An Insider's Guide to the Best Things to See and Do in Milan

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Osteria del CastelloPhotography by Simon

The three sisters at the helm of Italian luxury brand Attilio Giusti Leombruni give us a guided tour of their favourite spots

TextMaisie SkidmorePhotographySimonPhotographic EditorHolly Hay

To Vera, Sara and Mariana Giusti, the three sisters at the helm of Italian luxury brand Attilio Giusti Leombruni, the city of Milan (or rather, as they musically pronounce it, 'Milano') has always been synonymous with fashion. As children growing up Northern Italy's rural Montegranaro region, where their grandfather and the brand’s founder Piero Giusti first established his family-run business, trips to the Italian city meant glamour. “Because we come from the countryside, Milano became kind of a window to the world,” they explain over the phone from their head office, their heavily accented voices so alike that they are utterly indistinguishable from one another. “It’s kind of a contrast for us – it gives us a chance to get inspiration from outside of our normal way of living.” 

The city also provided a certain voyeuristic pleasure in observing the sartorial codes of Milanese women, whose happy embrace of luxury and infallible attention to detail has endowed the city with a long established reputation of its own. “When we were children there was an idea of Italian fashion, and that impressed us so much – Milano is such elegant city, so it has its own fashion – and of course now, we are a little part of it.”

The city’s style codes – “cashmere coats, leather gloves, beautiful shoes” as they delineate it – and the Milanese woman who wears them so well continue to underpin everything the sisters do today, not least in AGL’s uncompromising focus on luxury materials and a high-quality finish. “Of course she [the Milanese woman] inspired us, and she continues to inspire us,” they say. “It’s interesting because we’re always travelling to Milano – I came back yesterday, for example – and the most interesting thing for us is to look at people, to see what they are wearing, to see how they style themselves. We cannot avoid it.”

Nowadays the sisters travel extensively, of course. Last week they were in Moscow, and they love to visit Japan. Even so, Milan remains something of an anchor for them. “It really is a very elegant place, and the women in the streets are so elegant.” Here, they select eight destinations any self-respecting tourist should be sure to tick off, from the church which houses Da Vinci's The Last Supper to the best gelato spot in the whole city.

1. Thumb through an out-of-print fashion magazine at La Biblioteca della Moda

‘Fashion’ and ‘library’ aren’t words which are often found together – all too often the former is assigned to high-energy shows, and the latter a place of quiet study – but a visit to Milan’s Biblioteca della Moda aptly demonstrates that they should. This extraordinary private archive is dedicated entirely to fashion press, housing more than 60,000 titles, thanks to one mystery benefactor. Is there anything more satisfying, in an increasingly digital age, than thumbing through the crumbling pages of a vintage magazine? The biblioteca is a veritable treasure trove of inspiration for storied brands such as AGL, which has been running since 1958. “A great paper heritage, that is so rare to come across!” they note.

2. Go window shopping at East Market in Lambrate

Is there any better way to discover the true identity of a new place than to dig through rails of vintage clothes in a flea market-style setting? The Giusti sisters emphatically single out Lambrate’s East Market as the ultimate destination for “very street style shopping!” Placing the work of skilled artisans next to vintage pieces, furniture, records, it promises a truly Italian experience, from people-watching to perusing stalls between espresso stops.

3. See Da Vinci’s L’Ultima Cena at Santa Maria delle Grazie

“A great masterpiece from the Italian Renaissance that no one should miss!” say the Giusti sisters of Da Vinci’s extraordinary The Last Supper – the 15th century mural which has become the great master's legacy – especially when in his country of birth. Its home in the refectory of the spectacular Santa Maria delle Grazie, one of Milan's most beautiful convents, has become a mecca for aficionados of the High Renaissance, and will provide a welcome moment of reflection in an otherwise chaotic urban city.

4. Visit the ultimate art warehouse, Hangar Bicocca

“Hangar Bicocca is real art oasis, one which has arisen from an ancient fabrics market,” the Giusti sisters explain. Previously a factory space, today it is dedicated to art of all varieties, from permanent exhibitions to large-scale installations so towering that they scrape even this most lofty of ceilings.

5. Source the rarest fragrances at perfume bar Profumo

“The best bar à parfums!” exclaim Vera, Sara and Mariana of Profumo – a recommendation which is enticing enough in and of itself to have us wanting to find out more, even before we learn about its specialism in rare perfumery brands. “I love to spend my free time in this special perfume shop looking for uncommon fragrances for me and my sisters. They also customise the packaging label thanks to a collaboration with Le Labo, making it perfect for special birthday gifts.”

6. Taste the ultimate in Italian Gelateria Marghera

A visit to Italy is incomplete without gelato, and there’s no better spot to check that box than at Gelateria Marghera, the city’s most famous parlour, a new branch of which has also now opened in Tokyo so global is its appeal. “We love it not only for the delicious ice-cream, but also for the great example of artisan tradition and innovation mixed together,” say the sisters.

7. Grab a light lunch at Suri

Suri is, in the words of the Giusti sisters, “the newest sushi bar in town, mixing up food and events in a special hipster style”. Enjoy an aperitif while taking in a photography exhibition, or looking on curiously at the pop-up stands.

8. Osteria del Castello

“The Osteria del Castello is a courtyard built in the 1300s, situated just outside the centre of Milano. There is a restaurant offering typical Italian food, and a cute antiques market where to find unique pieces.” Need we say more?