As trips to Italy are planned for the spring and summer, many visitors will be flying into Milan and more than a few are already dreaming about shopping in the fashion capital of the world. The city’s love of beautiful things dates back to the Renaissance and can be seen all over Milan in its churches, cafés, store windows and displays, as well as art exhibitions, such as those at found at the Armani Silos and Fondazione Prada.
Although it may appear obvious, the best way to take in Milan for shopping is on foot. Soak up the sights, stop for coffee in a little place along the way and take a few lessons in style from the people you see. In this article, we provide addresses of many of the places and for convenience, we put the street number ahead of the street name. Please note that if you look up locations in Italy, addresses are given with the number at the end, rather than the beginning.
Walk along Corso Magenta and around the Sant’Ambrogio area. Stop for an espresso or cappuccino at Pasticceria Marchesi at 11 a Via Santa Maria alla Porta. For shopping, Figus Design at 31 Corso Magenta is great for handbags, while the philosophy at the Wait and See boutique at 14 Via Santa Marta is la vita è bella or ‘life is beautiful.’ It is located in a former convent from the 18th century in Milan’s historic Cinque Vi, but the styles are anything but dated!
Milan’s Quadrilatero d’Oro or Quadrilatero della Moda, the “Golden Quad,” is a quadrangle of luxury fashion boutiques where some of the most famous Italian designers still live and work today. During the Medieval period it was a world of convents and cloisters, but by the turn of the 20th century, it was an upscale area where upper middle class families lived beside aristocrats.
Giorgio Armani’s first store, which opened in 1983 was located at 9 Via Sant’Andrea. Take your time when visiting the new location at 31 Via Manzoni, browsing its four floors where “King Giorgio’ describes that the past is woven with the future.
When it comes to timeless style in custom-made apparel, the Kiton store at 11 Via Gesu, is the place where well-heeled and well-dressed men shop. Their international clients claim that it is the best suit that money can buy.
Head for Piazza Duomo and the unmistakable Basilica of the Nativity of Saint Mary. The impressive Gothic cathedral took almost six centuries to complete and while there is no shopping there, it is nearby the elegant 19th century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Long known as the city’s salotto, or living room, it is where stylish Milanese meet and stop off at its bars and restaurants. It is here that Miuccia Prada’s grandfather Mario opened his luxury luggage store. Go downstairs and you can see original accessories that are now displayed in glass cabinets.
Nearby, la Rinascente is the well-known department store that has been open since 1865 on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. You will also find many high-end designer stores along the street, as well as along Via Torino. The latter leads to Corso di Porta Ticinese, which is known its eclectic boutiques and trend conscious streetwear shops.
To the west of Porta Ticinese is the old network of canals in the Navigli district. There are far more shops lining the canals than barges. It is home to small charming boutiques, art galleries, bars and bistros. You will step into a world of vintage oddities and unique finds. One favorite among locals is Pourquoi Moi at 7 Via Mario Fusetti, which sells vintage 1960’s and 70s clothing, shoes and handbags.
For the budget conscious, a stop at Bivio, 4 Via Gian Giacomo is often a revelation. When Milan’s most fashionable crowd cleans out their closets, its goes straight to Bivio. It is perhaps the only consignment shop where a Prada dress from two seasons ago will sell for a Dress Barn price. It is worth rolling up your sleeves to dig through its overflowing racks if bargains are what you seek.
Milan also has some fantastic shops where you can find clothing from lesser-known names such as Pirovano and Roberta di Camerino for accessories. Although you may might not have heard of them, you will find the same high-quality craftsmanship and materials that Italy is famous for.
Popular with artists and writers, the Brera district embraces a distinctly Bohemian style. There you will find Pinacoteca di Brera, the city’s art gallery. Wandering the surrounding streets will reveal plenty of antique shops, galleries and boutiques to explore and the vintage shop Cavalli e Nastri at 2 Via Brera is one to consider for your list. Mondays and Thursdays mornings, the San Marco Market along Via San Marco is a great place to browse for cashmere, shoes and bags and nearby Via Solferino has some lovely boutiques. For vintage jewelry, you may want to try Demaldè at 22 Via Ponte Vetero. Madame Pauline Vintage at 74 Foro Buonaparte has a nicely curated collection of vintage dresses, shoes, jewelry and handbags displayed in an elegant setting.
Milan is not only a fashion capital, it is also the Italian city of design. Corso Como 10 is not only the address, but the name of Milan’s first concept store, opened by Carla Sozzani over thirty years ago. Its clothing collections reflect the latest styles and it also has an art gallery and an excellent bookshop that specializes in fashion titles. Nearby is Laboratorio Paravicini at 8 Via Nerino, with their unique hand-painted designs for porcelain.
No mention of shopping in Milan is complete without mentioning the Serravalle Designer Outlet. Located an hour’s drive away, it is Europe’s largest shopping outlet with 240 stores, including Armani, Bvlgari, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Gucci, Moschino, Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Swarovski, Tod’s and Versace, plus many boutique stores. This massive outlet is set up like a small village, where discounts from 30 to 70% are offered year round. It is located at 1 Via della Moda in Serravalle Scrivia.
As the day of shopping nears its end, do like the Milanese do and go for an aperitivo. If you are staying for a few days, it is also a great excuse to wear your new purchases. Terrazza Aperol in Piazza Duomo, located right next to the Duomo has amazing views. The Porta Venezia area is always popular, while LùBar at 18 Via Palestro is set in a neoclassical villa and has Sicilian street food on the menu, elegantly bringing together the north and south of Bel Paese. Who could ask for more?