Teens in Milan flock to one busy area to shop, dine and catch a flick.
MILAN — If there’s any doubt about where Milan’s teenagers are hanging out or what they’re wearing, the answer lies in the center of the city along the bustling Vittorio Emanuele shopping avenue.
The strip linking Piazza San Babila and the gothic spires of Milan’s famed Duomo is pulsating with youth energy. Teens gaze at the wacky window displays at kitschy Fiorucci — the current one features a fiberglass cow and a lot of colorful plastic Hawaiian leis — grab burgers at McDonald’s and throng to the cluster of downtown cinemas.
With the first day of school just around the corner, three 14-year-olds — Matilde Sangalli, Valentina Merenda and Alessia Daniello — sifted through a colorful selection of funky appointment books at Fiorucci after catching a matinee of Mandy Moore’s cinematic debut, "A Walk to Remember," dubbed into Italian.
Sangalli, sporting a dangly hot pink feather earring, said she comes to Fiorucci about once a week on a quest for "weird things." She held up a clear plastic hair clip with bright yellow flowers glued to it. But for clothes, she also digs established brands like Fred Perry, Diesel and Levi’s. She and Merenda take dance lessons when they’re not hanging out with friends.
"We go around Milan and then head to the movies or to a friend’s house to watch a film," Sangalli said, noting that she prefers McDonald’s for a quick bite because it’s "cheap and you can goof around."
The four-story Fiorucci store is packed with colorful clothes, accessories and novelty items, ranging from loud Ben Sherman shirts to hip-hugging Miss Sixty jeans and leopard print coats.
"Our target age range is 16 to 30 years old, but people of all ages come to the store," said a Fiorucci spokeswoman.
The landmark store, opened in 1967, attracts about 5,000 visitors a day during the week and up to 12,000 shoppers on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, she said.
Just a few paces away, Giulia Piuna, 18, received an in-store tarot card reading, while a tan Veronica Folli, 18, checked out a selection of poor-boy hats to go with her gray Prada athletic shoes and low-rise jeans.Folli comes to Milan about five or six times a year to go shopping and spend the money she’s earned working as a waitress at a pizzeria in Brescia, a small town east of Milan. She also does public relations for a club there.
"I work a little and my parents give me a little," she said, as she lowered her Roberto Cavalli shades. She likes Dolce & Gabbana and is aiming to become an architect.
A few doors down the street, a rustic wood interior and piles of jeans and denim jackets and skirts lure young shoppers into Replay, even if high prices mean teens do more browsing than buying. Jeans run from about $93 for a basic pair, but can cost as much as $219 for a set of E-play jeans with swirl-shaped embroidered patches. On the cheaper side, a long-sleeve gray hooded sweatshirt goes for $66.
"It’s a little expensive," said Roberta Cerutti, a 14-year-old who loves ice-skating. "When I have a job I’m sure I’ll buy something, but for now I depend on my parents for money. We look around, see what we like and then I call my mother."
While many teens flock to McDonald’s or Burger King to ease hunger pains during a day in the city center, Milan has its own distinctive fast food. Luini serves crispy, deep-fried pockets of tomato, mozzarella and other fillings called panzerotti. The shop, located near the Duomo, has a history dating back to 1940.
Luca Andrello, 17, says he eats at Luini about once a week because it’s cheap, tasty and a fast method of sustenance in his busy schedule of school and frequenting local pubs and dance clubs.
Back on the main drag of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the loud beat of Eminem is wooing young shoppers into the doors of Onyx. The bustling store’s patrons include two artsy 16-year-olds from Bergamo, a small town just north of Milan.
"I came here to buy things for dance," said Valentina Merisio, her arms filled with pairs of wide-leg, athletic-striped pants.
Dressing for her shopping trip in the big city, she paired a pleated black and white zig-zag printed skirt with a glittery, skin-tight T-shirt and bandanna.Antonio Resmini, sporting gel-spiked hair and a black Prada T-shirt, earns money working part time in a beauty salon, but said he spends more time perusing for style tips than laying out cash for clothes.
"Downtown, I don’t buy often, but I like to window shop," he said. "Gucci has clothes that appeal to me."
Although Onyx targets a distinctly teeny-bopper crowd, its cheap yet trendy clothes have managed to lure older and younger shoppers.
"I like it. The stuff is cute and not too expensive," said Nelide Quarato, 34, as she sifted through a sales table of sweatpants and skirts with her 10-year-old niece, Eleonora. She said the clothes are a bit young for her, but they’re comfortable.
"We mothers running between day-care centers and school need practical clothes," she said, as she perused the sales rack and examined a skirt made of sweatshirt material.
As day morphs into evening, it’s time for aperativo, the Milan institution of pre-dinner drinks. While aperativo is widely seen as an after-work ritual, even teenagers have gotten into the habit of meeting up at a spot like Bar Magenta, just west of the city center, to quench their thirst and lay out their plans for the evening.
Nearly all of Milan’s coffee bars, pubs and night spots offer light complimentary snacks ranging from common fare like salami and finger sandwiches to elaborate spreads of pasta and risotto. Aperativo generally kicks off at about 7 p.m. and can stretch on far into the evening, sometimes replacing dinner altogether.
Bar Magenta is one of the most famous aperativo spots in the city, luring a large clientele of teenagers. But it’s almost more popular to linger outside the establishment.
That’s just what Isabella Bianchi, 19, was doing as she flirted with Davide Cavagnera, 19, one evening in early September. "It’s nice to be together, chat and hang around outside," she said.
Irene Radice, 17, said she and her friends frequent Bar Magenta, the artsy Brera neighborhood and the lively canal district in the southern part of the city. But the clothes are almost more important than the hangout."Italians pay attention to their appearance a little more," she said, clad in a tight tank top printed with an abstract American flag design. "In other countries, they don’t look at how you are dressed. You could go out in your pajamas and no one looks at you."
Her friend, Jessica Rescigno, a 17-year-old who is half Welsh, agreed. She has noted the difference in style when she goes back to visit her relatives in the U.K.
But Rescigno has learned to exploit the best of both worlds, showing off a pair of patchwork bell-bottom jeans she bought on one of her trips north.
"Maybe the way I dress is more Italian, but the way I feel is more Welsh," she said.