Milan is clearly not Rome or Venice with their picture-perfect vista and world-renowned sites, but that’s exactly its appeal. Famous for being the fashion and design capital of the world, this Italian city is a magnet for fashionistas and design aficionados who want to explore its raw mix of shabby-looking post-industrial buildings turned into galleries and magnificent apartment buildings with charming courtyards.
With many of its gems hidden from plain view, Milan is certainly a city worth visiting, so here are several of its best spots where you can sightsee, shop and dine with design in mind.
La Triennale di Milano
La Triennale di Milano is the city’s museum of contemporary art and a great place to start your tour. It spares no effort to showcase the art of design in all its glory and in 2017, it also featured the history of Italian design for kids. It’s situated on the grounds of the Parco Sempione, which is an ideal spot to take a brief pause from the crow and noise, stroll around the lake, or a take a tour through the medieval Sforzesco Castle.
Ciro Amos Ferrero, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Studio Museo Achille Castiglioni
One of the most interesting places to see in Milan is the gorgeous studio of Achille Castiglioni, founded in 2006 with the goal of introducing his work to the public. Roaming through the four rooms of his studio and browsing through his prototypes, books, sketches, pictures and various materials archived, visitors get the opportunity to get a better grasp of the genius behind his projects as well as his intelligence, humility and frivolity.
Paolo Monti, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Nilufar Depot, a warehouse owned by gallerist Nina Yashar, is an impressive three-floor space organised around an open atrium and inspired by La Scala opera house. It’s located near the Garibaldi train station and offers its visitors a mix of contemporary and premium vintage design arranged in dramatic vignettes. For design lovers, this is both a deeply indulging and educating experience.
RM Istituto Moda e Design
One place design lovers would never miss is the RM Istituto Moda e Design, an unorthodox and pioneering fashion and design school with unique and innovative teaching methods. In contrast to other design schools, RM Istituto Moda e Design is open to visitors every day of the week from early morning till midnight. The school offers design courses created to bring together students’ creative ideas with market demands.
For instance, their new bachelor’s degree in interior design focuses on learning by doing – a training experience that provides a solid technical foundation, structures the mind, and unleashes a desire to broaden your horizons as a designer as the lead actor in the process of defining the product’s main features. Participants in this course are the future designers of environments and communicative atmospheres, alert interpreters of contemporary trends and lifestyles
The Milan venue of Fondazione Prada was conceived by the architecture firm OMA and is lovingly nicknamed as its ode to luxury art. It gives a new definition to spatial typology in which art is displayed and shared with the public. Its architectural configuration consists of seven existing buildings and three new structures.
Sailko, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The buildings are a mix of different surfaces, an alteration of glass and concrete, and its indoor forms range from rectangular to trapezoid. As its leader, Rem Koolhaas states, Fondazione is not a preservation project nor new architecture. It simply exists in the state of permanent contrast and interaction, showing the visitors that art and architecture can benefit from each other’s challenges.
Casa Degli Atellani
At the very heart of the city, stands a renovated Renaissance villa opposite the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where Leonardo da Vinci painted his fresco The Last Supper. The villa has been turned into a museum, and visitors can admire the adjacent vineyard. It also has a cafe, private residences and a walled garden.
Katia bianco, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
At the time of Leonardo’s work in Milan, the city was ruled by Ludovico Sforz who gifted the land to the painter as gratitude for his immense contribution to the city. After the famous painter fled the city with the surge of French troops in 1499, the casa was left forgotten and neglected. It was only in the 20th century that it was restored by the renowned architect Piero Portaluppi to its former glory.
The fact that its long and rich history has connections with the famous name of da Vinci is probably enough for any art lover and design aficionado to come and visit this magnificent villa.
Via Pinturicchio, 11
One of the hidden gems of Milan are its courtyards tucked away from prying eyes behind walls of inconspicuous apartment buildings such as the one in Via Pinturicchio, 11 built by Pierluigi Requiliani in 1960 with stone floors with round Carrara marble inlays and pendants by O’Luce.
Bosco Verticale or the Vertical Forest is a high-rise apartment building concept designed by the Italian architect Stefano Boer. It features balconies teeming with myriads of shrubs, trees and plants. This lush greenery absorbs carbon dioxide and very cheaply, stylishly and efficiently reduces air pollution and contributes both to the comfort of living as well as the environmental preservation.
Greta Cadei, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Design aficionados from all over the globe flock to Milan every spring to the city’s famous furniture and décor fair and Design Week, and if fashion and design is your passion, book your trip for this time of year. But, even if you can’t make it then, Milan is the epitome of design, fashion and art every day of the year so visiting it at any time is never a bad idea!