It would be enough to mention events like the Salone del Mobile or the Fashion Week, to understand how Milan has a very important role in determining and expressing the trends of Made in Italy.
Milan, the capital of style. Milan, the capital of luxury. Milan capital of shopping. Milan, the capital of fashion. So on and so forth, because if it is true that Milan is synonym with business, it is also true that you must go to Milan if you want to buy the latest fashion clothing and accessories.
But be careful, fashion does not only mean skyrocketing prices, because luxury apparel goes with shopping like Formula 1 does with the world of automobiles: here are thought up new shapes, new materials, new models that the large-scale industry, of apparel as well as engines, then makes available to all. And therefore from the showrooms of Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and Armani, from the runways of Milan’s Fashion Week, clothing, footwear and fashion accessories come cascading in department stores, with new styles, colors and trends available for the general public, but also at affordable prices.
Because Milan is not only Fashion District, but also great stores, very trendy shopping streets, and, why not, lovely markets that sell more than just Chinese stuff, but also designer and tailored apparel.
The Fashion District, luxury shopping
Some think that the Fashion District is now a quarter of Milan. Actually it is not so, but those who hang out here like to think so to feel even more exclusive. We are in the historical center of Milan, home to fashion boutiques and luxury shops, jewelry stores and designer showrooms. The Fashion District is ideally enclosed within four streets, Via Montenapoleone, Via Manzoni, Via della Spiga and Corso Venezia, but the internal streets as well are happy hunting ground for Japanese and Arab tourists.
The Fashion District shines. In the winter evenings, when the sun sets at 6 pm, the shopping windows of Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, Armani, Fendi, Tiffany, Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Bulgari, Cartier, Gucci, Gianfranco Ferré, Valentino, Prada turn on upon the wonderful clothing apparel and jewelry, illuminated by leds strategically placed by the lighting designers.
The Fashion District seems to be motionless in itself, but instead is constantly evolving. Since September 2012 a new Dolce & Gabbana store has opened, along with the flagship of the young collection Just Cavalli, Belstaff and Moschino boutiques, the shoemaker Stuart Weitzman, the Samsung fashion and Agent Provocateur showrooms, the latter with its first Italian freestanding store. Among renovations of spaces, new addresses, re-openings and shut downs, the Fashion District is far from being a motionless shrine crumpled in on itself: it is on the contrary a lively place, a genuine district of fashion and luxury.
Not to be missed: in the Fashion District you can buy luxury at budget prices. It seems an oxymoron, but the spaces of D Magazine Outlet at 44, Via Manzoni, are proof of this. Clothing is stored in alphabetical order, from A for Armani to V for Versace, at a 50% discount. And even more if you settle for end of series.
Via Montenapoleone, Milan’s Fifth Avenue
The most famous street of the Fashion District is Via Montenapoleone. That is like saying Fifth Avenue in New York and Avenue des Champs Elysees in Paris. The name comes from the days of the Age of Napoleon, when Milan was already an important business center, but also a place of leisure, perdition and delight. The long road that connects Piazza San Babila to Via Manzoni reaches the height of its fame in the ’50s, when the last non-fashion stores gave way to the designers showrooms, jewelers, leather workers and shoemaker.
Once you have reached this prestigious street of luxury in Milan, from the stop with the same name on the Yellow Line 3 of the Metro, you are spoiled for choice. Are you looking for clothing and shoes? All you need to do is enter the Alberta Ferretti, Armani, Bottega Veneta, Valentino, Salvatore Ferragano or the Fratelli Rossetti showrooms. Are you looking for jewelry, watches and precious stones? The windows of Cartier, Bulgari, Damiani, Audemars Piguet and Swatch are there at your disposal. Via Montenapoleone is just like you would imagine it, haughty and snobbish, where the old style goes hand in hand with concept stores.
Not to be missed: On Via Montenapoleone, since 1996, has its own shop windows a crystal boutique established in 1936, Vetrerie di Empoli. The shop of these glass merchants is divided into several themed rooms. In the Sala dei Bicchieri are fine glasses of every shape and color. In the Sala del Mercatino: Vintage della Tavola, are proposed Meissen and Limoges porcelain, lace, crystal, ivory and silver. In the Sala Primavera plain and colored glass. In the Sala del Natale, which is open from November to December, you’ll find fine blown glass ornaments for a truly unique Christmas.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele: La Rinascente and clothing by weight
After Piazza San Babila in the Piazza Duomo direction along Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, is one of the most prestigious shopping streets in Milan. With porticos on both sides and a central walkway, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II is a series of high fashion label shops one after the other, junior clothing and several intimate shop windows. Towards the end, at Piazza del Duomo, are the majestic shop windows of La Rinascente.
On the 11 floors occupied by the shopping center, you will find all the products you may need, from cosmetics to accessories for homes, as well as casual to elegant clothing: on the seventh floor, fully glazed with view of the steeples of the Duomo, there is a restaurant, Maio Restaurant, while on the very last floor Coppola’s hair salon.
Not to be missed: on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, is located in a very special shop, where fashion “has its weight.” It is a definitely glamorous shop, Kilofascion, where big label clothing is sold by weight, regardless of the brand: on the classic tag you will not see the cost of the item but the price per gram. Once done with you shopping, everything is weighed on a scale and you pay at the checkout counter.
Shopping in Via Dante, amongst literature and sport
Via Dante, between Piazza Duomo and the Castello Sforzesco, is a beautiful pedestrian street surrounded by shops and bars where you can enjoy drinks and lunch sitting outside.
In addition to the excellent clothing showrooms, the street looks on to shopping windows such as gift shops and art atelier and home accessories. Half way of Via Dante we find Via Rovello where the historic site of the Piccolo Teatro in Milan by Giorgio Strehler is located. At the end, you reach Largo Cairoli, where a very supplied international book store has its showcases, American Bookstore. Via Dante is one of the favorite tourist destinations for those who want to go shopping in the centre of Milan.
Not to be missed: one of the last commercial spaces opened in Via Dante is the flagship store by Le Coq Sportif, French sports label and urban-chic footwear shop. Worthy of note are the ladies’ dressing rooms on the second floor, which are covered with mosaics with the French flag colors.
Via Brera, where shops are jewels of art
On Via Brera, heart of shopping and nightlife in Milan, shops and showrooms are little jewels of art, starting from exclusive jewelry stores of handmade jewels, to antique shops.
On Via Brera there are very particular, delightful dealers, such as Cavalli and Nastri, where vintage reigns supreme, or the luxurious Brera Bau House, a real boutique for furry friends, with clothing, special foods (even organic) and very sophisticated accessories. At number 23 on Via Brera luxury and refinement reach their climax with L’Olfattorio – Bar à Parfum, a shop where amidst the scent of big fashion houses and artisan producers one can buy personalized fragrances.
Not to be missed: in the most fashionable street of Milan you can also find tidbits such as Rigadritto. It is a stationery store that offers items, notebooks, notepads, stickers, postcards, magnets, pencil boxes, vintage products from all over the world. A small space as big as Toyland.
Via Torino, young fashion and trendy clothing
Via Torino is the street for young shopping. It is one of the oldest streets of Milan, which has always been a shopping area: a time on the road opened several workshops, today it is a series of shopping windows of trendy and young clothing and bars always full of students and tourists.
The prices of clothing in Via Torino are varied. There is budget clothing at Oviesse, but also very expensive such as Levi Furs, perfumery shops such as Limoni and Bottega Verde, but also jewelry stores like Pryngeps, an exotic name, but totally Milanese. On Via Torino, between a window shop and another it is a must visit to the lovely church of Santa Maria in San Satyr, a Renaissance masterpiece by Bramante. Outside the church you come along windows of any kind until you reach the Carrobbio, an ancient transit piazza for horse-drawn carriages.
Not to be missed: at number 51 of Via Torino is located a Muji chain store. The singular thing about this store is the almost infinite range of products for sale: from picture frames to furniture, from pens to tableware, accessories for office and up to men and women wear, from nail clippers to shoes, from Christmas decorations to body care products.
Vintage shopping, destination: Navigli
At the end of Via Torino begins Via Cesare Correnti which then becomes Corso Genova. Along this route you come to the Navigli, another of the many shopping districts of Milan. The Navigli area is full of vintage shops, very casual teens clothing and military items suitable for punk shoppers and rockers, in the style of the 70s and the 80s, but also with splendid window shops of antique, atelier and art workshops. Losing oneself in these streets means savoring the taste of the old Milan, among courtyards to explore and corners where time seems to stand still.
Not to be missed: the apogee of vintage, second-hand, modern art and antiques (as well as the momentary and useless, yet always desirable items), you can find this in the two beautiful markets in the Navigli area: Fiera di Senigallia and Mercatone of Antiques. The Fiera, near Porta Genova metro station, is Milan’s flea market (only on Saturdays), with used clothing, used vinyl records, used bicycles, used tools, knick-knacks of all kinds, all strictly used. The Mercatone only takes place on the last Sunday of the month on the banks of Naviglio Grande: the pieces here offered are of great value, coming from the many art shops in the Navigli area, but also from private collections.
Corso Buenos Aires, 1 km of casual shopping
It is one of the main shopping streets of Milan. Throughout its kilometer in length between Porta Venezia and Piazzale Loreto, Corso Buenos Aires offers tourists and window shopping lovers just about everything.
Ask and you shall receive, from teen clothing to branded underwear, from shoes to shirts, from department stores to book stores. On Corso Buenos Aires it is impossible to park, but three subway stops of the Red Line 1, Loreto, Lima and Porta Venezia, can take you to the Land of milk and honey. It is definitely a very democratic street to do your shopping, in fact next to designer shops at fairly high prices, there are several where you can spend less, but still buy good quality.
Not to be missed: on Corso Buenos Aires, 49, De Bernardi has its shopping windows, a store that is more than one hundred years old. Behind the old style counter, in a fairly tight space, there is a great selection of underwear, socks, lingerie, gloves and hats much sought after, but also very creative. They range from sexy and provocative to classic, from provocative nude look to XL sizes. All signed by the best Brands, IBICI, Pierre Mantoux, Levante, Private Couture, Chantelle, Verdissima, Sciara.