- Serravalle Scrivia
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Milan Elements of Style
A center of design, Milan is famous for creating beauty—and exporting it. But everything in the city, from leather boots to Ambrosian rituals, reminds Albert Innaurato that the Milanese nest in glory
See + Do
Teatro alla Scala, Italy
Milan 20121, Italy
Tel: 39 02 7200 3744
After a three-year, $70-million renovation, the world's most famous neoclassical opera house reopened in December 2004 complete with two controversial new rooftop structures designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, and some vastly improved stage machinery. Thankfully, the opulent auditorium has not been reworked, only painstakingly restored: Its tiers of ornate gilt boxes, magenta velvet seats, and elaborately carved ceiling look much as they did when the present building was inaugurated in 1778. A long-running behind-the-scenes power struggle, which culminated in 2005 with the resignation of longtime artistic director Riccardo Muti, has not dampened the locals' passion for their temple of bel canto, and it's well-nigh impossible to get tickets for the ultradressy opening night of the season on December 7 (book well in advance the rest of the year, too, if you want to be sure of a good seat). La Scala's loggionisti—the serious, not particularly well heeled opera buffs who occupy the upper-gallery seats—can be ferocious: Boos from the gallery famously prompted tenor Roberto Alagna to stride offstage during a performance of Aida in December 2006. Housed in a series of neoclassical rooms, the Museo Teatrale alla Scala consists of a rather specialized collection of vintage musical instruments, scores, and memorabilia relating to famous composers and singers associated with the opera house. But it also allows visitors a glimpse into the auditorium from one of the boxes—a privilege that is suspended only on rehearsal days.
See + Do
Milan 20122, Italy
Tel: 39 02 8646 3456
With its fairytale forest of spires, herds of fierce gargoyles, and army of perched stone saints, Milan's Duomo looks from a distance more like a Disney castle than a place of worship. It's the fourth-largest church in the world and one of Europe's great Gothic cathedrals. Begun in 1386 and consecrated in 1418, the Duomo was a work in progress for centuries (the facade was only completed early in the 19th century, under the orders of Napoleon). To fully appreciate the wealth of exterior ornament—and for a fine view over the city—take the elevator to the roof. The highest of the estimated 3,400 statues is the famous Madonnina, a four-meter-tall, gilded copper Virgin Mary, touchstone and protectress of the city. Inside the cathedral, the lofty roof is held up by 52 columns, one for each week of the year. Don't miss the stained-glass windows, some of which date back to the 15th century.
Antica Locanda dei Mercanti, Italy
Milan 20121, Italy
Tel: 39 02 805 4080
Good-value accommodation has always been a problem in Italy's most ostentatiously wealthy city—especially in the center of town. Which is why this upmarket guesthouse a five-minute walk from the Duomo is often booked solid. The 14 rooms are simple—some, even basic—but they all have touches of style, which are at their most impressive in the four (more expensive) suites on the top floor. Each has its own design scheme (one looks like a painting by Gustav Klimt), a four-poster bed, and a verdant private terrace. The Locanda shares a reception area with its neighbor, Alle Meraviglie, another charming B&B (8 Via San Tomaso; 39-02-805-1023; www.allemeraviglie.it). The two hotels have kept their own identities and Web sites—though at peak times they will recommend each other. All rooms in both guesthouses have free Wi-Fi broadband access.
Bulgari Hotel, Milano, Italy
Milan 20121, Italy
Tel: 39 02 805 8051
When luxury jeweler Bulgari went into the hotel business, it did so in style, partnering with Ritz-Carlton and opening this discreet exercise in contemporary urban charm in a large town house a short walk from the fashion district. It's the unmatchable location that is the first X factor: The hotel stands at the end of a private, gated cul-de-sac. The second is the hotel's garden, which merges visually with the city's ancient botanical gardens behind. And the third is the interior, which architect Antonio Citterio has turned into what feels like a contemporary gentleman's club that combines minimalism with luxury, largely thanks to the use of rich natural materials. The 58 rooms and suites, suitably subdued in their buffs, creams, and browns, have solid teak balconies (many with garden views), dark oak floors, and oversize polished black Zimbabwe marble and pale travertine bathrooms. The suites are big enough for serious entertaining or business meetings; some of the starter-level superior rooms, on the other hand, are a little cramped. Open since May 2004, the Bulgari has been stealing customers from the old standards (such as the Grand Hotel et de Milan and the Principe di Savoia) with its impeccable service and location—and the added bonus of the downstairs spa, a cool, Milanese Zen haven with a gold mosaic pool and green-glass hammam. The restaurant is by no means a mere style exercise: Young Sardinian chef Elio Sironi's light, seafood-oriented Mediterranean cuisine attracts plenty of non-hotel customers, and the Sunday buffet brunch is currently the hottest ticket in Milan.
10 Corso Como, Italy
Milan 20154, Italy
Tel: 39 02 654 831
Milan's original multibrand fashion store—with the accent on original. Owner Carla Sozzani, sister of Italian Vogue editor-in-chief Franca, has stamped her formidable personality on this protean space, which also includes a bookshop, gallery, café-restaurant and designer B&B, all arranged around a leafy, cobbled courtyard. The boutique offers jewelry, housewares, and high-tech designer gadgets as well as a deft and imaginative selection of the latest men's and women's clothing and accessories by major players such as Prada, Gucci, Comme des Garçons, and Yohji Yamamoto. And pssst: If you'll settle for, or can't recognize, last season's collections, you can get them for half price at the newish outlet round the corner at 3 Via Tazzoli (39-02-2900-2674; open Fri.–Sun. only).
Tel: 39 02 869 3314
No frills, no extras, just gloves of every style, color, and size. Leather, suede, chamois-lined, cashmere-lined: You name it, they have it, in this tiny old-fashioned shop on busy Corso Magenta. Prices—on charming handwritten signs in the window—are competitive, considering the quality of the workmanship. A good place to pick up gifts to take home, if you're confident of the size.
La Vetrina di Beryl, Italy
Milan 20121, Italy
Tel: 39 02 654 278
It doesn't look like much from the outside, but this cramped emporium is a shoe-fetishist's dream. If you know about shoes, you'll know that the selection here is spot on, covering all the bases from more famous names such as Prada and Marc Jacobs to in-crowd designers like Alain Tondowski and Paul Harnden. Think extravagant, dressy, and oh-so-sexy.
Factory Outlets, Italy
Like Florence, Milan has a few out-of-town fashion outlet malls. One of the most popular is Italy's first outlet village, Serravalle Designer Outlet, around 55 miles southwest of the city on the Milan–Genoa autostrada. Designed as a twee mock-up of a traditional Ligurian town, the mall harbors more than 180 shops (including Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Prada, and most of the other big names). Closer to Milan (though it's in another country) is Fox Town (open daily 11–7) in Mendrisio—just over the border in Switzerland—where Gucci, Cavalli, Ferragamo, Prada, Loro Piana, and Missoni all have cut-price boutiques. Expect discounts of between 30 and 70 percent in both places on last season's stock.
10 Corso Como Café, Italy
Milan 20154, Italy
Tel: 36 02 653 531
Carla Sozzani's small retail, dining, and accommodations empire was the chicest address in town for a long time, and though it's pretty much relinquished its queen's crown and scepter, it's still a place first-time visitors should check out. Designed by American artist Kris Ruhs, the black-and-white dining room, which looks out on a plant-filled, Parisian-style courtyard, is full of the women who shop here for their Alice Temperley and Comme des Garçons, their cult cosmetics, their homewares, and (upstairs) their ambient soundtracks and photographic monographs. Women who, in short, don't eat. Yet the organic food is good, the risotto al salto (vegetable risotto pan-seared into a crusty cake) is sublime, and even the low-carb menu works. The real point of this café, though, is aperitivi: Come 6 p.m., it's a hot perch for your Negroni; ditto brunch on Sunday.
Closed Monday lunch.
Trattoria Milanese, Italy
Milan 20123, Italy
Tel: 39 02 8645 1991
This local institution just around the corner from the main post office does just what it says on the box: It offers great, down-home Milanese cuisine in an upmarket trattoria setting. This is one of the best places in town to sample that local stalwart risotto alla milanese—a delicate, saffron-flavored risotto cooked in chicken broth. But it's equally strong on other filling Lombard dishes like osso buco and tripe. Don't miss the warm Zabaglione dessert. The healthy portions; warm, bottle-lined ambience; and lack of outside space makes this local favorite more of a cold-weather option, but it does have AC in summer—and one or two lighter options on the menu.
Closed Tuesdays. Lunch Monday through Friday. Dinner nightly.
Milan 20123, Italy
Tel: 39 02 876 774
This innovative Italian restaurant has put central Milan back on the foodie map of Italy with its unrepentantly contemporary Italian food. Chef Carlo Cracco added a second Michelin star to his tally in 2004 and long ago shook off the "trained under Alain Ducasse" qualifiers to emerge as a major player in his own right. Still, not all Cracco's gambles come off: The spaghetti with sea urchins and coffee tastes as strange as it sounds. However, the secondo of steamed spigola (sea bass) is a tribute to simplicity, despite the oddness of the accompanying purple Peruvian potatoes. There is really no need to order more than two dishes, as there is a regular stream of amuse-bouches. For those determined to spend, there are two tasting menus at about $170 and $210. The ambience of the basement dining room is austere modernism: all marble facing and somber grays and browns. Service can be a little uncertain and occasionally surly, with a gulf between the assurance of the able maître d' and his young apprentices. But overall, Cracco is worth trying at least once if you want to touch the city's culinary peaks.—Updated by Lee Marshall
Open Mondays and Saturdays 7:30 to 11:30 pm, Tuesdays through Fridays 12:30 to 2:30 pm and 7:30 to 11:30 pm.
Just Cavalli Café