© kost80 / michalec.com / WAVE Journey
The home of Italian Fashion week, the vibrant city of Milan is also the gateway to some of Italy?s most breath-taking scenery.
The various International Fashion Weeks have featured prominently in the press recently, and the numerous shots from Milan have left me reminiscing over a trip I took there last year ? a short break spent eating, drinking and generally absorbing the atmosphere of this beautiful and sophisticated city.
In choosing a hotel, the obvious style choices were the Bulgari or the flagship Armani hotels, which are absolute style statements and synonymous with Milan?s heavy fashion credentials, but my personal preference is to find somewhere smaller and more individual, and so it was that I landed upon The Gray. Its location within breathing distance of La Scala and Il Duomo gave The Gray an immediate advantage, and its 21 individually designed rooms are all generously-sized with sufficient design status to make me feel a definite part of the Milanese glamour scene.
Stepping out of the hotel, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the famous glass vaulted double arcade that is an enduring image of Milan, and its barrage of shops, coffee houses and bars make valuable break points when visiting Il Duomo and La Scala, which are connected by its famous ceilings. The shops house all the Italian designer stores that you would expect, but most noteworthy is the elegant Prada store, which dates back to 1913.
More unusual and talked about extensively amongst the fashion cognoscenti is 10 Corsa Como, the immense garage space converted into a major fashion emporium by the former designer Carla Sozzani in 1998. Housing a combination of fashion, art and design, 10 Corso Como really does epitomise the term ?total shopping?, with its huge white and glass halls showcasing an eclectic combination of art, fashion and home items, interspersed with enough coffee shops and bars to keep you there all day. Here you will see the latest and most-expensive designs from the catwalk sitting alongside artisanal pieces of homeware, all united in their fashion-forward credentials.
I?m not a natural opera buff, but anyone visiting Milan should consider making a trip to Teatro Della Scala, reopened in 2004 after one of the biggest theatre redevelopment programmes. A huge part of the city?s heritage and still a major influence today, the theatre has been the home to opera in Milan since 1778, and now presents an impressive selection of opera, ballet and recitals every year. From March 23rd until April 17th this year, the company will be performing Mozart?s Le Nozze di Figaro, its light-hearted humour providing an infectious ambience that can only be enhanced by the impressively lavish sets and costumes for which the theatre is famous. Furthermore, the Amici Della Scala (friends of La Scala) are presenting a cycle of public talks to introduce and prepare audiences for performances, and Giorgio Pestelli will be speaking on Le Nozze di Figaro on 15th March. Free of charge, and with no need for prior booking (just turn in within good time) these talks present an ideal introduction to the opera, as well as the opportunity to view the beautiful Arturo Toscanini hall in which the talks are held.
A trip to any Italian city must incorporate some fabulous food, and the experience that always fills me with nostalgia is when I recall one of my favourite lunches, taken on a day?s excursion out of Milan into the hills of Lombardy. Escaping the pace of the city, I took a train up into the mountains to find the Michelin starred Lantern Verde restaurant – typical Italian family-run restaurant founded in 1982. The hour?s journey provided some welcome relaxation and took me through some of the most breath-taking scenery, as we moved out of the city into the rich green landscapes of the mountains and valleys. By the time I arrived at the Lanterna I already felt I had embarked on one of those experiences that become lifelong memories.
Complementing the typical Italian mountain decor, the warm and amiable staff (all family) creates an instantly relaxed ambience that is to set the pace for a leisurely afternoon. Priding itself on its modern, inventive cuisine, local produce is showcased in a series of dishes that pay homage to the old recipes that are passed down through generations, and are updated with a modern twist and definite sensitivity. Veal cheek cooked in Valtellina red wine, Artichoke and Shrimp with orange and caramel tart are all beautiful and typically Italian dishes, providing the ideal excuse for a gentle snooze as the train meanders back down the mountains to the city.
Lake Como is also an excursion that really should be combined with a city break to Milan. Just a short drive from the city, beautiful Como is rich in history and tradition, its large mountains gently rolling towards the water and providing stark contrast to the frenetic confines of the city. The Lakeside has a definite personality ? the ambience of its numerous restaurants and bars are something that can only be experienced first-hand and is simply unique.
The renowned Acanto restaurant is located within the 5* Hotel Principe di Savoia and provides a definite focal point for a break spent in Milan ? expensive but also very elegant it is somewhere to go and be seen, for an extravagant celebration, or simply to try the experience, but the true Milanese fashionistas all flock to Da Giacomo. Inconspicuously located, Da Giacomo is as unpretentious as its address, and has gathered a huge and loyal fan base over the years, appreciating its reliable, traditional Tuscan inspired food. The fish is particularly noteworthy, with a number of fresh-from-the-boat daily specials, which many deem the best seafood in Italy. Even the house speciality ?Gnocchi Da Giacomo? has a delicious tomato and seafood sauce. Do save room for the dessert trolley however ? all home-made, these typical Italian dolce are some of the best you will ever taste.
Night-life in Milan predictably spreads itself between sophisticated glamour and a more edgy urban scene. For the former, Armani Prive really does fit the brief – its subtle beige, greys and neutral colour scheme providing a backdrop for a number of impossibly beautiful girls and men in suits, whilst for the latter head to Alcatraz. A converted bus station, Alcatraz is a real experience and will deliver beats to keep you dancing well into the small hours.
There is so much to see in Milan alone, before touching the surrounding environs, that you could happily spend three months working your way through the endless sites, galleries, museums, theatres and restaurants, but perhaps Milan is somewhere best experienced in bite – sized chunks. Arrive in style, alighting from your private jet wearing over-sized sunglasses and dressed head to toe in black. A Mustang chartered from TAG Farnborough Airport will cost from just £11,700 and can take 2 passengers to Milan in less than 2 hours. 3 nights at The Gray hotel will cost from £780. A pre-journey overnight stay can be arranged at Aviator along with all other travel arrangements.
Contact Elise for all dining, accommodation and aircraft charter enquiries.