Marchesi 1824 cafe.
Photo: courtesy of Marchesi 1824

Design Insiders Share the Best Hidden Gems in Milan

Discover special restaurants, shops, and art spaces recommended by top tastemakers including Nina Yashar and Edgardo Osorio

Scores of design lovers have descended upon Milan for the annual Design Week, anchored by the sprawling Salone del Mobile, which has spawned a legion of satellite installations across the fashionable Italian city. Of course, that also means that the requisite hot spots, Bar Basso chief among them, are appropriately mobbed with visitors angling for a negroni. For those in town who want to skip the crowds in favor of more secluded options, Galerie reached out to seven top tastemakers who know the city intimately to get their recommendations on the best hidden gems, be it a secret gelateria, bar, hotel, boutique, or art space.

Read on to see their tips.

Ristorante Sogni in Milan. Photo: courtesy of Sogni

1. Edgardo Osorio, Founder of Aquazzura

One of my new favorite restaurants is Sogni. I love the decor and ambiance, which is a departure of the usual Milanese trattoria. Great for a date or a fun night with friends. I also love the atelier of Osanna Visconti di Modrone. She makes objects d’art and beautiful furniture in brass that is sophisticated and beautiful. Hidden away in an apartment in the old part of Milan, I always love to see what she is working on. Crema, the best gelateria in Milan started by my friend high-jewelry designer Giorgio Bulgari. They offer a wide variety of flavors and it’s really delicious—the quality is amazing. It’s a must when in town if you love ice-cream.

Fondazione Prada, Osservatorio. Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani

2. Nina Yashar, Founder of Nilufar

Osservatorio Fondazione Prada is a truly cutting-edge contemporary art space, with innovative exhibitions and shows that attract art enthusiasts and culture aficionados from all around the world. It offers a unique panoramic view of the city of Milan, making the artistic experience even more captivating to me. Si Ma TownHouse is one of my favorite bars in the city. It has a welcoming and international atmosphere, reminding me of New York.

Marchesi Milano pasticceria dal 1824 is one of the best pastry shops in Milan: it truly embodies the tradition of Milanese pastry-making, with handmade sweets made from fresh and selected ingredients. Marchesi is an institution in Milan’s gastronomic scene, continually attracting both locals and internationals. Horto Restaurant is one of the top spots in Milan for fine dining. The restaurant has a strong focus on sustainability, using solely seasonal and local ingredients (from Lombardy) to create fresh and singular that cannot be found anywhere else in Milan. The restaurant’s ambiance is elegant but welcoming, with a very large rooftop overlooking the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. It is a true moment of evasion from Milan, but right from the heart of the city.

A rendering of the new Piazza Castello in Milan. Photo: Piazza Castello

3. Eric Egan, Designer

Milan is undergoing a renaissance of late, and for those of us lucky enough to live and work on Piazza Castello, we get to enjoy the recently unveiled transformation of this urban space into an Italian version of Paris’ Tuileries gardens, complete with open air kiosks serving the best of Italian apritifs and “panini” inspired by the many politicians of Italy. Nearby in Brera, Torre di Pisa is a well-loved Trattoria with a wonderful collection of old-school waiters serving traditional Tuscan fare to a new generation of designers and creative types. And finally, tucked into the frenetic energy that is Via Solferino lies one of our favorite artisans, Grassi Cornici, family-run framers who are equally adept at working with local housewives as they are with museum curators and designers such as ourselves.

4. Allegra Hicks, Artist and Designer

LuBar holds a dear place in my heart, especially since I’m good friends with the dynamic trio of co-founders: Lucilla, Lucrezia, and Ludovico. What they’ve achieved is so brilliant, and I find myself continually awed by the passion and drive of young entrepreneurs creating such ventures. LùBarino has refined and warming feel of Lubar, but feels even more intimate. Set within one of the liveliest and most picturesque squares in Milan (Piazza del Carmine), it has all the charm of Brera: the ideal spot to enjoy a friendly, relaxed and relaxing aperitivo.

Chiesa di San Fedele, La collezione Nanda Vigo is truly a hidden treasure, right in the heart of Milan (steps away from Milan), yet to be discovered by many locals. The historic church of San Fedele stores a breathtaking art. My personal favorite is Nanda Vigo’s personal collection, boasting masterpieces from artists like Mimmo Rotella, Piero Manzoni, Joseph Beuys, and Lucio Fontana. Wait and See is without a doubt my go to boutique when I am looking for something quirky, fun and a little different. I love my friend Uberta Zambeletti infallible eye. This historical bookstore, Libreria Bocca, is a tiny gem, just as unique as its location, in the gallery of Vittorio Emanuele. A vast collection of international, rare and precious books, this is no ordinary bookstore; it is more similar to a sanctuary for bibliophiles, with shelves adorned with antiquities specialized in the realm of art.

Trattoria Arlati. Photo: courtesy ofTrattoria Arlati

5. Lucia Caponi, Creative Director of Loretta Caponi

My first choice is Trattoria Arlati. It’s like seating in a cozy dining room of an old Milanese house. After dinner, if you’re lucky, you can go downstairs and, surprise! You can enjoy a live Milanese cabaret, a very old tradition of the city. I love staying at Villa Necchi Campiglio and its garden because I love the architect of the Villa, Portaluppi. But there’s another beautiful casa-museo where Portaluppi left his signature and that I adore, the Boschi Di Stefano Museum, where you can find an incredible collection of art of the 20th century, very dear to me due to my family’s proximity to the culture of that period.

The outdoor area of Antica Locanda Solferino. Photo: courtesy of Antica Locanda Solferino

A room at the Locanda Pandenus hotel. Photo: Locanda Pandenus

6. Giada Forte, Co-founder and Creative Director of forte_forte

One of my favorite hotels in the heart of Milan is Antica Locanda Solferino, which is like immediately traveling to old Milan, a bubble of rarefied atmosphere. It’s a simple place with a great personality, a real Italian locanda, a small corner of paradise hidden among the alleys of Brera district. Another of my favorite hotels is the sleek Locanda Pandenus, a small refuge above a lively bistro-café. Go up the stairs and immerse yourself in the timeless charm of this small chic hotel, the suites are a hidden gem that truly deserves a stay.

And not to be missed, during Milan Design Week our boutique will showcase the exclusive forte_forte archive up-cycled collection “jungle fever,” featuring unique and iconic pieces taken from our archive and customized by hand. It’s a must stop in the historical Brera tour! For a perfect breakfast, I love Pasticceria Sissi, to have an amazing brioche with a view on the beautiful outdoor area full of flowers (keep an eye on the cue during the weekend). For the best cotoletta alla Milanese you can imagine, go to Trattoria Nuovo Macello, an historical, typical place, with an authentic Italian cuisine.

La Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore. Photo:

7. J.J. Martin, Founder of La DoubleJ

It’s kind of incredible that the church Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore doesn’t have more fanfare. Yes, there are people in it, but nowhere near the kind of crowds you get in the Duomo or Santa Maria delle Grazie. It’s sensational. I’m really affected by environments, patterns, and prints (obviously). This is like a 16th-century version of pattern Mecca—the ceiling of this church is like an embroidered jewel. Raimondo Garau is for anyone looking for great design and furniture scores. He’s got the best eye in town and his prices are fair. Raimondo was a total secret weapon for me when I was decorating my apartment in Milan.

Cover: Marchesi 1824 cafe.
Photo: courtesy of Marchesi 1824


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