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Insider Picks: Must-Visits for Your First Time in Milan

Milan is one of the world’s most stylish cities, but where do local fashion insiders and tastemakers go for the best panini, an authentic neighborhood restaurant or an afternoon of shopping or a leisurely stroll? Indagare asked four designers who live and work in the city to share their favorite places in the global style capital. Here are their insider picks for what to do in Milan.

Contact Indagare to plan a fashion-focused trip to Milan. Our trip designers can match you with the best hotels, arrange great meals and organize special shopping excursions.

Milan Insider: J.J. Martin

How does living in Italy’s fashion capital inspire your work?
Living in Milan has made me attentive to quality. And Italians also have a fearless attitude about fashion: you see men in pink pants and women who are walking works of art. No one goes around in their gym clothes. It’s very inspiring to witness.

Do you have any advice for shopping in the city?
Milan is not very easy to shop in. The good stuff is sprinkled around randomly. You can find all the big labels in the city center, but for more interesting shops, you’re going to have to plot out your strategy across town. Sorry!

What are your favorite shops?
Six Gallery is one, as much for the gorgeous setting as for the vintage furniture. It also has a very cute restaurant for lunch. Also great are the vintage furniture shops of Raimondo Garau and Il Valore Aggiunto; both of the owners have excellent taste. I shop for modernist tabletop items at Arform, and my favorite fashion multi-brand stores are Banner and Biffi. They are completely dedicated to a Milanese clientele and their selection from the big brands looks like nothing else. I also love the atelier of Marta Ferr—if you want to get a handmade dress in Italy, she’s your girl.

Do you have a restaurant you love?
Latteria. Locals love this restaurant, but not many tourists do. It serves very simple home cooking and the menu is small, and there is a bossy grandmother who runs the dining room.

What is your favorite long weekend getaway?
I’ve lived in Milan for 17 years, and in that time, I’ve perfected the local art of the weekend trip. The Milanese do it every weekend—with the exception of fashion and design weeks, and a few beautiful moments in September, March and April (the best times to visit Milan). I like to explore corners of the country, where I find many of the artisans and producers who work on our La DoubleJ products, from silks in Lake Como to porcelain in Verona. But I’m also a creature of habit. My favorite one is the least cool one: Pesaro, where my husband is from. The town itself is very old-school and hokey, but we stay at the Excelsior, an amazing property right on the beach. There is an insane multi-brand shop called Ratti, a good midcentury art dealer and a lot of weird herbalists and healers that I’ve tracked down. I find it grounding to go there, even though I detested it for the first five years that I lived in Italy.

Related: Indagare Matchmaker: Italian Beach Destinations

Milan Insider: Nicolo Villa

What is your favorite aspect of living in Milan?
I have been living in Milan since always! The city is in a very vibrant and positive period now. It’s neither too big nor too small—it’s just perfect. My favorite neighborhood is, without doubt, the Brera district, where I live and work and I love to ride around on my bike. I also love 5 Vie, a very little and lovely old neighborhood.

What should every first-time visitor to Milan do?
Have a walk between the Galleria and the Duomo in the early morning, then go see La Stanza delle Cariatidi, at Palazzo Reale and take a bike ride on the Navigli. Stop for a nice coffee and aperitivo and check out all the beautiful courtyards around town. Also, I suggest a visit to Santa Maria delle Grazie, which has Leonardo da Vinci’s Cenacolo, and, in front of the church, the garden at La Casa degli Atellani. For museums, the Mudec and the Fondazione Prada.

Favorite restaurants?
Latteria is the best restaurant in the world! Al Matarel has the best Milanese food. LuBar has a fantastic garden with Sicilian food and good music. Bech has the best panini. Il Baretto is old-style—and great. Jamaica is an historical pub, where all the artists used to meet and drink and smoke. N’Ombra de vin has all the wine in the world.

Related: Top Tables Milan

Milan Insider: Osanna Visconti

What is your favorite aspect of living in Milan? 
I’ve been living in Milan ever since I got married in 1989. My husband’s family has been here for centuries—as far back as 1300! Milan is exciting at the moment and has a very good energy. Apart from the fact that we have many beautiful galleries, museums, events and exhibitions, many things are happening on a daily basis. It’s very inspiring for a creative artisan.

What are your favorite boutiques in the city?
Luisa Beccaria has her flagship store in the heart of Brera which I think is very “Milanese,” and Stephan Janson has a store where he sells his beautiful, tailor-made dresses.

What should every first-time visitor to Milan do?
Every visitor should see the Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and The Last Supper. Every morning I go to Marchesi, which has the best cappuccino and brioche in town. The Fondazione Prada is a must for contemporary art and don’t miss having a drink at its Bar Luce.

Milan Insider: Stephan Janson

How long have you lived in Milan?
I am entering my 36th year as a Milanese. Love brought me here, and love made me stay. Living in Milan is like living in a village—you soon get to know everyone. The center of town is tiny. I love the sense of intimacy that is a trademark of Milan. Rome, Naples, Venice, Palermo—they are more beautiful than Milan, but also more noisy. I much prefer the whispering atmosphere of my city.

What restaurants, hotels and shops do you recommend?
I hardly go out for dinners, except at friends,’ but when I do, my all-time favorite is Latteria, where Maria and Arturo have been offering the best homey food in town for over 40 years. Another place I really enjoy is Bistrot Giacomo, mostly for the magic atmosphere created by my friends Laura Sartori and Roberto Peregalli of Peregalli Studio, and the divine dessert selection. The only hotel I like is Locanda Solferino. It’s the last one in town with a human scale.

What should every first-time visitor to Milan do?
My advice is: Get lost! To me, that is still the only way to discover a city. Of course, that requires time, but time is the only real luxury we have left. If you have time only for one museum, then it’s Brera. The stylish director James Bradburry has finally transformed it in an international place worth seeing and enjoying.

Any unexpected place you’d recommend?
The Museum of the City of Milano, in via San Andrea—it is not much visited, but there one understand why Stendhal described Milan as the most beautiful city of Europe.

Contact Indagare to plan a fashion-focused trip to Milan. Our trip designers can match you with the best hotels, arrange great meals and organize special shopping excursions.

– Melissa Biggs Bradley on June 14, 2018

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