The AnOther Guide to... Milan

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Fondazione Prada, Milan
Carsten Höller, Upside Down Mushroom Room, 2000 at Fondazione Prada, MilanVia @fondazioneprada

Vintage shops, contemporary art and the best spot for a negroni sbagliato in Milan, according to Ana Kinsella

Introducing a new series of alternative city guides, specially curated for the cultivated traveller.

It may be hard to believe, but there’s more to Milan than fashion weeks, big-name brands, industrial design and heaving bowls of pasta. It’s a city the melds a rich history and artistic lineage with an eye on progress. And it’s the perfect place to spend an indulgent weekend, with your days devoted to trawling through galleries, sipping Campari cocktails and hunting out incredible food. Around the Via Tortona you’ll find converted factories that house modern art and live music, and across town in the heart of the most expensive and fashionable neighbourhoods are vintage stores with beautiful dresses you might actually be able to afford.

A morning train from London will see you there by dinnertime – isn’t it time you paid Milan a visit?

1. Fondazione Prada

Now a new stalwart of Milan’s contemporary art scene, Fondazione Prada is worth a visit even if only for Rem Koolhaas’ architectural work. Housed in a regenerated gin distillery, it’s an example of how the city’s design culture can begin to look forward, rather than simply bathing in the glories of the past. Largo Isarco, 2, 20139.

2. Zona Tortona

Via Tortona runs through the heart of Milan’s design district, taking in Armani/Silos, the brand’s fashion and art exhibition space and Mudec, the museum of culture, among others. And as you’d expect, it has a healthy amount of achingly cool bars and restaurants, too. Where London has Bold Tendencies and Frank’s Cafe, Milan has Base – a ‘factory of ideas’, or collaborative space for art, music and aperitifs. Here, the incredibly stylish come to take in culture, chat, look longingly at each other and generally have a good time. Outside there are food trucks, deckchairs and live music, but come prepared for queues and an admission fee on busy weekend evenings.

3. Hotel nhow

Perfectly placed for gallery-hopping in the Tortona design district, nhow is a boutique design hotel in a converted electrics factory. Come for the impressive modern rooms and cosmopolitan location, but stay for the excellent people-watching you’ll do in the art-filled lobby. Via Tortona, 35, 20144.

4. Bar Basso

What would a weekend in Milan be without a trip to Bar Basso? They say the negroni sbagliato was created here, when the bartender supposedly accidentally reached for the prosecco instead of the gin while making a standard negroni. Don’t bother with a seat – find a spot to lean at the bar and keep an eye out for the minor celebrities of the city’s well-heeled design scene while you sip your Campari. Via Plinio, 39, 20020.

5. Brera vintage shops

There is a certain kind of vintage shop that dreams are made of: a little tucked-away treasure trove where everything glitters, everything fits and everything cries out to be bought. Brera, the beautiful district where you’ll find many of Milan’s best shops, is full of them. There’s even a small trail to follow, starting at the wondrous Il Cameo on Via S. Carpoforo, where the ladies will give you a map to lead you to the next shop. It’s also a reminder of the city’s glorious fashion history, beyond the big names you might think of first: technicolour print dresses, one-of-a-kind elaborate jackets and pleats the likes of which you’ve never seen. Start at Il Cameo, Via S. Carpoforo, 6, 20121.

6. Boccino

For a late night amaro (check the impressive selection behind the bar) or an early evening aperitif over a game of bocce. Join Tortona’s well-dressed young professionals as they clock off for after-work drinks at Boccino, a gorgeous corner bar-slash-restaurant adjoining a bocce court. Via Tortona, 21, 20144.


It wouldn’t be right to leave the city without making time for a little Italian designer fashion. DMAG is the must-visit designer outlet where you’ll find everything from classic Missoni bikinis to that unforgettable Prada piece that disappeared just before payday. Branches around Milan.

8. Trattoria Del Nuovo Macello 

Rather than becoming overwhelmed by the sheer availability of perfect Milanese cuisine available, head straight to the top tier. Trattoria Del Nuovo Macello serves simple but excellent traditional and regional food, in classic Italian surroundings – saffron risotto, veal cotoletta and tiramisu. Exactly what you’ll want after a long day taking in the city’s sights. Via. C. Lombroso, 20, 20137.