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The name Isola (meaning island) says it all. Set apart from the rest of the city, this district hosts alternative-chic nightlife for fabulous, cosy evenings.
The real surprise in Milan, even for locals, is a historic district that has changed its look completely. After the war, it was referred to as Isola because it was enclosed between two railroads and had an identity of its own (no actual sand beaches or water at this island). Today, this lively neighbourhood has a sort of dual personality; While still a bit “underground”, it also gets increasingly fashionable as you walk towards the skyscrapers of the nearby Porta Nuova area and the pedestrian streets of Corso Como and Corso Garibaldi. The perfect district for an evening spent strolling around the city, from the historical centre through the urban transformation of the last decade – bar after bar, restaurant after restaurant.
Not so far from the historic centre you’ll find spectacular nightlife. Corso Garibaldi is a pedestrian street and in the summer, it’s not unusual to see hundreds (maybe thousands?!) of people wandering around with a drink in hand. In winter, there’s a continuous flow of young groups going from one bar to another – one of those stops often being Radetzky, a classic spot loved by celebrities. It’s great for an aperitif or an after-dinner drink, as well as its neighbour across the street, the Chinese Box – an emerging, Chinese-run place with an always busy, well-equipped bar. A little further on, you can have dinner at the Osteria del Brunello, a modern trattoria with an endless wine list based on Tuscan wines. Take note: their veal chop is one of the best in Milan.
Moving up corso Garibaldi, you reach a tall ornate arch which welcomes those arriving on foot from the centre. Named Porta Garibaldi, it was once a customs duty station along the path leading to the lakes. Eataly, a huge store selling all ‘Made in Italy’ products, is on one side of the square. Enter for a shopping spree of pasta, risotto and jams as a souvenir. The Alice restaurant on the top floor has a Michelin star and is perfect for lovers of fish and of gourmet cuisine in general. If you are interested in design, High Tech is another well-known spot is in Piazza Venticinque Aprile, where they sell unnecessary but cool odds and ends for the home.
In the evening Corso Como is filled with young people in the mood to party, it’s a fun atmosphere on the short stretch of road where you can watch passers-by or stop to visit Corso Como 10, the concept store including art galleries, a boutique hotel, a Café and a bookstore (a must in our opinion!). A little further up is a noteworthy location from a gastronomic point of view: La Griglia di Varrone (the place for true meat lovers and the best in town).
Leaving the Moschino and Louboutin boutiques behind, you can reach the area encompassing the skyscrapers which make up Milan new skyline. Late into the evening you can still grab a coffee at the Moleskine café or have a look at the Feltrinelli bookstore, but if you turn right you can continue your walk through the district. On one side, you can cross the bridge towards Piazza Alvar Aalto, and stop for dinner at the contemporary Mexican restaurant Besame Mucho or at the starred restaurant Berton (satisfaction guaranteed). On the other side, you descend along the Luigi Veronelliverso promenade towards the Isola District – frequented by radical-chic locals between 20 and 50 years old.
The Isola district as it used to be has almost disappeared, at least in terms of shops and restaurants that no longer exist. But the new look is extremely charming. One restaurant is Ratanà, a modern trattoria perfect for a risotto with Osso Buco (known as braised veal, and a must for those visiting Milan). Then the new Botanical Club, the city’s first gin micro distillery where you can indulge in a delicious cocktail, or the recent Wooding Bar, for cuisine based on wild ingredients collected in the outskirts of Milan. For those who want to keep it simple, there is the wonderful pizza of Berberè (perhaps the best pizza of your life). But, we mustn’t leave out the Osteria dal Verme, a very typical and rustic trattoria that has been here since 1944 with a nearly unchanged menu over the last twenty years… and one of the last outposts of old Milan in the area still standing.
The best veal steak and good Tuscan wine.
The most popular concept store in Milan. Take a look at the library dedicated to fashion.
Just for meat lovers, order a great steak and smoked mashed potatoes.
The one star Michelin restaurant of chef Andrea Berton. Elegant and refined, for a special evening dedicated entirely to dinner.
Modern restaurant for local cuisine. The dish to try is the risotto with Osso Buco – which is always on the menu.
The perfect place for a gin and tonic as both the ingredients are their own home-made versions.
A real, simple trattoria, with specialties from Lombardy, including in-season truffles.
A sourdough pizza base and quality ingredients. One of the best in town (and Italy).