is home to some of the world’s greatest designers and fashion-conscious individuals. But high-end labels aren’t the only thing on offer: Milan has its own arty, funky vibe, and several neighbourhoods outside the usual shopping haunts are well worth exploring. January is a particularly good time to shop in Milan, for this is when sale season explodes. From Armani stores to outlets, everything is heavily discounted, and there are some serious bargains to be had.
Possibly the world’s most notorious high-end shopping area is found in Milan, and is known as the Quadrilatero d’Oro, or the Golden Rectangle. This is where you want to be for the main designers, including Armani and Paul Smith on Via Manzoni, Fendi and Roberto Cavalli on Via della Spiga, Trussardi and Moschino on Via Sant’Andrea, and Gucci, Versace, Valentino and Prada on Via Montenapoleone. But step outside this bubble of high-street haute couture and you’ll find some excellent and beautiful department stores. Pop over to La Rinascente (Via Santa Radegona 3, 02 885 2471), a modern place with smaller designers packed among the usual suspects, such as Nina Ricci, Cinzia Rocca and Pinko, and which excels itself every year in its Christmas displays. And don’t miss out on Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Piazza del Duomo), if only for the stunning glass-domed roof and Prada’s flagship store.
To sustain you in your shopping efforts, stop for a drink in the gorgeous bar on the seventh floor of La Rinascente, the terrace of which affords stunning views of the Duomo; or sip espresso in style in one of the many luxurious cafés in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Outlet shopping is an institution in Milan, with some incredible bargains to be snatched up. The most popular and accessible outlet is Il Salvagente (‘The Lifesaver’; Via Fratelli Bronzetti 16, 02 7611 0328), best reached by taxi. DMagazine Outlet (Via Manzoni 44, 02 3651 4365) and Matia’s Outlet (Piazza Carlo Mirabello 4, 02 6269 4535), in the Brera district, are more central but you might have to elbow your way through the racks to find some amazing discounts. For those prepared to travel a little outside the city, Fidenza Village (Via San Michele Campagna, 05 2433 5540) is a good option about an hour’s travel out of Milan.
During the January sales (from first Saturday in January to mid-February), Milan’s Quadrilatero d’Oro is packed to the brim with shopping enthusiasts from all over the world including locals, many of which queue outside the shops for hours before opening time. Milan is a city of fashion which has leapt straight off the catwalk, and the heavily discounted clothes you’ll find here are of excellent quality – nowhere else in the world will you find 50% off Prada. The discounts usually start at 30%, before being dropped to 50% and 70%. The remaining clothes and accessories are then moved to the outlets.
For a break from all the shopping, pop into the arty Le Biciclette (Via Torti, 02 5810 4325); once a bike shop, now a bar and restaurant playing host to creative events and deliciousness. Or for something a little more designer-inspired, try Dolce & Gabbana Gold (Via Carlo Poerio 2/A, 02 757 7771), a shrine to bling and a purveyor of delicious, immaculate cocktails.
Milan isn’t all painfully elegant and expensive designers: it has its arty culture, too. Head to the Brera district and you’ll find not only alternative, imaginative clothing but the art that inspires it in many galleries. Check out Jamin Puech (Via Solferino 3, 02 9287 0584) for marvellous bags, and L’Artigiano di Brera (Via Solferino 1, 02 8058 1910) for locally designed shoes with a gorgeous showroom. Heading slightly north of Brera, you’ll find 10 Como Corso (at this address, 02 654 831), a large-scale collection of inventive fashion, cafés, galleries and a bookshop all in one complex, centred around a beautiful courtyard. Otherwise, head to Porta Ticinese where the big brands often drop off the map entirely. Try Frip (Corso di Porta Ticinese 16, 02 832 1360) for unique, funky fashion pieces, or Biffi (Corso Genova 6, 02 831 1601) for new fashion from around the world.
The January sales apply just as much in this district as in the centre, so buckle up for that, and don’t forget that 10 Como Corso has its own outlet store (Via Tazzoli 3, 02 2901 5130).
Stop for a rejuvenating coffee in 10 Como Corso’s courtyard café, or to keep up the quirky design factor, dine in Alice in Wonderland-style fashion décor at Maison Moschino’s restaurant (Viale Monte Grappa 12, 02 2900 9858) nearby. For somewhere a bit more local, try Fioraio Bianchi Caffè (Via Montebello 7, 02 2901 4390).
Milan’s shops aren’t your only option – the city is also host to some surprisingly good markets, where you can pick up unusual and cut-price items. The Fiera di Senigallia (Porta Genova) is the city’s number one flea market and a good place to start, crammed high with vintage clothing and vinyl records. If you’re in Milan on the last Sunday of the month, don’t miss out on the Mercatone del Naviglio Grande (Alzaia Naviglio Grande 4, 02 8940 9971), a gigantic antiques market which is a delight for bargain-hunters. For more conventional (and new) discounted clothes and shoes, try the Mercato di Viale Papiniano or the market held on Viale Fauché (both open Tuesdays and Saturdays).
If you’re in the Naviglio area for your market shopping, take advantage of the many cheerful, laid-back bars and restaurants for a much-deserved drink or two, especially at aperitivo hour. Try Cape Town Cafe (Via Vigevano 3, 02 8940 3053) for minty mojitos and deliciously loaded focaccia, or great local pizzas at Trattoria La Magolfa (Via Magolfa 15, 02 832 1696).