You can never get a taxi when you need one, and architecturally it’s something of a rough diamond, but nowhere else has the Italian fashion buzz like Milan...
Where to Stay in Milan
The shiny, plush Maison Moschino has typically quirky touches (huge cupcake and tart-shaped cushions). Christopher Kane favours the opulent, old school Principe di Savoia which also happens to have the most buzzing bar in the city during the collections. David Beckham has been known to join Karen Elson, Kate Hudson and Giles Deacon at aperitivo time. Traffic-stopping, black-clad blogger Diane Pernet loves the Grand Hotel Et De Milan (Via Alessandro Manzoni, 29; +39 2 723141), while the Bulgari Hotel is default fabulous. Finally, another fashion heavyweight, Giorgio Armani, threw his hat into the Milanese hotel ring back in November 2011, with an intimate and, naturally, very chic outpost above the Via Manzoni flagship store (Milan.armanihotels.com; Via Manzoni 31).
Where to Go Out in Milan
The lobby bar of the Four Seasons (Via Gesu, 6/8; +39 02 77088) rivals the Principe for A-list action. Mono (Via Lecco, 6; +39 4810264) is the Milanese version of a rock and roll dive bar, but with early 1970s kitsch wallpaper prints. It attracts an edgier crowd (and model boys) for its film nights and electro/indie. The most flamboyant fashion night out in town is still the club La Nuova Idea (Via Gaetano De Castillia, 30; +39 2 69007859), where you’ll find drag queens, editors and the likes of Antonio Berardi dancing to classical versions of Jennifer Lopez tracks. For decadent dancing till dawn head to the Hollywood club (on Corso Como) with the rest of the fashion crowd - they have parties on every night from the 22–28 February; elsewhere, Vola is set in an English-style garden and is famed throughout the city for its aperitivi (Viale Beatrice d'Este/corner of via Patellani).
Where to Eat in Milan
The Armani Café (Via Croce Rossa, 2; +39 2 72318680), resplendent in red and black on the ground floor of the Armani Hotel, hums at just the right high fashion frequency. Dolce & Gabbana love the seafood at Da Giacomo (Via Sottocorno, 6; +39 2 7602 3313), while US ELLE Style director and blonde fashion icon Kate Lanphear dines at Trattoria Bagutta (Via Bagutta, 14; +39 2 76002767). Lunch in the courtyard of La Brisa (Via Brisa, 15; +39 2 86450521), with its resident tortoise, is a tranquil escape from the fashion scrum. Vegetarians can rejoice, as Joia (Via Panfilo Castaldi, 18) serves up a delicious lighter alternative to some of the more heavy meat dishes in the city. For a restaurant that’s having its fashion moment, Noy (Via Giovanni Battista Soresina) is an 800 square-metre loft in the very centre of Milan and one that’s popular with both the fashion pack and locals. To really up your fashion game, book a table at the Nobu Armani (Via Pisoni 1).
Where to Shop in Milan
Not many places do shopping quite like Milan, so it’s essential to make the most of the designer retail heaven that is the ‘Quadrilatero d'Oro’ - the grid of streets made up of Villa della Spiga, Via Manzoni, Via Sant’ Andrea and Via Montenapolene which are jam-packed with the likes of Prada, Fendi, Valentino and Miu Miu. The Wok concept store (Via Col di Lana, 5a; +39 289829700) mixes the more interesting parts of the Nike/American Apparel mainstream with avant garde offerings like Kapow! Wow!’s tulle necklaces and graphic sportswear by Andrea Crews. A trip to Biffi (Corso Genova, 5-6 +30 2 7600 4609), home of all the megabrands, is essential, but make sure you also make time to explore the smaller boutiques that have opened up close by.
Don’t Leave Milan Without
A charm from the Dodo range by swanky jeweller’s Pomellato (Anna and Ermenegildo Zegna swap them as family gifts), a 10 Corso Como (Corso Como, 10; +39 2 29013581) cashmere sweater dress and a pair of court shoes from Alfonso Garlando.
What to Wear in Milan
If last season’s Milan Fashion Week street style is anything to go by, it attracted some of the chicest, best groomed looks of all. We suggest Black Acne jeans, a strong-shouldered black tuxedo jacket, fierce boots, straight glossy tresses and Tom Ford sunglasses.
Beauty SOS – Where to Go for Pampering in Milan
A session with hairdresser Alessandro Lisi of Area #6 hair salon is like gold dust during the shows – as well as a certain American editor-in-chief’s iconic bob, he’s tended to Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan and Queen Rania of Jordan.
To keep on top of what's happening at Fashion Week – from the latest show reviews to the front row scenes – check out ELLEuk's catwalk section.