MILAN — As fashion designers and followers adjust to a season of digital presentations, there’s one part of the seasonal whirlwind the format can’t replace: the perks of discovering a city and enjoying it like a local in between shows.
In the case of Milan, that means having an espresso in a historic café, getting lunch or an “aperitivo” al fresco, strolling down the little streets of the Brera district, making quick detours to indulge in art at local museums and shopping new pieces of clothing and design to show off back home.
But, in the Internet age, there’s no distance that a couple of clicks can’t cover. Here, a brief guide to re-creating the Italian experience at home.
Fashion is a big deal in Milan, but the city is also the epicenter of design and furniture. Leading international events like the Salone del Mobile were canceled this year due to the pandemic, but the confinement showed the importance of living in a beautiful and functional space. If you’re looking to refresh your surroundings with an Italian touch, browse through the many sections offered by the Artemest online destination. Launched by jeweler Ippolita Rostagno and Marco Credendino with the aim of helping local artisans and craftspeople compete on a global scale, the platform showcases more than 35,000 products, ranging from luxury furniture, lighting, tableware and textiles to handmade decorative pieces, vases, ceramics, mirrors and jewelry, with a section dedicated to gifts and customization options as well. Through the app, augmented reality allows users to visualize objects inside their homes. Plus, Artemest offers charming visual assets and editorial approach, offering inspirational and educational content and profiles of Italian designers Gaetano Pesce, Gio Ponti, Ettore Sottsass, Achille Castiglioni and Dimore Studio, among others.
AMBIENCE: Culti Milano
Once you have set your new design pieces, trigger your memories and sense of smell with home fragrances and candles. Culti Milano is one of the Italian specialists in this area: Founded in 1990 by interior designer Alessandro Agrati, the brand is best known for its essential glass flacons that recall traditional milk bottles and come with rattan stick diffusers, creating a composition that doubles as a statement design piece. Based on Italian raw materials, scents include the Mediterranean option with bitter orange, lemon and neroli; the Tessuto fragrance with cassis leaves and musk, and Aqqua containing bergamot and sandalwood, to name a few. According to the size, prices range from 36 euros to 950 euros for special collectors’ editions. The brand has expanded its offer with home sprays, candles, scented hand and body washes as well as complements including perfumed sachets and lighted wooden bases for home diffusers to further unleash their decorative potential.
There’s no Italian experience without food. Nestled in the heart of Milan with additional outposts in the city’s Porta Venezia and futuristic CityLife areas, Peck is a gastronomic institution established in 1883. During the lockdown, it introduced a home delivery service and enhanced its e-commerce offering to ship its delicatessen to the rest of Italy as well as abroad. Product availability varies according to the destination and some of the fresher options of its deli counter might not be online, but the expansive catalogue covers basic needs and gourmand cravings. The assortment includes Carnaroli rice to be toasted in Milanese risottos; handmade pasta in every size and shape, ranging from paccheri to egg tagliatelle, to be prepared with Peck’s sauces such as basil pesto or deer ragù; treats comprising sun-dried tomato paste and spicy fruit mustards of chestnut, plum and pear, as well as white truffle-flavored olive oil. In addition, part of Peck’s wine cellar is available online to lift customers’ spirits at home with wines and distillates.
ART: Gallerie d’Italia, Duomo di Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera
Not even a pandemic could tarnish the artistic and architectural treasures that Italy offers. Many cities, museums and galleries in Milan found solutions to enable visitors remote access to their exhibition spaces. One of the most successful experiments was developed by Gallerie d’Italia, which in Milan stands in front of Teatro alla Scala. The museum created an interactive tour for its “Canova | Thorvaldsen. La nascita della scultura moderna [The birth of modern sculpture]” exhibition juxtaposing the work of the Italian and Danish artists Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen and showcasing more than 160 sculptures and paintings. During the virtual tour, users can seamlessly move between the artworks and zoom in on their favorite pieces, while a voice-over available in Italian, English and Russian guides them with historical anecdotes. Where indicated, visitors can click to access additional insights.
The Duomo cathedral also provides a series of 360-degree images to replicate the experience of sweeping through its long naves, going to the crypt and archaeological area, visiting its museum and archives before admiring the view overlooking the city from its iconic pinnacles.
The Pinacoteca di Brera opted for a different approach, uploading its entire collection of almost 700 artworks online. These are displayed in a catalogue of high-definition images with zoom options and detailed forms describing each piece, with additional filters per era, artist and material and an advance search tool facilitating the experience.
Gallerie d’Italia — “Canova | Thorvaldsen. La nascita della scultura moderna”
Duomo di Milano
Pinacoteca di Brera
BOOK: Entryways of Milan. Ingressi di Milano
Compared to fellow tourist destinations such as Rome, Florence and Venice, Milan is known for having a more discreet charm. A big part of its beauty is hidden behind closed doors and façades, where pretty courtyards, majestic entryways and frescoed ceilings reveal themselves. Partake in this journey of discovery through the pages of “Entryways of Milan. Ingressi di Milano,” a photographic tome released by Taschen in which Berlin-based editor Karl Kolbitz opens the door to 144 of the city’s most fascinating entrance halls. In particular, the book focuses on buildings from 1920 to 1970 and comprises the work of renowned architects and designers Giovanni Muzio, Gio Ponti and Piero Portaluppi, among others. Photographs by Delfino Sisto Legnani, Paola Pansini and Matthew Billings — who alternated detail shots of door handles and material juxtapositions with larger views — are flanked by bilingual written contributions and a map pinpointing all the spots mentioned.
“Entryways of Milan. Ingressi di Milano”
by Karl Kolbitz, Fabrizio Ballabio, Daniel Sherer, Lisa Hockemeyer, Penny Sparke, Grazia Signori, Brian Kish, Delfino Sisto Legnani, Matthew Billings, Paola Pansini
FILM: Io sono l’amore (I am Love)
Luca Guadagnino might go down in the history books as the man who gave Timothée Chalamet his first big movie role and catapulted him into the status of international heartthrob, but “Call Me by Your Name” was the last chapter of the Italian director’s so-called “Desire Trilogy.” Over a decade ago, he directed the first installment named “Io sono l’amore,” or “I Am Love” in English. This romantic drama might not be new, but if you’re feeling nostalgic for Milan — or if you simply ran out of shows to binge-watch on Netflix — rewatching Tilda Swinton roaming around the city’s fascinating Villa Necchi Campiglio in impeccable clothes is always a good idea. Fashion-wise, it will serve as a brush-up on Raf Simons’ era at Jil Sander as all of Swinton’s looks are by the brand, while the male cast wore sartorial looks by Fendi. Food-wise, the meals in the film were inspired by the cuisine of Italian star chef Carlo Cracco. Side bonus: chances that you end up watching “Call Me by Your Name” next for the umpteenth time are very high.
Io sono l’amore (I am Love), 2009
by Luca Guadagnino
Available on Amazon Prime Video
MUSIC: Ghali, Mahmood
Musicality permeates every aspect of the Italian way of living, language included. The local musical history spans from pop and indie tunes to opera arias and regional folk songs, but a new wave of singers is engaging with younger generations and promoting a fresher and inclusive image of the country. Both born in the suburbs of Milan in the Nineties, Ghali and Mahmood scaled music charts in the last few years, becoming symbols of a different masculinity and cultural integration. Born from Tunisian parents, trapper Ghali is known for catchy tunes and lyrics hinting to prejudices he put up with while growing up yet affirming his love for Italy, as he sings in the hit “Cara Italia.” Hailed as an outsider by the media, Mahmood surprisingly won the national Festival di Sanremo contest last year with a song about his upbringing, marked by his Egyptian father abandoning him when he was a child. After he placed second representing Italy at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, the tune gained popularity internationally, registering more than 161 million views on YouTube. Inevitably, fashion labels have been courting both artists, with Ghali seen attending shows ranging from Salvatore Ferragamo to Gucci and Mahmood donning Prada, MSGM and Maison Margiela and fronting campaigns for Burberry and Kappa.
After indulging in the city’s culture remotely and going through the schedule of digital fashion week, there’s only one item left to tick off your list: Envision your next Italian summer getaway. Instagram accounts like “Italy Segreta” rose to global popularity during the lockdown for showing the beauty of the country in its daily expressions, increasingly reigniting the desire to live “La Dolce Vita” among its users. But for a more proactive approach, Issimo is your go-to online destination. Founded by Pellicano Hotels’ creative director and chief executive officer Marie-Louise Sciò, the platform offers an immersive journey into Italian culture, philosophy and taste via beautiful editorial content and an e-shop. “Italy is Issimo, it’s that superlative we add to transform to upgrade every experience to the maximum,” explains Sciò on the web site. Filtered by her tasteful eye, the online store showcases a lineup of quintessentially Italian apparel, swimwear, footwear, accessories, home décor and food by brands including Boglioli, M Missoni, Plan C, La Double J and Borsalino, among others. Capsule collections developed with F.R.S. For Restless Sleepers and Loretta Caponi are also available for purchase. Editorial content combined interviews with Italian fashion designers, chefs and entrepreneurs with travel guides to local towns, foodie spots and countryside estates.