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Milan has been described as grey, frenetic, foggy - almost like its citizens. But let’s face it, only the real Milanese truly know how to appreciate their city.
Milan has always been the undisputed capital of fashion and design, as well as the economic power of Italy, but tourists have often overlooked it in favour of popular destinations like Rome, Florence and Venice. With the Expo 2015, however, something changed. While Milan does not exactly evoke the stereotypical Dolce Vita image, with Vespas whizzing past chequered tablecloths outside trattorie, it certainly is a trendy city. Despite the city’s old-fashioned soul, it has always searched for the latest styles and made room for modern skyscrapers, becoming Italy’s most international city – and in the end, everybody loves it.
The historic centre is a shining beacon: one where people stroll along the long Darsena dock to have a drink, where visitors queue until late afternoon for exhibitions outside the Palazzo Reale in Piazza Duomo, and where cafés, restaurants and fashion boutiques line the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. The vibrant and renowned Design Week has become just as popular as the exclusive Fashion Week, and it represents a special moment of celebration for everyone.
New emerging districts (once considered suburban) such as Isola, China Town and Ventura Lambrate are attracting young students and families, cars are being replaced by bicycles, supermarkets are open 24/7 – a true innovation. Brunch, natural wine, craft beer, avocado toast, and gin & tonic are global trends that found home here earlier than in the rest of the country, with great success.
What about a true saffron risotto or the ritual of the aperitivo? For nearly half a century, people from around Italy have been coming to live in Milan, and today they come from even further afield. This influx has allowed ethnic and regional restaurants to prosper, along with a variety of food from every corner of the peninsula. It is not unusual to see a Sicilian restaurant next to a Middle Eastern one.
Today, to follow the trends and feel like a local, you can eat a pizza (as long as it is gourmet) or the fusion cuisine of a young Michelin-starred chef, stroll in Paolo Sarpi holding a Chinese take-away, spend a Sunday afternoon between an exhibition and a coffee at a famous patisserie or enjoy regional street food: Sicilian cannoli or Ligurian-style focaccia? Here are the places that everybody is talking about.
Considered by many the best pizza in Milan. Whole wheat flour, slow rising dough, high-quality ingredients.
Pizzas are served in a tasting mode, i.e. one at a time, already sliced to be shared with friends.
The true Ligurian cheese focaccia since 1885, from the town of Recco, with extra virgin olive oil and Stracchino cheese, baked in copper pans. The classic one is probably the best, wrapped in a sheet of wax paper, it can be eaten while walking in the streets of the historic centre.
Japanese cuisine, former sous-chef Massimo Bottura, a Michelin-starred restaurant serving up a twist on Italian cuisine. The 6-course tasting menu, “Italy meets Japan” is a summary of the chef’s philosophy. Just add a plate of super classic tortellini in capon broth.
Sweet street food. Cannoli are freshly stuffed – choose from classic goat ricotta cheese, candied orange peel, chocolate chips and fried wafer … but, no light versions.
Historical Milanese bakery, owned by the Prada group and now with a new look and new locations in via Montenapoleone and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Elegant and refined, perfect to try traditional Panettone or Amor Polenta, a typical Milanese cake made with corn flour.
Lunch break with a delicious pizza, in a contemporary setting designed by John Pawson.