Among all Fashion destinations, Milan is my favorite. Situated in the Lombardi region in northern Italy, Milan is one of the world’s fashion Meccas. If you love the likes of Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Armani, this is a can’t-miss destination. Milan is the source of everything we love in Italian Fashion: an intuition for style, a love of the female body, a cult of the perfect presentation, the “Bella Figura” that is unsurpassed anywhere in the world.
On your first day, take a casual walk around the Duomo, this Gothic architectural wonder built from the 14th to the 16th century. Then as you exit the church turn on the right and walk towards the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and Via Montenapoleone where Italy’s Prêt à Porter‘s best brands are lined up; Valentino, Moschino, Versace, Miu Miu, Prada, Etro… you are in the very headquarters of Milanese fashion. Keep walking towards Via della Spiga, Via San Andrea, Via Manzoni and Corso Venizia. All these streets constitute the famous Milan’s “Quadrilatero della Moda “ or Fashion quarter.
After your stroll, sit at one of the cafés on Piazza del Duomo such as Savini Ristorante or Mercanti Caffè and watch the women walk by. You will learn more about style in an hour than you have in your whole life. Italian women are sophisticated and inventive — so see how they put it together with simplicity, maneuvering astutely key accessories (watch the shoes, bags and jewelry) to create an unpredictable ensemble. In Milan, to look elegant is as natural as to drink espresso or have a gelato on the Duomo square.
If you would enjoy staying in a unique hotel with a lot of old world charm, I recommend the Petit Palais, a gem conveniently located 15 minutes from Il Duomo. A former 17th century mansion belonging to an Italian countess, this small palatial boutique hotel has 18 individually decorated rooms. Romantic and full of interesting decorative touches such as Murano chandeliers, old tapestries, marble pillars and period furniture, it is the ideal place for the artist or elegant fashionista keen on exploring a unique environment. I stayed in a suite that was exceptionally comfortable, spacious and welcoming after a long day walking the ”Quadrilatero.”
My suite included a small foyer opening on a drawing room equipped with a round antique table, and an old style reading lamp with an armchair tucked in the corner. There were free water bottles with a welcoming note. The drawing room led to the bedroom decorated with luxury furnishings, including real impressionist paintings (not reproductions) on the wall. I enjoyed the marble bathroom that mixed classic Italian design with contemporary sleek efficiency.
In the morning I had breakfast in the vaulted ceiling dining room tiled with typical Lombardi terra cotta floors. The breakfast included everything from slices of salmon and cold cuts to cereals, creamy yogurts, fresh buns and croissants, fruit and cappuccinos ad infinitum.
Before heading out, sit in the beautiful reception area and let your eyes wander on the unique arrangement of gilded framed paintings, antique pillars and parquet floors. You will feel like you are sitting in the drawing room of a Milanese aristocrat’s mansion rather than a hotel. There are bowls of fine chocolate, walnuts and almonds on tables around the sofas as well as a small bar to enjoy a relaxing aperitif in the afternoon. You are free to help yourself to anything you desire and go up to the terrace to enjoy a moment to yourself. The manager gave me a tour of the rare art on the walls and was extremely helpful with questions I had about the city and the best areas to visit. If you have a bit of the nostalgia for the majestic luxury of the past, you will love staying in this small baroque palazzo that offers you a rare glimpse into the Italian aristocratic residences of the past. For more information, consult the website at http://www.petitpalais.it.