After a full day on my feet, the only thing I want is a soak in my giant tub at the Principe di Savoia. In a very un-Milanese style, I close the blinds at the Italian dinner hour and am woken an hour later by a special ‘Buona notte’ gift: un po dolcezze. I rarely say no to chocolates, but this time I put them aside for breakfast.
I wake early to take advantage of the hotel’s penthouse gym, where there is an indoor pool and sundeck and a view of Milano’s confused skyline. My dear friend Christine explains that decades ago, when the South was more economically successful than the North, they built many factories in and around Milano. Tenement housing was built for the workers, and many of them are still standing today.
Christine and I have our breakfast in a glorious sun bath at the Principe; we imbibe more than our fair share of fresh strawberry juice (advice to cafe’s around Italia: fragola sprumata is the future), and we set out towards Brera. The multi-hued streets, painted in shades of fruits of il bel paese; limone, pompelmo, pesche, albicocche, and easter-egg blue shutters, are my favorite for wandering. Elegant shops and photogenic sidewalk cafes line the cobble stones, and tiny balconies overflow with vines, flower pots, and cooking herbs. It is Saturday, and a beautiful one at that. The Milanese are relishing the first days of primavera, their newspapers spread across their laps, a cappuccino and a glass of wine interchangeable, and finalmente, everyone is donning Spring wardrobes.
We stop into Massimo Alba to admire the textures of the chemical-free fabrics and the unstructured tailoring. I fall in love with a cashmere and silk scarf made in le Marche and upon leaving quickly wish I had bought two or three. Prior to launching his namesake brand and opening stores in Milano, Roma, and Tokyo, Massimo was creative director of popular Italian brand Malo, and then Agnona. He has made a name with his magnificent fabrics, and his line can now be purchased at major department stores and e-commerce sites, such as Barneys and Matches.com.
Scenery change: From Brera, we take a short cab ride to the up and coming Tortona area where abandoned warehouses have been reinvented as upscale shops and apartments. We take advantage of the beautiful weather and the quiet city (it is easter weekend and the Milanese have fled), and have our lunch at Al Fresco. While there is usually a line out the door on Saturday afternoons, we take a table overlooking the garden and enjoy our second sunbath of the day. Herbs and flowers are aplenty here, and all of the ingredients are brought from nearby farms in Lombardia and hand-picked from the small orto on the property. Marco Pirotta’s seasonal menu is as light as the architectural elements of the space. We enjoy a fresh salad with just-picked greens, a pumpkin veloute with porcini mushrooms, and ricotta and lemon ravioli beautifully plated with red prawns, caviar, samphire, and prawn sauce.
As tempted as we are to try Chef Pirotta’s airy desserts, we decide to take our afternoon dolcezza at the new mint-green Marchesi. Back in Brera, we angle for a table in the back and dive into the lightest, most divine sponge cake that ever existed. Bravo, Miuccia, for finding such a talented pastry team in a space that feels like the inside of an Instagram filter. We take a piccola passeggiata around the supremely posh Quad d’Oro, including a relaxing twirl in the perfectly symmetrical courtyard at the Four Seasons, and we spend the rest of the afternoon noseying into courtyards and capturing afternoon shadows.
When a Milano trip includes inventive cuisine, boutique shopping, and a photo walk with an enormously talented photographer friend, it is 24 hours well-spent. Tucked into my seat en route to Firenze, I realize how much I miss my local cafe, florist, and familiar faces after just 24 hours apart. Milano is growing into its own in terms of becoming a cosmopolitan city comparable to Paris or New York, but for now I am content with un giro.
Hotel Principe di Savoia. Massimo Alba. Fondazione Prada. Fioraio Bianchi. Four Seasons Milano. Spazio. Al Fresco.