Friday, July 17, 2009

Travel Guide: Milan, Italy

Pitch: This is a city to get dressed for. Italy’s Fashion capital to see and be seen, shop, drink, and (maybe) eat. Everyone is svelte. The men wear suits and the women, dresses. Break up the villages and beach hopping with the pulse of city life!

Stay: Close to the Duomo or Castello Sforzesco – both are very central so it’s easy to get around by foot. We chose Hotel Spadari by the Duomo. I loved this place. Complimentary waters and non-alcoholic beverages (it’s the little things...), contemporary, yet comfortable design throughout the hotel, AND the bartender is very generous lady.

Walk/shop: Hit the ground running by strolling around Piazza Duomo and taking in it’s grandeur. Then continue up Vittorio Emanuele II toward Piazza Babila and the fashion district. Take Corso up to Milan’s most famous street...Via Della Spiga. You will find every luxury brand and Italian label imaginable lining this quiet, pedestrian-only cobblestone street. Window shoppers allowed but I would only go into stores if you intend to make a purchase.

Eat lunch: We ventured to BVLGARI hotel from Via Della Spiga to tour the brand’s new extension into hospitality. You’ll find the hotel in a quiet corner of Via Gabba, right off of Via Monte Di Pieta. It’s a stunning property, but only have lunch here if you are (or spend money like) a rockstar or Swiss banker. We are not either, but did enjoy the small plates of sashimi, langoustine nicoise, lobster and melon salad, and a few glasses of wine. The highlight of the extreme world we stumbled upon in the backyard of the Brera was the nine euro Diet Coke...not my order. That’s what vacations are for!

Fit in: We then stumbled upon the SoHo of Milan (where we should have had lunch) where we were suddenly engulfed in the city’s locals – and their energy. We would end up returning to this area for happy hour and dinner but just walked through the first time to get a feel for the neighborhood. The best route is Via Brera to Via Fiore Chiari.

Sight see: Take Via Fiore Chiari towards Piazza Castello. Here you will find the impressive Castello Sforzesco. The grounds are open to everyone and once you walk through the castle there is a giant park. This is a nice time to take a rest on the grass or scout out some gelato.

Admire: If you can dream of the Harrod’s of food, I will tell you it exists. In Milan. It’s a fine food and beverage emporium called PECK. Fate has it that the shop was right next to my hotel (corner of Spadari and Torino), otherwise I may have never encountered this paradise. Coffees, teas, chocolates, fish, meat, oils, vinegars, a bakery, and jaw-dropping wine cellar. They also have their own bar and restaurant a stone’s throw away. Dining there will be a priority on my next visit.

Nap:  The days and nights are long in Milan, and you will do a lot of walking so I highly recommend a nap. Happy hours start around 7 and the streets really don’t get bustling again until 8. Dinner at 9 is considered early. So take your time and relax.  Even if you’re back out at 7, you still have two hours of exploring until dusk (in the summer).
Drink/snack: We returned to the Brera for a few drinks and some small plates before dinner. We found a great table at Bar Brera (corner of Via Brera and Via Fiore Chiari). The place was packed and after peoplewatching for twenty minutes, we decided we had stumbled on the crossroads of the city. Families, tourists, locals, stilettos on cobblestone, three piece suits, bums, beers, martinis, and champagne :)

Eat dinner: Our concierge recommended the restaurant Nabucco on Via Fiore Chiari. SO we walked a few streets from Bar Brera and settled in to a cozy table inside (outside was booked). Michael had the best lasagna “of his life” and I ate potatoes for the first time in years (they were roasted in this delicious white wine sauce that plated the scampi). They have a great wine list too as well as a selection of half bottles.

Stroll: Back to your hotel or hop in a taxi if you happen to catch a few raindrops like us.

Other Recs: Gucci Cafe, Nobu Armani (connected to a hot night club), Teatro alla Scala (famous Opera House)

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