Not quite the Italy of vintage postcards that capture lolling about the sunlit piazza or meandering walks amid medieval architecture, Milan runs at a more contemporary speed. As the fashion capital of Italy, Milan constantly pushes the boundaries — and not just with clothes. You will see the city’s in-vogue imprint on its restaurants, bars, boutiques, museums and galleries.
Here’s the best way to spend two days in Milan:
To keep up with the city’s pace, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Stars Armani Hotel Milano and ME Milan Il Duca are excellent places to stay. Another option is the new Portrait Milano, the latest addition to the Lungarno Collection from Italy’s style-driven Ferragamo family (whose properties include Portrait Roma and Hotel Lungarno in Florence). Venture down Corso Venezia in the city’s Quad d’Oro — a golden triangle of posh stores, hotels and restaurants — to a grand rococo gate inscribed with the word “humilitas.” There you will find the 73-room hotel.
Taking over the historic Seminario Arcivescovile, a seminary founded in 1564 by St. Charles Borromeo that’s been closed for two decades, Portrait’s sprawling 200,000-square-foot complex centers around an expansive column-lined courtyard. The nucleus of the hotel, the piazza was designed for everyone to enjoy, with two attractive eateries, the stylish Antonia clothing boutique and SO-LE STUDIO, an upscale accessories shop that uses leftover materials in its designs. Underground, you’ll find Portrait’s spa and pool.
From the piazza to the parlor, Portrait Milano showcases the chic Italian aesthetic of Michele Bönan. He blends the unencumbered ease of Japanese kanso with the resplendent hues and textures of Milanese design in every public space and guest room. Bönan’s touch in each custom detail, from the leather paneling and wall studs (inspired by Ferragamo trunks) to the rattan headboards and walnut desks, embodies elegant design.
Now that you have a place to stay, here are all the other nearby addresses to explore.
At the by-appointment-only J. Cricket, designer Jimin Lee unleashes limited series of ready-to-wear pieces made from rediscovered textiles and upcycled remnants at the boutique, art gallery and home. Expect a minimalist aesthetic with a maximalist personality in the form of sophisticated tunics, tailored trenches and ephemeral blouses.
Via Monte Napoleone’s unforgettable boutique Larusmiani specializes in made-to-measure menswear and G. Lorenzi’s unique accessories for grooming, cooking and lifestyle.
In Milan, you will discover a treasure trove of modern architecture, including architect Piero Portaluppi’s many works, the BBPR tower (or Torre Velasca, a 1958 mushroom-shaped building), Piazza Gae Aulenti (a plaza with some of the city’s most modern structures) and numerous Italian rationalist pieces (a modern, symmetrical style without ornamentation).
Spend time touring one of the city’s elegantly designed homes like Villa Necchi Campiglio, created by Portaluppi in 1935, or Museo Poldi Pezzoli, an 1881 house museum that’s integral to Milan’s design history.
Also visit Fondazione Prada Osservatorio, a gallery devoted to thought-provoking contemporary photography located on the top floors of the landmark Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
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Enjoy a meal at Da Giacomo, a pistachio-hued homage to tradition. A 1950s time capsule, the Milanese seafood restaurant perfectly preserves every vintage detail, from the marble graniglia tiles to the silk wallpaper. For Da Giacomo with a view, opt instead for Arengario. Housed in the Museo del Novecento, Arengario seats you in the front row to the spires of Milan’s duomo.
If you want a taste of something different, try gastronomy legend Nobu Milan. This was chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s first foray into Italy, and after two decades, the Japanese-Peruvian restaurant still offers the best seat to watch the city’s fashion scene.
For a vintage vibe and natural wine, have aperitivo (the Italian ritual of a pre-dinner drink and bite) at Osteria alla Concorrenza — one of the most coveted spots in the city. Afterward, head to neighbor Røst for a contemporary Milanese tapas-style menu.