Milan is Italy’s second largest city, a financial and business powerhouse that keeps most of its charms well hidden.
The city is famous for its high fashion scene, but when Giorgio Armani walks through the heart of the on-trend Brera district not one immaculate Italian gives him a second glance.
Milan, Italy’s wealthiest city in the country’s wealthiest region, is understated and subtle.
“I love the spirit of Milan,” says Antonio Zagaroli from Knight Frank Milan. “It’s small, with a population of 1.3 million and public transport is good. Over the past two years, people’s perception of Milan has changed. It’s an efficient business city, but it also has great shopping, fashionable restaurants and bars and plenty of culture.”
PROPERTY IN MILAN
Property prices remain 5 to 40 per cent below pre-recession peaks, says Zagaroli, but sales volumes are increasing significantly, up 15 per cent between 2014 and 2015, with predictions for an additional 20 per cent this year.
There are some interesting new opportunities for investors. Prices start from £255,000 for a small apartment close to the Central Station, with average prices of £851,000 for a good, central two or three-bedroom home.
About 100 new developments are underway across Milan to deliver 4,200 new homes. Large-scale mixed-use projects include CityLife and Porta Nuova, a new business district less than a mile from the historic centre.
In this safe and buzzy district opposite the new Microsoft HQ, Monté 16 has 22 apartments in an elegant refurbished building. The airy two- to four-bedroom homes of 753 to 2,583 square feet have balconies, terraces and concierge services. Prices through Knight Frank start from £510,700, to include Molteni furnishings, with underground parking an additional £12,700.
Via Giotto 5, to the west of the centre, is a seven-storey building undergoing refurbishment to create 21 one- to four-bedroom apartments, priced from £255,000, through Knight Frank.
The quiet residential area is close to shops, a Metro station and a large park.
Milan’s standout reputation for design peaks every April, with Milan Design Week and the Salone Internazionale del Mobile international furniture fair. Visit the city in any month of the year for furniture and craft shops in upmarket Brera, an easy walk from the city centre.
Dome Milano - a large showroom in the heart of Brera filled with angular Fornasetti-inspired lamps by Azulejos, San Marco upholstered beds and low tables from Paper.
Brera Store, another elegant Brera showroom with brands including Moooi, Poltrona Frau and Fritz Hansen.
Rubelli, the inspirational Venetian furnishing fabric company, opened its Brera showroom last year in a three-storey building opposite the Palazzo Parigi.
Raw - hunt out antiques and architectural curios sourced from around the world in this fascinating Brera shop.
Cassina is under the visionary eye of Milan-based designer Patricia Urquiola and the furniture brand is preparing for its 90th anniversary this year. Its Milanese shop in the design-filled street Via Durini, east of Brera, has been open since 1968.
WHERE TO STAY: MANDARIN ORIENTAL MILAN
In four historic houses in a quiet Milanese courtyard directly off the shopping hot spot of Via Alessandro Manzoni, superbrand Mandarin Oriental opened its first Italian hotel in 2015. This city centre beauty deftly blends modernism and classicism alongside its legendary service to create a sophisticated, comfortable hotel.
Wrought-iron balustrades echoing back to 1800 sit next to spectacular glass chandeliers encased in orange Perspex. There is a wall of softly falling water set against metal and wood walls in the spirit-restoring spa. The heart of the hotel is the bar, a homage to reflective monochrome with black and white marble pillars, cheeky hounds tooth fabrics on chubby chairs and warm woods.
Two top designers share the limelight for two of the suites: one a tribute to Gio Ponte, the father of minimalism and the other to Fornasetti, the Italian designer and sculptor who lived in Milan after being expelled from design school for insubordination. No chance of any of that at the beautifully grown up, but still marvellously fun MO Milan.
For a spot of real restaurant chic, visit Seta, their fine dining venue with layers of good interiors ideas. It won its Michelin star four months after it opened.
Rooms at Mandarin Oriental Milan start from £460 a night.