The Fashion Insider’s Guide To Milan: Eat, Drink, & Play During MFW

Including the best pasta spots in town.

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milan travel guide

Although Sicily may have been the hotspot this past year, thanks to the White Lotus magic, Milan shines a bit brighter in September. Italy’s upcoming fashion week, which runs this year from Sept 19-25 sees the cobbled streets flooded with editors, influencers, and publicists, all running from show to show (often in heels, no less). But, it's during downtime — at night or between shows — that the city really turns on the charm.

Prepare yourself for an unending parade of pasta, pizza, and wine... it’s Italy after all. But, the city is also bursting with interesting art and architecture, often hidden just behind an intimidatingly large door or through an unexpected courtyard. You can visit the work of Leonardo da Vinci, and a short walk later arrive at Fondazione Prada, where you can walk through galleries of unexpected modern art and finish the day with a Negroni or hefty scoop of gianduia gelato. All this to say, it's a city that can please all of the senses.

Before you book your next visit, to take in the runway shows or just for your own enjoyment, you’ll want to bookmark these fashion-insider recommendations for everything from 5-star hotels to hole-in-the-wall lunch spots. And, of course, shopping.

Where To Stay

If you’re looking for a luxury experience, artist Jenny Walton recommends the 5-star Grand Hotel (and stop into jewelry store Gioielleria Pennisi on the ground floor if you have a chance). For a more affordable option, Roommate Giulia is her suggestion for its central location. “You can wake up and have breakfast at Marchesi in the galleria (and shop at Prada after).” If you prefer a modern approach, try Viu Hotel Milan, which is a bit further out from the city center, but has a sweeping view from the roof deck (and a pool). Publicist Federica Parruccini’s go-to is Hotel Senato, “there is also the best little backyard garden hideaway, where you can sit year-round for a drink or your morning coffee and newspapers. For me it’s an oasis from the MFW madness.”

Where To Eat Dinner

Da Giacomo is a favorite location for those who want to see and be seen during fashion week. Another favorite (albiet hidden) in the Brera neighborhood is La Latteria. A tip from Walton: “[There are] no reservations, so you need to get there early because it’s also super small.” For The Cut’s senior fashion writer Emilia Petrarca, it’s hard to go wrong in Milan, but she stands by an insider secret. “Publicists at Prada recommended Cantina della Vetra when I started going five years ago, and I trust their taste more than anyone,” she says. “I've gone every visit since. It's nothing fancy, but that's why I like it. They also have tables outside in a public square, and I once saw someone get slapped. Classic!”

La Specialita is one of Parruccini’s top picks if you’re visiting the city, especially if you have special dietary needs. “It’s an extensive menu, and they are always accommodating with amendments to any dish, which can be hard to find in Milan,” she says. “It is family-owned, and by extension, the owners and staff treat you like family. This is one of my favorite things about Milan... every restaurant has a distinct familial vibe, and makes the city feel like home.” She also recommends Rugantino, a Roman restaurant that she suggests for big groups.

Where To Eat Lunch

Pasta seems to be the theme du jour when it comes to lunchtime (it is Italy after all). “I probably shouldn't be telling you this because there are only a few tables, but Pasta Fresca Brambilla,” says Petrarca. The last time I went, the woman who makes the pasta served it to me straight from the kitchen.“ For Walton, popping into a hotel mid-day is a must. “I love a good spaghetti pomodoro at the Bulgari hotel or the Armani has great pasta, too,” she says. If you’re feeling more of a pizza vibe, Parruccini suggests Papermoon. “Why can’t we eat pizza this way for lunch in America?,” she says. “In Milan I’ll eat a whole pie, have a small glass of wine, and be in the front row greeting press an hour later, no worse for wear.”

Where To Drink

“Everyone is going to tell you Bar Basso, and they're not wrong,” says Petrarca of the Milan bar where the Negroni was first invented. “It may seem gimmicky, but it's worth it.” If you’re looking for a drink with a view, Walton suggests the upstairs bar at the Armani hotel for a sunset drink. Head to Cracco if you’re near the duomo, and the pastry shop Marchesi is a favorite for snacks and a drink in-between shows.

Where To Stop For A Coffee Between Shows

While great for evening drinks, Marchesi is also a favorite for visitors for a morning coffee. Petrarca suggests visiting the Prada Marchesi by the duomo. “It's like going for tea at the Plaza, only make it Prada (and Italian),” she says. If you’re in need of an afternoon or evening espresso (Italians typically take milk in their morning coffee, but stick to straight-up after 11 a.m.), check out Biancolatte. “It’s a new spot, and it’s open from morning until night,” says Parruccini. “It’s very Italian and you won’t find any Americans.”

Where To Shop

Milan is a city for shoppers. While there are the iconic Italian brands like Gucci, Prada, and Bottega Veneta to pay visits to, the city also boasts a healthy selection of great vintage. “Try Cavalli e Nastri or Madame Pauline,” suggests Walton. 10 Corso Como (and its outlet) are also popular destinations. A final hot tip from Petrarca: “For gifts, I also go to the top floor of la Rinascente mall, where they have nice packaged foods that are easy to throw in a suitcase.”

Where To Sightsee

The Fondazione Prada is a must-see if you have some extra time in the city, according to both Petrarca and Walton. You can also pop into Bar Luce, the attached cafe that was designed by Wes Anderson. “Depending on how much time you have, you can take a quick trip to [Lake] Como for lunch,” suggests Parruccini. “It’s 20 minutes by train. When you get there, hop in a cab and go right to Villa d'Este for a nice glass of wine or wander around the town; it’s so beautiful and peaceful.”

Where To Find A Moment Of Zen

When Walton needs a break, she heads to Parco Sempione or Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli “There are some large areas for dogs to run free so you can have some great dog-watching,” she says. Petrarca turns to the zen of luxury when she’s in need of some downtime. “The Bulgari Hotel,” she suggests. “I could never afford to stay here, but their garden is tucked away and incredibly luxurious.” Parruccini also suggests visiting La Vigna di Leonardo, a hidden vineyard behind a home where Leonardo Da Vinci lived while painting The Last Supper. She says, “it’s probably the most beautiful place in Milan.” If all else fails, you can always relax with a plate of fresh pasta and a glass of red wine.

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