Posts Tagged ‘Milan’

Golden Day Seventy-Six: Milan with Star Meyer

Star Meyer’s My Milan (Italy) blog is the perfect place to discover unique historic details of the city, find practical links, and get info on up to the minute happenings–such as her recent post about events to support the much needed restoration of Milan’s Duomo. Her passion for art shines through in her Milan posts–(she has a Ph.D. in art history)–and you may also enjoy her needlepoint blog, where she incorporates Italian art and architecture into her designs. She’s been living in Milan since 1996, works at the city’s Bagatti Valsecchi Museum, and teaches English at the John Peter Sloan School.

I’m so grateful she’s joined in to give us advice about a Golden Day in her adopted city:

Let’s start with the Sforza Castle. Walk through the grounds, read the English translations of the info on the stands-(Can I brag? I translated those!)–enjoy. And go through the “Arte antica” museum, which is really a sculpture museum, displaying fragments of the city’s ancient Roman past, up to the 16th century. It is housed in the rooms of the castle, first a fortress, then transformed into a princely residence in the 15th century. When in the room with the gigantic banner hanging in its center, head to the windows to view the adjoining portico over the moat. This was perhaps designed by Bramante. Imagine yourself walking with Leonardo da Vinci under his fictive bowers in the “Asse” room.

At the very end of the visit, behind a discreet “curtain” of wood, you’ll find Michaelangelo’s Rondanini Pietà.

Now walk down Via Dante toward the Duomo, and take a break at Caffe Letteraio (Via Rovello 2, 02 723 3505). This was a Renaissance structure confiscated by the powerful Milanese Sforza family from rivals, and Ludovico il Moro gave it to his lover, Cecilia Gallarani. She is thought to be the woman in Leonardo da Vinci’s “Woman with Ermine” painting. In the courtyard, you can sit down and have a drink–though remember that sitting in Italian cafés generally means that you’ll pay extra for the privilege.

Next, visit the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, founded by Cardinal Federico Borromeo in the 17th century, as a place for religious and artistic contemplation and formation. Most of the artworks are interesting, if not breathtaking (the collection was intended for devotion and study, not artistic appreciation). A few that are certainly impressive are: Leonardo’s Musician, Caravaggio’s Basket of Fruit and Raphael’s life-sized cartoon (drawing) for his School of Athens fresco in the pope’s Vatican palace in Rome. Top it all off with a wink at a lock of Lucrezia Borgia’s hair (no, really!, I’m not kidding).

Treat yourself to lunch on via Manzoni at Don Lisander. It’s expensive, but lovely.

Close by, on via Gesù, is one of Europe’s most important and best-preserved  historic house museums, the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum. It’s a perfectly preserved mansion, decorated with Renaissance art (pièce de resistance: a painting by Giovanni Bellini) and decorative arts collected in the 19th century. Guided tours may be booked. (P.S., I work there, it really is something extra special!)

To top off your day, go to the Villa Necchi Campiglio. Together with the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum and two others, it is part of the Circuit of Historic House Museums in Milan. You can buy the circuit card, and save on the entrance fees to the participating museums. The villa and furnishings were designed by Portaluppi, one of Italy’s most important architects in the 1930s and 1940s, for the Necchi (yes, the sewing machine) family. You can visit the museum only as part of their regularly scheduled tours, no wandering around at will. Rest up in the little cafè on the museum grounds, sip and sigh remembering what a wonderful day you’ve had in Milan!

As far as a place to stay, if you’re on a budget but still want a central location, check out the Hotel Nuovo, just a skip away from the Duomo.

For a reasonably priced dinner (at least for Milan), try the Victoria restaurant (not to be confused with the Victoria Cafè on the nearby corner, the restaurant is at via Clerici 1, 02 869 0792). It’s a very sweet little place with pretty good food.

If you want to splurge and go somewhere romantic, try Boeucc in the centrally located Piazza Belgioioso. Order Risotto giallo con ossobuco Milanese: risotto with saffron and a braised veal shank—a typical dish of the city.

For night life and music, click on the “Hello Milano” free online publication in English.


Grazie mille Star, for a beautiful and delicious Golden Day!

Golden Day Seventy-Two: Milan’s Golden Quadrangle with Barbara Conelli

It has been great fun to connect with Barbara Conelli, a writer who divides her time between New York and Milan. As she puts it, her mission is to “bring Fantastic Fearless Feminine Fun into women’s lives.” Barbara shares her passion for Milan in her book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita and is following that up with Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore. You can also listen to her delightful Radio Show AND Barbara’s Blog is a must click if you’re planning a visit to Milan–full of insider’s advice about everything from trattorias, to spas, gardens, and bookstores.

I’m so grateful to have this expert join in to give advice for A Golden Day…

All around the world, Milan is seen as the metropolis of haute-couture and the venue of one of the most popular Fashion Weeks. Therefore, the visit of Quadrilatero della Moda, or Quadrilatero d’Oro – Fashion or Golden Quadrangle – is a Milanese must. Maybe just for the luxurious and truly golden atmosphere strangely divorced from the everyday reality.






Quadrilatero d’Oro includes four streets: Montenapoleone, Spiga, Sant’Andrea and Manzoni: Wide boulevards lined with neoclassical palaces. During the day, the streets are full of famous and not-so-famous models, their rich lovers and foreigners from far away.

The best thing you can do is visit the Golden Quadrangle during Milanese spring or fall sales. International fashion brands sell their creations with a huge discount and it’s the best time to acquire something juicy for your wardrobe and feel like a famous star for one day. I’m sure you will treat yourself to the visit of French fashion houses such as Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Hermès or Louis Vuitton, but don’t forget the Italian ones – after all, you’re in Milan.

Apart from notorious brands – Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, Moschino, Missoni or Trussardi – there are also brands a little less known abroad but very popular in Italy. Your shopping day in the Golden Quadrangle is a great opportunity to discover, explore and admire them.

One of such stores is Roccobarocco in Via della Spiga. Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with Baroque, although the name implies it. The founder of this brand is Rocco Barocco, a very successful and popular Italian fashion designer and creator of both haute-couture and prêt-à-porter. You will fall in love with Rocco’s clothes and handbags if you’re not afraid of bright colors and extravagant cuts. Rocco revels in striking colors of Italy and in silhouettes that accentuate long legs, wide shoulders and slim arms. Roccobarocco celebrates Italian femininity in all its glory and highlights everything that’s typical for Italian women: Charm, elegance, sense of humor, lightness and self-confidence.

Of course, the uncrowned king of the Golden Quadrangle is the house of Armani that today offers not only clothes but also cosmetics and make-up, watches, jewelry and even luxurious hotels. Megastore Armani in Via Manzoni 31 is a three-floor giant and paradise for Armani lovers from all around the world. You can try on whatever you like and chat with obliging stylists who are ready to create a unique Armani style just for you. And if you haven’t had enough of Armani yet, have lunch in the nearby Emporio Armani Caffé in Via Crocerossa 2. It’s distinguished not only by the Armani design, but also by delicious meals prepared only from organic fruits and vegetables, fresh seafood and high-quality meat.

Click here to watch the Emporio Armani Caffé Opening Night Video!

After lunch you will probably realize that your feet are starting to hurt and the shopping bags in your hands are too heavy. Relax and have a cup of excellent coffee and a fluffy dessert in Via Montenapoleone 8, in Cova, the oldest Milanese café and patisserie.

When you swallow the last piece of the cake and the last sip of your cappuccino, let your exhausted body enjoy a few hours of pampering and intoxicating pleasure at a local spa. They will spoil you rotten so much you will not want to go back to the real world.

L’Espa Gianfranco Ferré in Via Sant’Andrea with black and gold mosaics and a gorgeous private garden is scented with aromatic oils and as soon as you enter, its chromotherapeutic lights soothe you and pleasantly slow you down. The space of L’Espa Gianfranco Ferré is inspired by ancient baths and returns to the age-long Italian tradition of caring for both your body and spirit.

Bulgari Spa is located in the private alley of Via Fratelli Gabba. Its oriental emerald-green hammam lit by candles and the pool made of golden mosaic will carry you to the world of A Thousand and One Nights. You can turn into a harem sweetheart and indulge in extraordinary pampering, a dream come true for every woman.

The Milanese Golden Quadrangle is a magically beautiful quarter worth visiting and admiring. It’s a perfect opportunity to have a day just for yourself and feel like a chique Italian princess for as long as you wish. La dolce vita at its best.

Grazie Barbara, for showing us The Way!

Golden Day Seventy-One: Visit The Last Supper in Milan

If you are anywhere near Milan, make plans to visit Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper. Sure, you’ve seen copies all over the place, but when you actually stand in the room with it, you’ll be astounded by how this Renaissance genius captured such a deep range of emotions in one of the Bible’s most dramatic moments: Immediately after Jesus makes the “One of you will betray me…” announcement.

Also astounding is the fact that this mural has even survived. Always the experimenter, Da Vinci decided to try oil painting on dry wall, rather than follow the fresco style that everyone else was doing in the Renaissance. The result was disastorous–paint started peeling just 60 years after he completed it. Over the centuries, dampness further damaged the painting, slipshod restoration work was done, a doorway was built through the bottom middle of it, and a World War II bomb nearly destroyed it. Finally, in the late 1970s, a serious, scientific restoration project began that took 21 years. Now you’ll stand in what was once the dining hall of lucky Dominican monks, to admire what comes closest to Da Vinci’s original vision.

Be sure to also check out the adjoining Santa Maria delle Grazie church and cloister designed by the master Bramante, the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

ATTENZIONE! Reservations are required to visit The Last Supper and you must get your reserved ticket in advance–at least a couple of weeks is preferred to get your desired time, since travelers from all over the world want to see this. I’ve found the best way to get tickets is through the Select Italy website. AND coincidentally, I just found out Select Italy is offering FREE LAST SUPPER TICKETS to Women on Thursday, March 8, in honor of International Women’s Day. Grazie!

Andrea Sertoli, a Rome native, created Select Italy in 1997–it’s a great blend of technology and custom travel planners which consistently gets raves from clients and is a Travel + Leisure A-Lister. Sertoli has personal connections with experts up and down the boot, so you can hop on to the website for detailed info for travels all over Italy, connect with the company’s agents for trip arrangements–from hotel, villa, and apartment rentals, guided tours, cooking classes, winery visits, yacht charters, to wedding and honeymoon planning. I’ve appreciated their services over the years for museum tickets and also loved a guided tour of the shopping scene in Milan, from their fashionable expert, Alessandra. And they have a fab, entertaining blog with up-to-the-minute Italy info.

Where to eat after you see The Last Supper? Andrea directed me to the company’s huge T4T database, with excellent insider’s travel advice, which you can find on the Select Italy Facebook Page. As far as restaurants in the area, here are two delicious options:

For upscale and elegant, there’s Ristorante Orti di Leonardo (Via Arstide De Togni 6/8, 02 498 3197, Closed Sat lunch and Mon). It’s named for the vineyards and vegetable gardens that Ludovico Il Moro gave as a gift to Leonardo da Vinci while he was painting The Last Supper. Formerly a 17th century convent, its vaulted ceilings shelter beautiful dining rooms, decorated with a contemporary flair. Come here to feast on the creative Italian cuisine of Chef Luca Cubetti. A particularly good value is the 4-course Menu del Mercato, priced at 36,00 euro; it changes weekly, depending on what’s in season.

For something more casual, there is the Trattoria Meneghina, (Corso Magenta 78, 02 581 09204, closed Mon), a family-run restaurant that serves delicious but unpretentious Milanese home cooking in a narrow, dark-wood-paneled dining room. The cotoletta alla milanese is served bone-in, as tradition requires, and it’s so tender that it melts in your mouth. Stuffed peppers, artichoke salad, risotto, hearty soups and an excellent cassoeula round out the menu of the day that is posted on a blackboard, or recited by your waiter (but son Camillo speaks English). Friendly service and a good wine list complement the home-cooked food.

It’s easy to reach The Last Supper by Milan Metro: Take the Green or Red Line to Cadorna, and then it’s a 5-10 minute walk.

Grazie Andrea, for a hassle-free, delicious Last Supper experience!

And remember, if you or any of your girlfriends are around Milan on March 8, get your FREE Last Supper tickets through the Select Italy website!

Golden Day Seventy: Arrive in Milan

Landing in the Fashion Capital of the World is a luxurious rush. If you’re like most travelers, (including me), a first visit starts at Milan’s gasp-inspiring   Duomo–a white marble Gothic wonder–the second largest church in the world. It’s worth it to take the elevator or steps to the rooftop where you’re surrounded by spires and statues.

Down below in the magnificent Piazza Duomo, you’ll easily distinguish the tourists from the stylish Milanese–signoras gliding by you in furs, signors in impeccably tailored suits.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (the world’s oldest mall) will inevitably draw you in, and you can have a peek inside the first Prada store (founded in 1913).

For a caffe, head to nearby Cafe Trussardi (Piazza della Scala 5), which will take you past yet another world reknowned spot: Teatro alla Scala. If you have your heart set on seeing an opera, concert or ballet there, reserve well in advance, or you can try your luck getting Gallery Tickets–140 are available on the days of performances.

Another favorite place nearby for a snack is Luini (Via Santa Radegonda 16–steps away from the Galleria), where the counter is always crowded with locals getting their panzerotti–a delicious Pugliese fried turnover, stuffed with your choice of scrumptious fillings.

Just a few blocks away is the Quadrilatero della Moda (aka Golden Quadrangle)–the high fashion heart of Milan. Window shopping here–along the cobblestoned streets, centering around Via Montenapoleone, is divine–surrounded by such designer shops as Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and Valentino. If you’re up for a fancy lunch, go for sushi at the Armani’s Nobu (Via Pisoni 1, 02 6231 2645). Or if you’re looking for something more casual, head to Latteria di San Marco (Via San Marco 24, Brera) for Milanese classics (such as risotto)–get there early, as there are only 8 tables and it fills up!

There are loads of great places for sunset apertivo. A fave of mine is the Obika mozzarella bar, on the top floor or Rinascente department store (Via S Radegonda 1, Piazza Duomo), where you can sit on the terrace sipping prosecco and be eye to eye with the roof of the Duomo…

For a sensational dinner, make reservations at the Michelin-starred Ristorante Cracco (Via Victor Hugo 4, 02 876 714, closed Sunday)–Chef Cracco (in the photo) is a superstar of culinary invention and the restaurant is part of Milan’s marvelous Peck Food emporium. Alternatively, you may want to stock up on goodies at Peck and have a delicious picnic back in your hotel room.

I’ve loved staying at Antica Locanda dei Mercanti, a gorgeously designed cozy hotel (rooms with terraces), located a 5 minute walk away from the Duomo, in the Brera district.

AND check out the Malpensa Express, for a convenient, low cost (7 to 11 euros) ride to and from the airport…

For more Golden Days in Lombardy visit Golden Day Seventy One through Golden Day Seventy Nine