1. Delicatessen in the Peck Gift Box
No matter where you live, whenever you think of Italy, food is one of those things you may want to experiment if you come around and share with friends and relatives once home. The time sufficient to meet your need for trying all that Italy can offer might be too long, though, unless you come to Milan and enter Peck, one of the most ancient food halls in town where local produce are presented and served with the same care you would expect in a boutique. Specialties at Peck's include Italian ham, pasta, olives, oil, over 100 cheeses and Piedmont white truffles.
Choose those you like best or those inspiring you more and put them in your “gift box”. Gift boxes can be customized and include either Italian saffron and rice to try some special Milanese Risotto once home, or Cabanon’s Bonarda and Franciacorta Pas Operé Bellavista if you want to taste some of the best regional wines.
Should you opt for the Milanese Risotto, be aware that Superfino Carnaroli (4.50 euros per kilo) is one of the most famous and prestigious varieties of Italian rice, esteemed for its big and consistent grains, with its relevant nutritional characteristics and exceptional gastronomic qualities. When cooking, the rice grains increase in size three times, maintaining nevertheless a unique plumpness. It can be accompanied by Peck's saffron stigmas coming from Sardinia (19.50 euros per gram), known for their intense taste and aroma, which is slowly but persistently released during cooking. In Peck's wine cellar you can find unique wines that tell the history of Italian winemaking. Cabanon's Bonarda (9 euros if sparkling or otherwise 15 euros) is a red wine which is only produced in excellent vintage years using grapes picked at maximum ripeness, whose bouquet, together with a round velvety flavour, makes it excellent serving with first courses and hearty red meats. Franciacorta wines are also a must and the Pas Operé Bellavista (44 euros) is particularly known as a special occasions champagne whose fruity taste perfectly fits fish dishes.
Depending on the number, type and variety of goods you may want to include in your customized gift box, pricing are variable.
Where to find it:
Peck is in Via Spadari, 9, right in Milan’s city centre, open on Mon from 3.30 pm to 7.30 pm, from
Tuesday to Friday from 9.15 am to 7.30 pm and on Saturday from 8.45 am to 7.30 pm.
If you’re likely to be in Milan at Christmas, get the most traditional (and tasty) local cake of this holiday season. Panettone is a Milanese patisserie must. It’s a sweet and fluffy bread loaf, whose cupola shape is quite characteristic. It contains candied orange, citron, and lemon zest, as well as raisins, which are added dry and not soaked. Many other variations are available, such as plain or with chocolate. It is served in slices, vertically cut, accompanied with sweet hot beverages or a sweet wine, such as Asti or Moscato d'Asti. In some regions of Italy, it is served either with “crema di mascarpone”, a cream made from mascarpone, eggs and a sweet liqueur, such as Amaretto, or “zabaglione”, made of egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine.
Historically dating from the 15th century, the Panettone is nowadays made in many bakeries and patisseries, but you should look for Le Tre Marie, known as the most traditional Panettone in town.
At Grand Café & Tre Marie, they offer special limited editions for unique presents every year, which you can also accompany with a hand-written dedication to emphasize the spirit of your Christmas greetings. The average weight of a Panettone is around 1 kg, but it varies according to the brands and their creativity.
Where to find it:
At Grand Café & Tre Marie it costs 31 euros. This ancient café is in
via Giovanni Morelli 4 (on the corner with Viale Piave where there’s also an entrance), and opens
daily 7 am-10 pm (Sunday closing at 9 pm).
Grand Café & Tre Marie, via Giovanni Morelli 4
Italians have hundreds of different ways to ask for coffee. The most typical one is asking for an espresso, which is the shorter, stronger and quicker coffee to drink. But you may also hear someone ask for a macchiato, an espresso doppio (double), a long espresso, a cappuccino, an “orzo in tazza grande” (barley drink in a larger cup), latte macchiato, marocchino (a kind of a small cappuccino), a “chiaro” (a cappuccino with less coffee) and various other weird requests. In Milan, many of those are likely to be satisfied with Caffè Ottolina or Caffè Hardy.
Caffè Ottolina brand was founded in 1948 and its very first Milanese shop is the oldest coffee shop in town, established even earlier, in 1946, when Giulio Ottolina first started his business. This shop is called Moka Hodeidah (located at Via Piero della Francesca, 8, open Mon-Sat 7-19.30; in December also on Sun 9-13, 15-19), and now is an independent roasting company whose coffee is considered one of the best in town. At Christmas they offer gift boxes, including cups, coffee, chocolates, biscuits and other goods in various combinations, within a very exclusive branded tin whose pricing starts at 70 euros.
Although the name may not sound Italian, Caffè Hardy was also established in Milan in 1954 and since then their coffee has been distributed to several Milanese bars meeting the taste of the most demanding coffee lovers. They have quite a huge variety of aromas served each in a different cup. Their merchandising is available at Gran Caffetteria Cadorna. Pricing for cups starts at 8 euros, but call first as their availability is always limited.
Where to find it:
Moka Hodeidah (located in Via Piero della Francesca, 8; Mon-Sat 7-19.30
Gran Caffetteria Cadorna (Piazzale Cadorna, 10 tel +39 02 72001449 – Mon-Fri from 5 am to 9 pm, Sat 6 am-9 pm, Sun 6 am-8 pm
4. Craft Umbrellas
Milan is known as the Italian capital of design. And design in Milan is applied to even the most unusual objects. Umbrellas are amongst those, especially the ones made by Francesco Maglia.
Francesco Maglia's hand-made umbrellas set the trends, thanks to their originality and innovation. In his Milanese workshop you can find silk umbrellas, rain umbrellas turning into beach umbrellas and, of course, bespoke umbrellas based on the client's creativity. His workshop, at via Ripamonti 194 (enter the building without hesitation), is actually a source of ideas where umbrellas come to life, either created for women, men or for curious applications, all made with a huge variety of wooden handles and countless coating patterns. Each is a real masterpiece you may want to become unique with small variations from its original design, choosing every imaginable detail (for example, you can ask for the handle to be braided with leather or other materials, or for the umbrella to be made of your favorite fabric, etc. - nothing is impossible, as long as you are willing to pay for it, and the prices for customized umbrellas often go beyond 500 euros). Should you prefer to buy a ready-made umbrella, made to the same quality standards as their bespoke counterparts, prices stand between 70 and 250 euros.
You can find Maglia’s umbrellas at Scarazzini’s (Corso Genova, 28), a typical, old-fashioned shop dedicated to high-quality articles, such as razors, knives and walking sticks. They’re the only ones in town equipped with everything - fabrics, wood and technique - to create a Maglia bespoke umbrella. Open Tue-Sat 9.30 am-12.30 pm and 3 pm-7.30 pm. Closed on Mon morning.
You can find other Maglia ready-made umbrellas at Gallia e Peter’s (via Moscova, 60), an ancient, truly fascinating hats boutique (open Tue-Sat 10 am-7.30 pm, closed on Monday morning), and at Guenzati, known as the oldest shop in the world, whose choice to deal with tartan clothes makes it strange to have this record set in Milan rather than in Scotland (located at via Mercanti 21, open Tue-Sat 10 am – 7 pm, closed on Mon morning) and at Al Bazar (via Scarpa, 9, open Tue-Sat 9.30 am – 7.30 pm, closed on Mon morning).
5. Designer Bags
Should you wear elegant, casual, trendy or just want a bag to identify with as an original accessory, look for it in Milan.
Zani Del Frà’s leather bags are amongst the best leather artifacts in Italy. Del Frà’s special search for excellence in technology applied to tanning gave this brand a unique patent that makes leather scratch- and waterproof without being altered anyhow. Designed both for work and leisure and with a huge variety of women’s handbags, Del Frà’s bags are a must-buy in Milan. Zani Del Frà’s showroom is at Via Roncaglia 14, open Mon-Fri from 10.30 am to 6 pm. Their medium compact trolley costs around 480 euros, while prices for leather and tassel-handled bags stand at about 250 euros.
Should you be looking for innovative materials applied to bags, then Nava is the store you should visit (via Durini, 23, open daily 10 am-7.30 pm; Monday afternoon only from 3 pm). Handled bags in polyvinyl polyester and polyacetal polyester have prices varying from 70 to 100 euros (this is their N-bag line), you can find trolleys in nylon of the “Street 2.0” collection, equipped with garment compartment and both a computer and an iPad pocket at around 200 euros, and office bags in a range of prices between 100 and 400 euros (when in leather with special finishings, such as “saffiano”’s).
Do you feel like chic and eco-friendly? Then the Hell’s Kitchen is probably your brand. Their style was called “chic recycle”, as they make bags from recycled tyres. Materials, such as heavy duty inner tubes, car seat-belts, but also t-shirts and shirts for the interiors, are strictly recycled and carefully elaborated, and are brought back to life in a different form as bags and unique and charming accessories. Their prices vary from 59 to 225 euros, depending on the models. In Milan you find them at the Must Shop (Museo delle Scienze) at via Olona 6 (free entrance), Tue-Fri 10 am – 5 pm Sat-Sun and hols 10 am – 6.30 pm), at W Milano (via Washington 51, open daily 10 am, 7.30 pm) and at Museo del Novecento’s shop, via Marconi 1 (Palazzo dell’Arengario, next to the Cathedral, Mon 2.30-7.30 pm, Tue-Wed-Fri-Sun 9.30 am – 7.30 pm, Thu and Sat 9.30 am – 10.30 pm). And if you want a customized bag cooked especially for you, converted from one of your beloved but too old T-shirts, then visit their website and get in touch with them directly, so that you can discover how to turn your crumpled T-shirt into your coolest brand new bag.
Fashion is what Milan is famous for. Via Montenapoleone, via Manzoni, Corso Venezia and via della Spiga hold the heart of the Fashion District, also known as “Quadrilatero della Moda”. Here Dolce&Gabbana, Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Valentino, Ermenegildo Zegna, Versace and all the fashion Italian brands have their showrooms and ateliers. Amongst Italy's worldwide renowned brands manufacturing clothes, there are a couple in Milan of less famous, but definitely “must try” brands for top-level quality clothing.
One of them is Massimo Alba. His boutique at via Brera, 8 is especially known for their men’s cachemire sweaters, made of Italian fabrics, dyed with an eco-friendly method, using a very small amount of water. All items come in different shades, testifying their uniqueness and originality. Pricing starts at 320 euros. Massimo Alba’s boutique is open Monday 3.30 pm to 7.30 pm and Tuesday-Friday from 10.30 am to 7.30 pm.
Aspesi is synonymous with urban-wear, Milan style. The brand caters for both men and women. Over the years, it has become an icon of the Milanese clean and elegant style, equally perfect for formal occasions and leisure. The most renowned items in their collections are coats and trench coats (prices vary from 200 to 900 euros, depending on male/female models, and materials used) and casual jackets (prices going from 300 to 600 euros). Their lines also include blazers, dresses, shirts, sweaters and trousers. Their atelier, at via Monte Napoleone 13, is open Monday-Sunday, from 10 am to 7 pm.
7. Football Accessories
Italians’ love for soccer is internationally accredited and, of course, every Italian city has a soccer team its citizens are crazy about. Milan has two - Internazionale (known as Inter) and Milan football clubs. They call them “football” clubs as the word has entered the Italian dictionary as synonymous with “calcio” ("soccer" in American English). A.C. Milan is what the majority of locals and foreigners who live in the city are likely to cheer for, while the other Italians, not necessarily living in Milan, are fond of Inter. Getting an official accessory from each of these clubs is a must if you want to demonstrate your having perfectly gotten into the Milanese spirit for football. Thus, a visit to the official A.C. Milan store or F.C. Inter shop is absolutely mandatory.
The A.C. Milan shops, called “All Milan”, are located in via Ragazzi del ‘99 and in Galleria San Carlo. To afford an original T-shirt of your favorite player, you will need between 75 and 125 euros, depending on the football star you’re cheering for.
All the stores are open daily from 10 am to 8 pm (those in via Ragazzi del ’99 closes at 7.30 and on Sundays). All of them carry a wide list of merchandise, including scarves (10 to 20 euros, depending on fabric and patterns), mugs (5 euros), woolen caps (16 to 25 euros, depending on patterns), bathrobes (55 euros) and other stuff.
The San Siro Store, at San Siro stadium, is also an option to find accessories of both clubs (open daily 10 am to 5 pm, with slight variations when the games are on).
8. Pijama Cases
Wearing a pajama is synonymous with feeling comfortable and at home. The Italian word for pajama is “pigiama”, and that’s where Pijama label takes its name from. Pijama cases are trendy soft cases for Apple laptops, iPhones, iPads, iPods and other mobile devices fitting these sizes. They were born in Milan in 2006 out of the idea to provide Apple users with delicate gloves to treat their devices. Made of wool or cotton and associated with “cretonne”’s coloured patterns, they are also equipped with collision and scratch resistant materials. Resembling real pajamas in appearance and feel, the cases provide a truly safe sensation to the user. Prices vary from 16 to 39 euros, depending on the size. They’re now sold in very trendy Milanese shops, such as Cargo & Hi-Tech, in downtown Milan, Piazza XXV Aprile, 12 (open Monday from 1.30 pm to 7.30 pm and Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30 am to 7.30 pm). Just around the corner, you’re in Corso Como, the most exclusive shopping street in Milan. Once there, don’t forget to enter 10 Corso Como and look for their “Logo Shop”, described in the Accessories section.
At first sight, porcelain might be thought of as having nothing to do with the innovation you generally breath in Milan, while walking the streets of fashion, design and technology. But, believe it or not, Milan has given birth to one of the most important and well-known porcelain and ceramics brands, Richard-Ginori. Back in the 18th century, the label was born as a society for making Lombard porcelain, which in only ten years became important enough to be taken over by Giulio Richard, who started the business known today internationally.
In keeping with tradition, porcelain is still very much popular in Milan and Laboratorio Nibe is privileged to uphold the artisanal production of creative porcelain. Their lab is where vases and other handcrafted pottery items come to life. The collections are sold next door, in the firm's showroom, at via Camillo Hajech, 4. The prices range between 100 and 300 euros for a teapot, depending on the collection and the size you want. Should you be looking for some original Richard Ginori sets, La Rinascente is one of the few authorized dealers. There, a Luna Planet set for tea (including a teapot, 2 cups with dishes, milk jug and a sugar bowl) will set you back some 620 euros.
La Rinascente is open daily from 9.30 am to 10 pm, closing at 9 pm on Sunday. Laboratorio Nibe works Mon-Fri from 3 pm to 7 pm, and Sat 10 am-1 pm and 3 pm-7 pm.
Milanese are most known for their perfect looks. The color of the bag they choose to take with them is most likely perfectly matching their shoes, jewels are always perfectly combined, and wristwatches are considered valuable ornaments to be proudly worn according to one’s personal style. This is even truer when talking about Buccellati’s wristwatches and jewels. The Milanese artisanal goldsmith tradition of the Buccellati family dates back to 1750, refreshed in 1919 and today still well established in the Milanese history thanks to their ability to create shapes as if they were decorating jewels and wristwatches with Renaissance-flavored golden laces.
Some of the Buccellati’s articles have been auctioned at Christie’s, and those in their showroom, located at via Montenapoleone 8 (open Tue-Sat from 10.30 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 7 pm), are often priced above 1,000 euros.
A temple for high value and unique Accessories in Milan is 10 Corso Como. Once there, look for their “Logo Shop”, a series of co-branded collections of clothes, jewels and accessories. GAP is among the brands who’s decided to design a special line for 10 Corso Como, including T-shirts (35 euros), sweatshirts (60 euros), jeans (136 euros) and canvas bags (12 to 20 euros, depending on the size). Other labels include Borsalino (co-branded hats cost 250 euros), Coca Cola (special bottles at 6 euros), Lacoste, Lomography, Ralph Lauren, Swarovsky, Swatch (original watches at 45 and 65 euros), Nokia (co-branded mobile phone at 850 euros), Moncler and Tommy Hilfiger. Of course, you shouldn’t miss all the other unique design items displayed in the store. 10 Corso Como is open daily from 10.30 am to 7.30 pm; closes at 9 pm on Wed and Thu.
There’s a cute place in Milan where you can find modern furniture, porcelain and hand-embroidered fabrics designed to add warmth to an interior with a bit of shabby chic touch, Italian style. The place is called the La Gallina Matta (the crazy chicken) shop and is located at Via Terraggio 21 (open Monday from afternoon till 7 pm and Tue-Sat from 10 am to 7 pm). The applied fabrics, including natural (e.g. line and cotton) and artificially made (e.g. gummed line), perfectly combine artistic expression with elegance and ease of use.
Trimmings create a game of colors between fabrics in their “Combinazione” collection, while the funny pompom decorations characterize their “Bonbon” line. “Reine Claude” is their top level, made in Italy, collection of twilled items, including table clothing refined with hemstitches, sewed-in decorative tape or left with an elegant fringe. All of these collections feature table clothing, runners, napkins and placemats. Prices vary, depending on the number of items included in a set; e.g. a 270 cm “Reine Claude” table cloth will set you back 200 euros, whereas runners may cost between 15 and 55 euros.
12. Kids Wooden Toys and Decorations
There is a long tradition of wooden toy-making in Northern Italy and in Milan it’s far from being forgotten. Thanks to the original and colored ideas of Carissimo Pinocchio, whose name immediately evokes association with something made of wood, children can still experience first-hand the pleasure of natural toys. The shop's bestseller, of course, is Pinocchio himself, coming in every possible size (the pricing starts at 10 euros), followed closely by the name plate featuring, again, Pinocchio (10 euros), the ones with animal images (10 euros) and all the animal-shaped clocks whose mechanics induce movement of either tail, eyes or paws, making them extremely funny and beautiful. What’s more, all of these can be customized and wear a suit of your choice, e.g. your favorite football club’s attire or doctor’s outfit, whatever.
Prices vary, depending on the size of an item. For instance, a small name plate goes for 10 euros, small kitten-clock is 30 euros, and a Pinocchio asking to knock on the door before entering is 20 euros apiece. Carissimo Pinocchio's shop is located at Via Grossi 10, open Tuesday-Saturday from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm, and closed Monday morning.
13. Artistic Photographs and Paintings
A photograph or a painting by local artist is meant to remind you of the certain place you have visited. In Milan, photography is a kind of institutional form of art. Some of the local photographers, who made history of the Italian photography and are now internationally famous, were either born in or have worked in Milan one time or another. Artists like Mario De Biasi, Giorgio Lotti, Giovanni Gastel, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Gabriele Basilico, and Maurizio Galimberti are still very much active today and their works largely praised by hundreds of fans and experts worldwide.
Back in the 1970s, many photo galleries opened in Milan. Among them, particularly famous, is that of Carla Sozzani’s, located at 10 Corso Como. The gallery hosts regular exhibitions and publishes a catalogue of displayed items for those who want to buy. Another notable photo gallery is Spazio Forma Galleria (Piazza Tito Lucrezio Caro, 1), featuring, among others, the works of Gianni Berengo Gardin, Maurizio Galimberti, Ferdinando Scianna, Mimmo Jodice, Nino Migliori, Giorgia Florio and Simona Ghizzoni, and other Italian female photographers.
Prices at the galleries vary from around 250 euros upwards. Carla Sozzani’s gallery is open Monday from 3.40 pm to 7.30 pm; Tuesday, Friday and weekend from 10.30 am to 7.30 pm; and Wednesday-Thursday from 10.30 am to 9 pm. Spazio Forma Galleria is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 7 pm, and on Saturday from 1 pm to 6 pm or by appointment.
As to the local painting scene, most painters' workshops in Milan are concentrated predominantly in Naviglio Grande. Initially, this was an area where painters spontaneously came to capture fabulous views of the open air canals. Eventually, they opened small workshops in Milan's most picturesque houses, known as “case di ringhiera”. Today, walking along the canals, you can still find open gates leading to the romantically-looking courtyards filled with small ateliers welcoming visitors with beautiful paintings on display.
Where to find it:
One of the most distinctive workshops is
Mariolina De Palma’s as instead of representing views of the city, she focuses on trams. Her
special sensitivity captures an old fashioned but always contemporary Milan in many different
seasons, or at different times of the day, with trams going by. Ladies are also another of
Mariolina’s favorite subjects painted in elegant dresses and shiny jewels applied on. Pricing for her
paintings starts at 70 euros. When her workshop is open (in the afternoon, but you can call her any
time at +39 347 7927450) you’re likely to find her painting inside. And this too is worth the visit.
14. Bianco Latte's White Houses
There's a place in Milan where ice cream is particularly delicious. The shop is called Bianco Latte (Italian for "milk-like white") and it operates also as a restaurant, distinguished by its all white appearance. Adding to its interior is the presence on every table of small white iron houses to hold tapers - an original gadget which has now become a symbol of the place, available for sale at the shop next door. These white houses vary in size from very small - sold at 35 euros, to medium - 79 euros, to very big ones - 89 euros, ideal to illuminate any shabby chic-style interior. As of recently, they've been available in two different shapes: classical - resembling French architecture; and modern - reminiscent of Northern huts. Of course, they’re all white. Bianco Latte is found at via Turati 30, open Mon 7.30 am to 7.30 pm, Tue-Fri 7.30 am to midnight, and Sat-Sun from 8 am to midnight.
15. Leather Items
A step into Pettinaroli shop will make you feel centuries back. Located at Piazza S. Fedele, 2, entry from Via T. Marino, the shop was founded in 1881 as a stationery outlet and is currently listed among the historic shops of Milan. It is renowned for dealing in rare and rather sophisticated merchandise, such as peculiar leather items, ancient prints, squared business cards and traditional wedding invitations particularly popular with the Italian VIPs as a status thing. But then again, anyone can feel like a VIP with a Pettinaroli’s article in their possession. Particular note deserve the luxurious and artful leather desk sets put on display here, along with the nowadays rare leather wastepaper baskets, leather glass holders, magazines racks and leather colored envelopes. Each of these items is truly unique. Leather wastepaper baskets, for example, come in two versions: plain colored (available in 12 different colors) worth 285 euros, and those with ancient prints on, costing 175-195 euros, depending on the size.
Pettinaroli is open daily from 9 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 7 pm. Closed Monday morning.
16. Martini Bianco (White Martini)
The Milanese aperitivo is a good chance to meet friends, socialize and chat over an (often) expensive drink and lavish buffet at somebody else's expense. Alternatively, you may try and host an “aperitivo” at home, in which case, Martini Bianco should be considered #1 choice for delicious Martini cocktails. Although Martini is the most acclaimed and cosmopolitan of Italian drinks in the world, its white variety is not that popular abroad.
Martini Bianco is a fine blend of Italian white wine infused with herbs and sweet floral botanicals, producing an aromatic yet delicate drink (a sweet vermouth) with the notes of vanilla and citrus. You can drink it over ice with soda and a slice of lemon to have an Italian “spritz”, but make sure to try it also with a slice of orange instead, if you prefer a somewhat sweeter taste.
You can find Martini Bianco in almost every “common supermarket” at the average price of 8 to 10 € per bottle. Look for it in the aperitif area. When in Corso Genova, you can buy it at La Coloniale (Corso Genova, 19; open Mon-Sat, 8 am-8 pm). Also, check out the airports' duty free shops as it’s generally sold there, too. Should you want to try it before buying, visit Terrazza Martini, a very exclusive lounge bar located in a terrace on top of a tower building at Piazza Armando Diaz, 7. As the name suggests, their Martini cocktails are exactly as they should be, and the view from the rooftop is absolutely gorgeous.