Milan has long been famous as the fashion capital of Italy. It’s the hometown of many of the world’s leading brands and twice a year hosts the spectacularly extravagant Milan Fashion Week, which attracts fashion editors, models and celebrities from all around the world.
But even outside the fashion-focused months of February and September, visitors to this cultural capital will find that there’s plenty to do. In fact, the city is currently home to Expo 2015, the latest in a long line of “world’s fairs,” which are hosted in a different city every five years and allow countries to set up pavilions to promote themselves and their national industries – a bit like a larger, more corporate version of the Venice Biennale. Whether you make it in time for the expo (which runs until October 31) or not, here are three Milanese institutions that are worth a look.
Your guidebook will be packed with lists of museums to visit, as Milan is nearly as famous for its art as for its fashion. However, if you only have time for one, we’d recommend the Fondazione Prada, which has just relocated to a Rem Koolhaas-designed space in Largo Isarco, a trendy neighbourhood just south of the centre of town.
Founded by Miuccia Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli in the early ‘90s, Fondazione Prada is a contemporary art and culture institution that has championed the work of creatives such as artist Sam Taylor-Johnson, filmmaker Steve McQueen and architecture firm Herzog de Meuron, among many others. The first show that Fondazione Prada is hosting in its new home is Serial Classic, an exhibition of classical Greek and Roman sculpture. Concurrently it’s also showing An Introduction, a far-ranging exhibition of contemporary art curated by Germano Celant and Miuccia Prada that will close on January 10, 2016.
Make sure to also pay a visit to the on-site café, Bar Luce, which was designed by quirky, Oscar-winning film director Wes Anderson. Featuring the pastel colours, retro details and strict symmetry that pervade all of his films, the café itself is a must-visit for any film fans.
Another institution run by a fashion house, Armani/Silos is a newly opened exhibition space that showcases the brand’s extensive archive of clothes and accessories. Located in a former Nestlé granary, the concrete-clad building on the city’s Via Bergognone is itself an embodiment of Armani’s famously pared-back aesthetic.
The nearly 50,000 square-feet space is organised by theme rather than chronologically and features both menswear and womenswear. The opening party, held at the beginning of this month, was a suitably star-studded event, with Leonardo DiCaprio Hillary Swank, Tina Turner, Cate Blanchett and Tom Cruise all joining Giorgio Armani himself to celebrate this monument to the Italian designer.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Don’t worry if all this talk of Prada and Armani has whetted your appetite for a bit of retail therapy, as Milan is one of the best cities for shopping in the world. If you want to experience a bit of history while replenishing your wardrobe, head to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world and is the Milanese home of brands such as Louis Vuitton, Versace, Valentino and, of course, Prada and Armani.
Ever since it opened in 1867, the Galleria has been a meeting point for the city’s chattering classes – and to this day you can spot locals gossiping over cappuccinos in some of the mall’s ancient cafes. But even if you don’t stop to get your caffeine fix, make time just to wander beneath the soaring glass ceiling and admire the ancient mosaics that cover the floor.