Gourmands often overlook Milan, Italy’s fashion and business capital, but it’s packed with wine bars, restaurants and cocktail haunts of both style and substance. One hour from the sparkling-wine region of Franciacorta, it’s a historic city where eating and drinking are as much a part of its heartbeat as Verdi or Missoni.
With winding cobblestone streets and eclectic boutiques, the fashion and design district of Brera is a hotspot for wine and food lovers. Take in an espresso and enjoy the sidewalk fashion parade at the aptly named Tailor and Coffee, a stylish coffee shop-cum-on-site tailoring shop. Also in Brera, dine at the flower shop-café Fioraio Bianchi, run by resident poet-florist Raimondo Bianchi. Dive into zucchini blossoms with shrimp, and buy a bundle of sunflowers on the way out.
Fashion followers will love the treasures at Cavalli & Nastri, which might include vintage Gucci, Emanuel Ungaro and Yves Saint Laurent. After shopping, savor sips of Barbaresco at nearby N’Ombra De Vin. Once a 16th-century Agustinian Friar refectory, this atmospheric wine bar’s cellar is lined with thousands of bottles. The stylish Milanese set spills out onto the street for alfresco drinks when the night gets rolling.
On Via S. Maria alla Porta just south of the Parco Sempione, the city’s largest green space, stop for a praline at Pasticceria Marchesi. Founded in 1824, the luxury sweets shop is still managed by the original family, but is now owned by Prada. Enjoy lunch at Cascina Cuccagna, a 17th-century farmhouse turned restaurant and wine shop, and savor dishes straight from the farmer in an urban oasis just outside the city center.
Milan’s chefs head to renowned wine and food emporium Peck Food Hall daily. Here, check out the seemingly endless displays of meats, cheeses, fresh pasta and fruits that speak to the country’s bountiful agriculture. Downstairs in the wine cellar, navigate the maze-like corridors to find a bottle to go.
You’ll find a speakeasy-styled atmosphere at 1930, a former war bunker where guests lounge among artifacts and artists selling vintage-style hats. Each cocktail is a playful art installation (like a “sushi” flavored cocktail whose glass is rolled in seaweed), and unlike anything you’ve probably ever tasted.
The address is secret, and you’ll need either a club member or a password to gain entry (though a polite email to the bar gained us entry).
Wine lovers should try a blind tasting from the “Black Menu” at La Cieca (appropriately meaning “the blind”) in Porto Romana. Wines are served in dark glasses, and patrons are given yes-or-no hints from the servers as to their identity. If you can name the variety and/or the region, your drink is free. Correctly guess the producer, and the whole bottle is yours.
Experience nightlife in a walkable stretch of the Navigli District, the area bounded by the Grande and Pavese canals. Grab a gin and tonic or Old Fashioned from the takeaway window of Back Door 43, or reserve the tiny indoor bar for a romantic respite. At Rebelot, Chef Mauricio Zillo’s three-, four-, or five-course tastings rotate seasonally, and everything plays perfectly to the adventurous wine list.
In Chinatown, rub elbows with chefs and sommeliers at Le Cantine Isola, a wine/aperitivo bar founded in 1896 that has more than 400 wines on hand. A locals’ hangout known for both its selection (the Italian regional list is deep) and traditional snacks, it’s a good place to buy a bottle and then head for the sidewalk to feel part of the scene.