The Amalfi Coast may have been the hottest destination seen on Instagram this summer, but September is the month Milan needs to shine. Taking place this year from September 20 to 26, Italy’s superlative fashion week sees the cobbled streets flooded with editors, influencers and publicists, all dashing from show to show (often in heels, no less). But it’s during downtime – at night or between shows – that the city really turns on the charm.
Get ready for an endless parade of pasta, pizza and wine…this is Italy after all. But the city is also full of interesting art and architecture, often hidden just behind an intimidatingly large door or across an unexpected courtyard. You can visit Leonardo da Vinci’s work and a short walk later reach the Fondazione Prada, where you can stroll through galleries of unexpected modern art and end the day with a Negroni or a big scoop of gianduia gelato. With all this, it is a city that can please all the senses.
Before you book your next visit to take in the runway shows or just for your own enjoyment, you’ll want to bookmark these fashionista recommendations for everything from 5-star hotels to cozy lunch spots. And, of course, shopping.
Where to stay
If you’re looking for a luxurious experience, artist Jenny Walton recommends the 5-star Grand Hotel (and stop by the Gioielleria Pennisi jewelry store on the ground floor if you get a chance). For a more affordable option, roommate Julia is her take on its central location. “You can wake up and have breakfast at Marchesi in the gallery (and shop at Prada afterwards).” If you prefer a modern approach, try the Viu Hotel Milan, which is a bit further from the city center but has sweeping views from the terrace on the roof (and the pool). Publicist Federica Paruccini prefers Hotel Senato, “it also has the best little hideaway with a garden in the back yard where you can sit all year round for a drink or your morning coffee and the papers (I LOVE reading the papers every morning in Milan). For me, it’s an oasis from the madness of MFW.”
Where to eat dinner
Da Giacomo is a favorite place for those who want to see and be seen during fashion week. Another favorite (albeit a hidden one) in the Brera district is La Latteria. Advice from Walton: “[There are] no reservations so you have to get there early because it’s also super small. For The incisionsenior fashion writer Emilia Petrarch, it’s hard to go wrong in Milan, but she keeps an inner secret. “The publicists at Prada recommended Cantina della Vetra when I started going five years ago, and I trust their taste more than anyone else,” she says. “I’ve been going to every visit since then. It’s nothing special, but that’s why I like it. They also have tables outside in a public square and I once saw someone get slapped. A classic!”
La Specialita is one of Puccarrini’s top picks if you’re visiting the city, especially if you have special dietary needs. “It’s an extensive menu and they always accommodate changes to each dish, which is hard to find in Milan,” she says. “It is family owned and generally the owners and staff treat you like family. That’s one of my favorite things about Milan… every restaurant has a distinct family vibe and makes the city feel like home.” She also recommends Rugantino, a Roman restaurant that caters for large groups.
Where to have lunch
Pasta seems to be the talk of the day when it comes to lunch (that is Italy though). “I probably shouldn’t tell you this because there are only a few tables, but Pasta Fresca Brambilla,” Petrarca says. The last time I went, the woman who makes the pasta served it to me straight from the kitchen.” For Walton, showing up at a hotel in the middle of the day is a must. “I love a good spaghetti pomodoro at Hotel Bulgari or Armani also has great pasta,” she says. If you’re feeling more of a pizza vibe, Pucciarrini offers the Papermoon. “Why can’t we have pizza like this for lunch in America?” she says. “In Milan, I’ll eat a whole pie, drink a small glass of wine and be in the front row of the press greetings an hour later, no worse for wear.”
Where to drink
“Everyone will tell you Bar Basso and they won’t be wrong,” says Petrarca of the Milanese bar where the Negroni was first invented. “It might seem gimmicky, but it’s worth it.” If you’re looking for a drink with a view, Walton suggests the upstairs bar at the Armani Hotel for a sunset drink. Head to Cracco if you’re near the duomo, and the Marchesi patisserie is a favorite spot for snacks and drinks between shows.
Where to stop for coffee between shows
While great for evening drinks, Marchesi is also a favorite with diners for morning coffee. Petrarch suggests visiting the Prada Marchesi next to the Duomo. “It’s like going to tea at the Plaza, only making it Prada (and Italian),” she says. If you need an afternoon or evening espresso (Italians usually drink milk in their morning coffee, but stick to straight after 11am), check out the Biancolatte. “It’s a new place and it’s open from morning to night,” Pucarini says. “It’s very Italian, and you won’t find Americans.”
Where to shop
Milan is a city for shoppers. While there are iconic Italian brands like Gucci, Prada and Bottega Veneta to check out, the city also boasts a healthy selection of great vintage. “Try Cavalli e Nastri or Madame Pauline,” suggests Walton. 10 Corso Como (and its exit) are also popular destinations. Last hot tip from Petrarca: “For gifts, I also go to the top floor of La Rinascente shopping center, where there are well-packaged foods that are easy to throw in a suitcase.”
Where to look
Fondazione Prada is a must-see if you have extra time in the city, according to Petrarca and Walton. You can also pop into Bar Luce, the attached cafe designed by Wes Anderson. “Depending on how much time you have, you can fast travel to [Lake] Como for lunch,” suggests Paruccini. “It’s 20 minutes by train. When you get there, hop in a taxi and head right to Villa d’Este for a nice glass of wine or walk around town; it’s so beautiful and peaceful.”
Where to find a moment of zen
When Walton needs a break, she heads to Parco Sempione or Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli. “There are some large areas where the dogs can run free, so you can do some great dog watching,” she says. Petrarch turns to the Zen of luxury when he needs rest. “Hotel Bulgari,” she suggests. “I could never afford to stay here, but their garden is secluded and incredibly luxurious.” Pucarini also suggests visiting La Vigna di Leonardo, a hidden vineyard behind a home where Leonardo da Vinci lived while painting The Last Supper . She says, “it’s probably the most beautiful place in Milan.” If all else fails, you can always relax with a plate of fresh pasta and a glass of red wine.