Often called the Chicago of Italy — to Rome’s New York — Milan is a world capital of fashion and design, and whose very name inspired the English word “millinery” for women’s hats.
Combining Old World luxury with every sleek, modern convenience, the five-star Hotel Principe Di Savoia graces the Piazza della Repubblica like the grande dame of a Visconti movie set in the 1920s. Only no stuffy dowager, she: Her lobby is the sort of lively spot one might except to find AC Milan’s David Beckham checking in — or being checked out. The intricately tiled bathrooms boast oversized Acqua di Parma soaps, shampoos and lotions, while the regal bedding is so plush that you may run the risk of sleeping through your fashion show.
+39 02 62301
Fit for a Prince
Granted, we’re biased. But stepping outside the neo-Classical Hotel Principe Di Savoia leaves us feeling like we’re abandoning Shangri-La, so any excuse to remain within its borders is welcome. Besides the Winter Garden Bar, a repeat retreat is the Club 10 Fitness & Beauty Center, atop the all-knowing hotel. Except for the complicated, hi-tech locker security device in the dressing room, this is the gym of your dreams. The pool overlooks the city, while the star-lit grotto housing the sauna and steam room is worthy of Fellini. Massages and other treatments available by appointment, as are couples’ packages.
Piazza della Repubblica
+39 02 62301
Hard to believe, but even with the dollar in its depressed state there are still enviable bargains to be found at FoxTown Factory Stores, in Mendrisio, Switzerland, just over the border via rental car or special bus from your hotel. Among the dozens of outlets are those for Armani, Bally, Burberry, Diesel, Fendi, Ferragamo, and Valentino. Our happiest finds: at Gucci, where the classic men’s loafers in three shades of suede, $500 stateside, were $239. Ladies’ Gucci bags: $250 here, $1,200 at home. You, too, may have to be dragged away, kicking and screaming.
A. Maspoli 18
+41 0848 828 888
Being so close to Modeno, we were dispatched to Peck for balsamic vinegar, where the top-of-the-line, in-store brand sold for $80 a bottle. And what a store — a worthy rival to London’s Harrods Food Halls. The Peck name, established in 1883, also drew us to Cracco-Peck, said to the best restaurant in Milan for business lunches and dinners. No skimping, either, when it comes to desserts or the magnificent wine list.
Via Victor Hugo, off Via Orefici
+41 02876 774
Take two high-profile tastemakers, combine their names and place inside the monolithic, white stone Armani World on Via Manzoni, and you’re at Armani/Nobu. Favorite dishes among the ultra-chic clientele: black cod in miso sauce, downed with sake accented with gold leaf. Reservations necessary.
Via Pisoni 1
+41 02 6231 2645.
Best Pizza Trattoria
Perhaps it’s the fresh ingredients, or the lack of preservatives, or possibly even all the walking we did to get there, but after several days of devouring various of the 86 toppings at Pizza OK, we hadn’t gained an ounce. The homespun hospitality and reasonable prices were the icing on the pie. Cash only, but worth the inconvenience.
Via Lambro 15
+41 02 2940 1272
It took five centuries, starting in 1386, to construct the city’s giant gothic cathedral, the Duomo, so give yourself at least an hour to explore it — or longer, if you wish to attend a service. Mark Twain wrote of its beauty: “What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful!” Reminder: Modest dress is the order of the day; no bare arms and shoulders, and mind the length of your skirt.
Piazza del Duomo
+39 02 8646 3456
Because of the enormous demand to see DaVinci’s The Last Supper, inside the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, booking tickets well in advance of your visit is mandatory — unless your hotel concierge is extremely well-connected. A call to him in advance of your trip is suggested, as is the expression, “When I arrive, I look forward to thanking you personally for your trouble.” Otherwise, there is an official Italy Tourism Web site to assist with reservations.
Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie 2
+ 39 02 8942 1146
Dating back to 1778, Teatro alla Scala — or, La Scala — begins its season Dec. 7, St. Ambrose’s Day, in honor of the patron saint of Milan. Other traditions worth heeding: All performances must end before midnight, which can prompt early curtain times for longer works. Also be warned: Once a performance has started, latecomers will not be seated. As for procuring tickets, there’s always the box office, but, as with any popular tourist site — and this one even has a strong appeal for the locals — demand is great. See advice above for the Last Supper on how your hotel concierge might be convinced to lend a hand in landing a treasured ticket to La Scala.
Via Filodrammatici 2
+39 0288 791
Lake Como is as scenic as it can get, and makes for a wonderful day trip from Milan. This glacial lake, one of the deepest in Europe, prompted Shelly to write in 1818: “It is long and narrow, and has the appearance of a mighty river winding among the mountains and the forests.” Little has changed since. A stroll along the shore is therapeutic, whether you’re simply gazing at the mountainside funicular railway, contemplating a ferry ride, or guessing which of the gorgeous waterside villas belongs to George Clooney. We’re still waiting for our invitation, too.