It is enjoyable to watch people in Italy. Tasteful style, luxury and exaggeration coexist peacefully and form exquisite eye-candy. The obligation to make a good impression, to make bella figura is part of Italian culture. As a well-groomed appearance plays an important part in that, shopping or fashion are not a negligibility in Italy. Exciting from an entrepreneurial point of view: family-owned enterprises like Etro, Missoni and Prada turned their parents’ work shops for baggage or gloves into world-famous brands and fashion powerhouses. Quality, tradition, experience and business acumen make a luxury product into the sought-after object holding value. Enough justifications! I am headed for my first shopping trip to Milan – not more, not less.
Bella Figura – elegance as national obligation in Italy
No overstatement – Milan is almost everything for Italy: cultural, media and financial centre, largest agglomeration in the country. Milan’s prominent position arose in the second half of the twentieth century and has been undisputed ever since. Family names like Gucci, Prada, Trussardi, Versace, Missoni or Etro arouse desires worldwide. In Milan fashion is by no means a negligibility, because a well-groomed, elegant appearance is a national obligation. With superficiality alone one does not create a globally successful brand from the father’s work shop for baggage. Fashion is much more. Our clothes are symbol of our culture, our relations, our dreams. Fashion goes deeper than the skin it covers.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – First shopping arcade ever built
Il duomo – I am almost moved to tears – its size and the gracefulness of its rich in detail, finely decorated façade leave me speechless, always. To follow the route of the marble from Candoglia almost at my doorstep to the centre of Milan is on my bucket list.
From the sun-flooded, heat conserving Dome Square (Piazza del Duomo) we turn to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It was opened in 1867 and named after the first king of unified Italy. Today the shopping arcade hosts classic European and Italian brands such as Massimo Dutti and Stefanel, but also designers such as Prada and Louis Vuitton. Already looking at the glass roof and cupola of the oldest in the world covered shopping arcade make the stroll worth-while.
Quadrilatero d’Oro – The luxurious heart of Milan
From Piazza della Scala we stroll across Via Manzoni toward Quadrilatero d’Oro. The name stands for the rectangle formed by the four streets Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Sant’Andrea und Via Borgospesso, that are the location of shops of the designers all through the alphabet. Also the surrounding streets like Via Manzoni or Corso Venezia host shops of elegant but lesser known brands. Conclusion: Here is where fashion dreams come true and every shopper finds her or his piece.
Fashion outlets in Milan
With the look-and-feel of second-shops fashion outlets are sort of the junk room of designers and fashion shows. At least this used to be my official definition. During my first shopping trip to Milan I visited two outlets, situated directly in the city of Milan.
“Fourty percent discount on everything”, tightly cramped clothes rails, sorted by piece of clothing (shirts, dresses), a slight impression of rummage – I am not enthused about Il Salvagente. I know it takes patience and exploratory spirit to shop in an outlet. Plus, every outlet deserves a second chance. After all new goods are arriving on a frequent basis and discounts may change dramatically, too. The dresses on the first floor are sorted by colour and if you are looking for an evening gown, take time to look closely. On the second floor, shoes and clothes – disappointing for me. My highlight at Il Salvagente: the Alexander Wang strapless dress with refreshing flower patterns mainly in green. (Green is under-represented in my wardrobe.) Conclusion: Recommended for dresses. Should get a second chance.
Dmaganzine Outlet (one of their three branches) is on Via Manzoni shortly before the Public Gardens (Giardini Publici) close to the corner with Via della Spiga. In the afternoon of a long day this outlet managed to enthuse me. Maybe the sorting after designers created a suck pulling me further and further into the shop. To a rare visitor of outlets (like me) entering might feel like a treasure hunt. Conclusion: All known designers are present, so are smaller, lesser known labels. Pulse! Pieces at all price levels (some might be shop-worn), interesting selection of shoes (limited choice of sizes, though), small selection of children’s clothes. Suited for patient treasure hunters.
Useful links for a shopping day in Milan
We started our tour at the Il Salvagente in the morning. Afterwards lunch at Taverna Roma across the street. In the afternoon a looong stroll from the Duomo acoss Via Manzoni toward Quadrilatero d’Oro.
- Recommended guidebook: Milan Encounter: Encounter Guide (Lonely Planet Pocket Guide Milan & the Lakes)
- Many free apps for Milan travellers (Guides, taxi, city map, parking, public transport)
- Il Salvagente, Via Fratelli Bronzetti16, Metro: Dateo station, exit Archimede, short walk
- Dmagazine Outlet, Via Manzoni 44, Metro: Montenapoleone station, walk toward Giardini Publici
Lunch-Tip: Taverna Roma accross the street from Il Savagente