Shopping in Milan
Milan ranks alongside Paris and London as one of Europe's greatest places to shop. Fashion is its lifeblood, and the famous Golden Quad houses some of the world's most exclusive boutiques; the city is also known as a leader in design, with shops selling rare and original furniture, paper and cars.
The best fashion gazing is to be done along four adjoining streets north of the Duomo known collectively as the Quadrilatero d'Oro (Golden Quadrilateral): Via Montenapoleone, Della Spiga, Via Borgospesso, and Via Sant'Andrea, lined with Milan's most expensive high-fashion emporia. Follow Via Manzoni a few blocks north from Piazza della Scala; San Babila is the closest metro stop. The main artery of this shopping heartland is Via Montenapoleone, lined with the chichiest boutiques and most elegant fashion outlets, with parallel Via della Spiga running a close second.
For more Milanese shopping, cruise wide Corso Buenos Aires (northeast of the center and just east of Stazione Centrale -- follow Via Vitruvio from Piazza Duca d'Aosta in front of the station; metro stops Lima and Loreto are the gateways to this bargain stretch), home to a little bit of everything from shops that hand-sew men's dress shirts to CD megastores. As it crosses Piazza Oberdan/Piazza Venezia heading south, it becomes Corso Venezia and the stores start moving up the scale.
High Fashion: Clothing, Accessories, Shoes
Milan is home to the flagship stores of a litany of designers: Armani, Krizia, Versace, Ermenegildo Zegna, Missoni, Moschino, Mila Schön, and Trussardi.
With high fashion, chillingly expensive boutiques, and designer labels, it all comes down to personal taste, so I'll just let you know where to find the top names in town (but largely only Italian names -- who comes to Milan to shop for Calvin Klein?) and you can steer your shopping cravings whither you will.
One store, though, deserves a visit whether you're into his übertrendy designs or not: The Grand Central of Italian fashion is the flagship Armani Megastore, Via Manzoni 31, near La Scala (tel. 02-7231-8630; Metro: Montenapoleone). To celebrate 25 years in business in the summer of 2000, Giorgio opened this new flagship store (and offices) covering 8,000 square feet with outlets for his high-fashion creations, the Emporio Armani and Armani Jeans lines, plus the new Armani Casa selection of home furnishings as well as flower, book, and art shops; a high-tech Sony electronics boutique/play center in the basement; and an Emporio Café and branch of New York's Nobu sushi bar.
Other major labels also, of course, have Milan addresses. Here are some of the most popular. Dolce e Gabbana carries women's wear at Via della Spiga no. 2 (tel. 02-7600-1155; www.dolcegabbana.it; Metro: San Babila), menswear nearby at Via della Spiga no. 26 (tel. 02-799-950; Metro: Montenapoleone), and its youth-oriented fashions at Corso Venezia 7 (tel. 02-7600-4091; Metro: Palestro). Etro has its lines of clothing for men and women, along with accessories, at Via Montenapoleone 5 (tel. 02-7600-5450; www.etro.it; Metro: Montenapoleone), with a discount outlet at Via Spartaco 3.
Ermenegildo Zegna began as a textile house in 1910 (they still weave their own fabrics) and, since the late 1960s, has turned to making elegant, ready-to-wear men's suits that look custom-tailored, sold in Milan at Via P. Verri 3 (tel. 02-7600-6437; www.zegna.co.jp; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila).
Though in the past few years it is finally starting to go out of fashion, a fur coat has long, long been de rigueur for all Italian women heading out for an evening. Without a doubt, one of Italy's top purveyors of furs is Fendi, Via Sant'Andrea 16 (tel. 02-7602-1617; www.fendi.com; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila).
The firm that shod Hollywood's stars during its later golden era, Ferragamo, has an outlet for men's shoes at Via Montenapoleone 20 (tel. 02-7600-3117 or 02-7600-6660; www.ferragamo.it; Metro: Montenapoleone), and women's shoes at Via Montenapoleone 3 (tel. 02-7600-0054; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila).
Gianfranco Ferré sells women's wear and accessories at Via Sant'Andrea 15 (tel. 02-794-864; www.gianfrancoferre.com; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila); the men's lines are at Corso Venezia 6. Florentine leather specialist Gucci has a Milan outlet for bags, accessories, and clothing for men and women at Via Montenapoleone 27 (tel. 02-771-271; Metro: San Babila or Montenapoleone).
Several designer boutiques in Milan are devoted to women's wear, and women's wear only. They include Krizia, Via della Spiga 23 (tel. 02-7600-8429; www.krizia.it; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila); Laura Biagiotti, Via Borgospesso 19 (tel. 02-799-659; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila); and Max Mara, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele where it crosses Galleria de Cristoforis (tel. 02-7600-8849; Metro: San Babila).
Mila Schön's elegant clothing for women and men is displayed in a neoclassical palazzo, along with accessories, perfumes, and linens, at Via Manzoni 45 (tel. 02-781-190; www.milaschon.com; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila). Miu Miu carries women's wear and shoes at Corso Venezia 3 (tel. 02-7601-4448; www.miumiu.com; Metro: Palestro). Missoni's colorful sweaters for men and women can be found at Via Sant'Andrea at Via Bagutta (tel. 02-7600-3555; www.missoni.com; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila). Moschino has men's and children's wear at Via Durini 14 (tel. 02-7600-4320; Metro: San Babila) and women's wear at Via Sant'Andrea 12 (tel. 02-7600-0832; www.moschino.com; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila).
Prada maintains several outlets across town for its minimalist red-stripe fashions, none of them cheap! There's a bit of everything (men's and women's wear, accessories, and jewelry) in their high-profile boutique at the crossing of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele 63 (tel. 02-876-979; www.prada.com; Metro: San Babila); menswear, shoes, and accessories at Via Montenapoleone 8 (tel. 02-7602-0273; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila); women's wear and accessories at Via Sant'Andrea 21 (tel. 02-7600-1426; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila); bags, shoes, and accessories at Via della Spiga 1 (tel. 02-7600-8636; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila); and nearby, even an underwear branch at Via della Spiga 5 (tel. 02-7601-4448; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila).
Trussardi sells men's and women's wear as well as accessories at Via Sant'Andrea 5 (tel. 02-781-878; www.trussardi.com; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila). Ungaro's full line of men's and women's wear, accessories, bags, and shoes are at Via Montenapoleone 27 (tel. 02-784-256; www.ungaro.com; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila). Valentino menswear is kept at Via Montenapoleone 20 (tel. 02-7602-0285; www.valentino.it; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila); the women's wear is sold at Via Santo Spirito 3 (tel. 02-7600-6478; Metro: Montenapoleone). Versace carries its men's and women's wear and accessories in its shop at Via Montenapoleone 11 (tel. 02-7600-1982; www.versace.com; Metro: Montenapoleone or San Babila).
If your fashion sense is greater than your credit line, don't despair: Even the most expensive clothing of the Armani ilk is usually less expensive in Italy than it is abroad, and citywide saldi (sales) run from early January into early February and again in late June and July.
Inspired by the window displays in the Quadrilatero, you can scour the racks of shops elsewhere for designer seconds, last year's fashions, imitations, and other bargains. The best place to begin is Il Salvagente, several blocks east of the Quadrilatero off Corso XXII Marzo at Via Fratelli Bronzetti 16 (tel. 02-7611-0328; Metro: San Babila), where you can browse through an enormous collection of designer clothing for men, women, and children (mostly smaller sizes) at wholesale prices. DMagazine, Via Montenapoleone 26 (tel. 02-7600-6027; Metro: Montenapoleone), may sit on the boutique-lined main shopping drag, but its merchandise is pure discount overstock from big labels such as Armani (I saw slacks for 99€/$124), Prada (how about a sweater for 72€/$90?), and Fendi (designer scarves for 44€/$55 anyone?).
Another haven for bargain hunters is the Navigli. Women can shop at Eliogabaldo, Piazza Sant'Eustorgio 2 (tel. 02-837-8293; Metro: San Agostino), where some of the offerings may be secondhand but only in the sense that a model donned them briefly for a show or shoot. Biffi, Corso Genova 6 (tel. 02-837-5170; Metro: San Agostino), attracts fashion-conscious hordes of both sexes in search of designer labels and the store's own designs. One more Navigli stop, and again well stocked with designer ware for men and women -- but especially dresses (no changing rooms, so come prepared) -- is nearby Floretta Coen Musil, Via San Calocero 3 (tel. 02-5811-1708; Metro: San Agostino). The other hunting ground for discount fashions is Corso Buenos Aires, northeast of the center and just east of Stazione Centrale (follow Via Vitruvio from Piazza Duca d'Aosta in front of the station; metro stops Lima and Loreto are the gateways to this bargain stretch).
Men will want to stop at Darsena, Corso Buenos Aires 16 (tel. 02-2952-1535), where you just might find an Armani suit or jacket at a rock-bottom price. Il Drug Store, Corso Buenos Aires 28 (tel. 02-2951-5592), keeps Milanese of both sexes attired, affordably so, in chic clothing best worn by the young and the thin. Calzaturifico di Parabiago, Corso Buenos Aires 52 (tel. 02-2940-6851), shods men and women fashionably at reasonable prices, with an enormous selection and a helpful staff. For designer shoes at a discount, look no further than Rufus, Via Vitruvio 35 (tel. 02-204-9648), which carries men's and women's styles from lots of labels for under 80€/$100 (Metro: Centrale F.S. or Lima).
Housewares & Linens
The top name in Italian houseware design since 1921 has been Alessi, which just since the late 1980s has hired the likes of Michael Graves, Philippe Starck, Frank Ghery, and Ettore Sottsass to design the latest in tea kettles, bottle openers, and other housewares. They maintain a main showroom at Corso Matteotti 9 (tel. 02-795-726; Metro: San Babila) and a sales outlet at Via Montenapoleone 19 (tel. 02-7602-1199; www.alessi.com; Metro: Montenapoleone).
The 1980s was really part of a renaissance of Italian industrial design. This is the era when design team Memphis, led by Ettore Sottsass, virtually reinvented the art form, recruiting the best and brightest architects and designers to turn their talents to lighting fixtures, kitchen appliances, office supplies, even furnishings. Italian style has stayed at the very top of the designer housewares market (sharing popularity space with Scandinavian furniture) ever since. Part of the Memphis credo was to create the new modern and then bow out before they became establishment (they self-destructed in 1988). You can still find their influential designs in many houseware shops and in the showroom at Via della Moscova 27 (tel. 02-655-4731; Metro: Turati).
For fine porcelains and ceramics, make a stop at Richard-Ginori, the renowned Florentine purveyor of fine china, at Corso Buenos Aires 1 (tel. 02-2951-6611; www.richardginori1735.com; Metro: Lima or Loreto); the house's porcelain and crystal, as well as offerings from other manufacturers, is often available at discounted prices.
For Milanese design with which to dress the bed, visit Frette, Via Visconti di Modrone (tel. 02-777-091; www.frette.it; Metro: San Babila). This outlet of the high-fashion linen house offers discounts on the tablecloths, towels, robes, and bedding that it supplies to the world's top hotels. They have other stores at Via Montenapoleone 21 (tel. 02-783-950; Metro: Montenapoleone), Via Manzoni 11 (tel. 02-864-433; Metro: Montenapoleone), Corso Buenos Aires 82 (tel. 02-2940-1072; Metro: Lima), Corso Vercelli 23/25 (tel. 02-498-9756; Metro: Conciliazione), and Via Torino 42 (tel. 02-8645-2281; Metro: Duomo).
The elegant swirling paisleys of Etro, Via Montenapoleone 5 (tel. 02-7600-5049; www.etro.it; Metro: Montenapoleone), have been decorating the walls, furniture covers, and accessories in some of Italy's richest and aristocratic homes since 1969. They've since expanded into full lines of clothing and leather goods, as well as perfumes and accessories (the latter are available at the branch on the corner of Via P. Verri and Via Bigli; tel. 02-7600-5450; Metro: Montenapoleone).
Spacci Bassetti, Via Procaccini 32 (tel. 02-3450-125; Metro: Garibaldi F.S., but closer on tram 33 or 94), is a discount outlet of the august Bassetti line of high-quality linen, and the huge space offers the luxurious towels and sheets at excellent prices. They have regular (nondiscount) stores at Corso Buenos Aires 52 (tel. 02-2940-0048; Metro: Lima) and Via Botta 7A (tel. 02-5518-3191; Metro: Porta Romana).
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