Milan is a city best discovered quietly, wandering into hidden courtyards, admiring glass architecture, Art Nouveau mansions, Art Deco apartments and secret gardens. Milan is design capital this week, and not only, and we are here to show you why, with our guide on for spending 24 design-packed hours here, featuring sights to visit, small decoration shops and much more, as well as very Instagram-friendly restaurants.
Our day begins in Porta Nuova, an area of the city that completely changed over the last few years, thanks to an impressive redevelopment project. Today, this area is representative of the more contemporary side of Lombardy’s provincial capital. You can’t start your tour without going to the right place for breakfast, right? Our first stop will be Les Pommes, a NY-style bistro, decorated with a symphony of slate and brass, in which every element was selected with extreme care from the world of art and design. This is a small Eden where all your wishes will be granted, choose between filled croissants and pancakes, or perhaps go for scrambled eggs.
Just around the corner, look upwards to find yourselves in front of the two towers of Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest). Studio Stefano Boeri‘s revolutionary project interpreted the citizens’ need for green space by combining it with sustainable, prize-winning architecture.
Walk across Piazza Gae Aulenti, shaded by the 231m Unicredit Tower, and visit another new building, the Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. This new building is a local gem as well as a unique work of art, almost entirely made of glass, and designed by the renowned Swiss studio Herzog & de Meuron. This location is a babel of culture that hosts a bookshop and a cafe, as well as office spaces and reading areas.
Ratanà, an oasis of peace among the high-rise buildings, is the obvious lunch spot in this part of town. The restaurant is housed in an early 20th-century small building that used to belong to the local railways, and it is surrounded by a garden that looks absolutely lush on sunny days… Just perfect for your early al fresco lunchbreaks! Their culinary offerings are all based on extremely high-quality ingredients, and on chef Cesare Battisti’s almost religious rigor in choosing the right raw ingredients for preparing his take on typical Milanese fare.
Once you fed your appetite, it’s time to go shopping at Cargo High Tech, a labyrinthine space with a wide selection of furniture and knick-knacks, for all those who want to discover the quirkier side of every day life: from candles in every shape and size, to tin alphabet letters, to old memory troves.
If you are looking to admire some signature design, Rossana Orlandi‘s is the place to go. Located in the elegant lanes of via San Vittore, this is a wonderful, magical place to get lost in, peeking into drawers and containers that hide little treasures, unusual objects and work by renowned and emerging designers, all selected by this design guru.
The Triennale Design Museum is the place to go to focus and deepen your design knowledge, thanks to its temporary exhibitions, the garden that hosts De Chirico’s Bagni Misteriosi, leading to Franco Albini’s museum-cum-studio space. Visiting the architect’s studio will be a good occasion to rediscover this articulate, complex character, one of Italy’s greatest architects and designers, creator of several icons of 20th century design. Designers and design students really should visit this place, because as Albini used to say,«It is from the objects that we design that we can spread our ideas, rather than from ourselves».
If you prefer a sleeker, more refined location, dominated by shades of white, cream, grey and lilac, Society Limonta will be the place to go for a wide selection of home couture in Brera. The collections are presented in two different spaces, connected by an old-school Milan courtyard.
Beauty pit stop at Aesop: even if you are not beauty fans, you still should visit their new 1930s-style shop, designed by Dimore Studio in an intriguing conversation between decades with the Pasticceria Marchesi patisserie on the other side of the street, where having a coffee and a small pastry is a must.
Our journey continues in the Art Nouveau district of Porta Venezia, visiting Villa Necchi Campiglio by the architect Portaluppi. A fine example of perfectly preserved Italian architecture and interior design, the story of this building is also that of a family of entrepreneurs who were symbolic of the enlightened, educated and refined bourgeoisie of Milan — if you’d like to know more about this aspect of Milanese society, don’t miss the film I am Love by Luca Guadagnino, featuring Tilda Swinton.
Aperitivo is a classic at Bar Basso, whose patrons are very special, and not only during design week. This was the birthplace of a new trend for Italy in the 1950s, that is, sipping cocktails! Choose between Manhattan, White Lady, Bloody Mary, Margarita and the timeless Negroni Sbagliato, which was invented here: ask the barman for tips!