Andrea “IamCasa” Casalegno’s Guide to Milan, Presented by Watchonista
After two city guides focused on great North American cities, we thought it was time to hop across the pond to Europe. So, where better to continue the adventure than Milan, Italy?!
Being from Milan is not only a blessing. Being Milanese means making a commitment to telling the world about your city.
So, being a lifelong Milanese, if you were to ask me how much I love Milan, I would have to admit that I’m addicted to Milan and being Milanese.
From our style (after all, it is the fashion capital of Italy) to our punctuality (or lack thereof), the city of Milan is a great teacher and the best place to live in Italy. Therefore, naturally, she should be worshipped.
So, if you’re planning to visit the Lombardy region in general or Milan specifically, these are a few of my hidden gems you should definitely make time to visit!
If, while visiting Milan, you decide to go on a watch boutique tour, your best bet is to start with The Watch Boutique. Located in one of Milan’s cutest neighborhoods, The Watch Boutique, carries a wide selection of pre-owned modern timepieces from some of the city’s most important dealers.
Pre-owned watches not your thing? Then, your next stop, which is only a 10-minute walk away, should be a stop at Pisa Orologeria. As the retail chain’s flagship boutique, you’ll have your pick of new models from some of the most relevant modern brands today.
Then, finally, you can take a rest at Great Masters of Time, or GMT, for short. Only 6 minutes away from Pisa Orologeria, GMT will transport you into the world of independent watchmaking with the most knowledgeable team in town. Trust me: you can’t go wrong!
Escape the Hustle & Bustle
Milanese hotels are pretty cool, but I would avoid ones in the city’s center. So, with that in mind, my top-of-mind recommendation is the Hotel VIU Milan. A super new hotel with an extraordinary atmosphere, a fantastic spa, and the best five-star rest you can get in Milan, the Hotel VIU Milan has a restaurant run by Chef Giancarlo Morelli that is out of this world.
Italian Cuisine is Not Cliché!
It’s truly hard to find a Milanese spot to eat, as overcrowding can be a real problem, but I think Cavoli a Merenda strikes the perfect balance of delectable food and breathing room.
Located on one of the prettiest and least-crowded terraces our city has to offer, Cavoli a Merenda may not be as traditional in its cuisine as Trattoria La Pesa 1902 or Trattoria Al Laghett nor as chic as Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone. However, its menu always features fresh-from-the-market food that is both tasty and healthy. Plus, unlike those others, Cavoli a Merenda really feels like home right after they open the door for you.
I must admit that Milan is known for its designer items. So, it’s more than likely that all your friends who’ve visited the city have already suggested you either visit Rinascente Milano Piazza Duomo or walk down Via Montenapoleone. But I’m here to tell you that you have options!
If you’re there for something unusual but still Milanese, then Lorenzi Milano in Piazza Meda is the place to go. There, you’ll be to get a cigar cutter made from teak, a bottle opener made from a mammoth’s tooth, or something else entirely that you never knew you wanted.
From the Ashes
Once you’ve stopped at Noli, Cigars & Co. Milano, or La Casa del Habano and picked up some of your favorite cigars, I am sad to say that there aren’t many places you can properly enjoy them in Milan.
However, the best place I’ve found, apart from hotel cigar lounges or terraces in the spring and summer, is the Dolce&Gabbana Bar Martini. A relaxing patio with lots of room and good music, the Dolce&Gabbana Bar Martini is the kind of place where you can stay all day, from breakfast to drinks, to smoke what you like and enjoy life!
Milano Must Haves
We all love to eat and drink. Consequently, there are three places integral to the history of Milan that you cannot skip during your visit here. First, there is the cappuccino from the original Pasticceria Marchesi 1824.
Second is the Panettone (a traditional Milanese bunt cake, mostly available in winter) from Pasticceria Cova.
IamCasa’s Wild Card
In Milan, if you’re from a wealthy family, then you’ll get at least one suspicious look as you make your way to the Jamaica Bar in your Birkenstocks, oversized shirt, and tote bag. But, boy, is Jamaica Bar worth the sideways glances!
And although I’m not typically a fan of Reggae-chic apparel, Jamaica Bar is among the purest, most Milanese places you can find and being there is like stepping back in time to the Milan of the 1980s. On its surface, Jamaica Bar is nothing special (hence why it has remained a hidden gem). However, for us, Jamaica Bar is a reminder of our past and how precious our history is to all of us, whether that history is ancient or more modern.
(Images provided from the companies' websites)