The fashion expert's guide: Daniel Lindström in Milan
The biggest city in Northern Italy offers a number of hidden treasures.
A heavenly restaurant
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While you might suspect it’s a tourist trap based on the location along a busy downtown side street in Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, the easy access is a huge advantage. Conveniently situated just a stone’s throw from the Duomo di Milano cathedral, this authentic pizzeria is truly special.
Since A Santa Lucia, which opened back in 1929, occupies an area that was formerly the home of many theaters and cinemas, it’s served as a favorite watering hole for many of Milan’s best actors and actresses. The decor is a testament to its storied history – elegant wood-paneled walls, framed portraits of Italian celebrities, rustic furniture, and elegant white tablecloths.
I’ve traveled to Milano regularly for almost 25 years and always eat at A Santa Lucia, sometimes even more than once a day. I usually order the simplest of dishes: spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, and chili peppers. At times, that’s all you need for the perfect meal.
Trendy coffee shop
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As coffee drinking is practically a holy ritual in Italy, every person in Milan has their favorite coffee house. Mine’s called Orsonero and is located in the Porto Venezia/Buenos Aires neighborhood in the northeastern part of the city, about a 15-minute walk from the central train station. This lively bar, with its whitewashed walls and simple wooden tables, was opened by a Canadian, Brent Jopson, and his Italian wife, Giulia Gasperini, in 2016.
In the morning, there is a long line of regular patrons outside the door waiting to order a “cornetto”, a bread roll with a creamy cappuccino. Although the idea used to be considered blasphemy in Italy, since Orsonero is a modern coffee shop, you can order cappuccinos to your heart’s desire all day long.
So what exactly makes Orsonero’s coffee so special? One of the secrets is that they use a special roast from Rubens Gardelli instead of the typical Italian blend of Arabica and Robusta beans.
The museum of design
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Several of Italy’s most famous architects and furniture designers either came from Milan or worked in the city, for example, Giò Ponti, Vico Magistretti, Ettore Sottsass, and Achille Castiglioni. You can learn more about the latter (1918–2002) by visiting the designer’s studio on the Piazza Castello, which has been reconfigured into a museum.
His catalog is extraordinary – full of modern classics like the iconic Flos “Arco” lamp and the Zanotta “Mezzadro” and “Sella” stools, which were inspired by a tractor seat and bicycle seat, respectively. The objects, which were created in this studio over 50 years ago, are still in production today. The Achille Castiglioni Foundation is run by the designer’s daughter and son, Giovanna and Carlo. Make sure you book an appointment in advance.
10 Corso Como Bookstore
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When gallerist and fashion editor Carla Sozzani opened 10 Corso Como in 1990, she managed to create a novel shopping experience that later served as a prototype for so-called multi-brand shops such as Collette in Paris and Dover Street Market in London.
Today, the concept of a carefully curated assortment of designer clothing doesn’t carry the same weight since you can order almost anything over the Internet, but 10 Corso Como is nonetheless always worth a visit, especially if you take the “secret” stairway inside the building to the room behind the art gallery. This is where you’ll find “La Libreria”, a book store that’s a veritable treasure trove for anyone with a passion for design, art, architecture, or photography. While the prices are a little on the high side, you can find every single issue of Franca Sozzani’s Vogue Italia and limited, out-of-print editions of the editor’s favorite photographers: Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, and Horst P. Horst. I always come here, stay for hours, and leave the bookshop with slightly lighter pockets.
An architectural treasure
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The first time I visited Villa Necchi Campiglio was many years ago when the designer Tod’s was presenting its latest shoe collection during Men’s Fashion Week. Nothing against rubber-studded moccasins, but this house is far more fascinating.
Your first thought when approaching the entrance, which is discretely tucked away in a quiet neighborhood near the bustling Corso Venezia, is that the building looks straight out of a movie – and you would be correct as the villa played a major role in Luca Guadagnino’s epic drama I Am Love (2010) and Ridley Scott’s landmark biopic House of Gucci (2021).
The villa was designed by Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi and erected in stages from 1932 to 1935 for the Necchis, a family of Lombardy entrepreneurs who amassed a fortune in the sewing machine industry. Reflecting a painstaking obsession with perfection and elegant detail, it’s one of the first examples of rationalism in Italian architecture. The home is surrounded by a verdant garden and even has a tennis court and the first heated pool in Milan. Villa Necchi Campiglio has been a museum since 2008 and is included on the “Case Museo di Milano” (historic homes of Milan) website.
Wes Anderson’s bar
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This charming bar, located in the middle of Fondazione Prada, a modern art museum housed inside an old remodeled distillery designed by the famous Dutch architects OMA and Rem Koolhas, has become a favorite destination by its own right.
The premises were designed by director Wes Anderson (The Life Aquatic and The Grand Budapest Hotel), who created a cheeky mix of 1950s-era Milanese coffee houses and scenography from his own movies. Pastel-colored leather furniture, retro jukeboxes, and pinball machines decorate the space around the expansive bar counter, where you can order tantalizing pastries and brioches filled with tomatoes and mozzarella.
The lighted pink terrazzo tile and the ceiling, wallpapered with a minuscule version of Milan’s iconic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, make your head almost spin. There’s so much to feast your eyes on.
You can also enter Bar Luce directly from Via Orobia outside of the museum’s opening hours.
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Milan is the best place in the world to buy designer clothing. You’ll find the flagship stores of every brand imaginable within a few short blocks of one another on the Via Monte Napoleone shopping boulevard.
If you’re into vintage fashion, you’ll need to venture a little farther from the downtown area, but I promise it’s worth the extra effort as you’ll feel like you’re on a veritable treasure hunt. One priceless gem is Madame Pauline Vintage on Foro Buonaparte, near the Renaissance fortress, Castello Sforzesco, and Sempione Park. The place looks more like a Parisian parlor from the swinging 60s than a stuffy second-hand store. The items, which include clothing, shoes, purses, and jewelry, are carefully curated and restored to perfection.
As an added bonus, you may even find designer fashion wear from Valentino, which offers rebates on brand new clothing to customers who donate clothing here.
Text by Daniel Lindström