queen Elizabeth and the list goes on.
Maybe it’s the three bedrooms and bathrooms of the suite that attract them…or the wraparound terrace overlooking Piazza della Repubblica, but if we had to choose, we would say it’s the Pompeii-style spa with its mosaic-tiled lounge, private swimming pool, Jacuzzi and Turkish bath. Have you ever seen anything like it?
Where to relax
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Milan
Need a spa to recover from running between the shows of the Milan Fashion Week in your high heels? We’ve got just the place for you get a back rub, some tranquility, a color-shifting steam room and everything else in between. This spa, which specializes in treatments that blend Eastern and Western therapies, is one of the best in Milan, and offers everything from Kobido (a Japanese facial massage) to jet lag cure for weary travelers.