Rome has film, Florence has art, but Milan has always been Italy’s capital of fashion, design, opera, finance and media. In other words, this means Milan is a hub of young, inspiring creatives that come together from all over the world to enjoy both the traditional side of Italy in all it’s food and style glory, as well as bring some fresh air to the city with cool new restaurants, concept stores, zen spaces and eco design.
Home to one of the most famous paintings in the world, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper; the largest opera house in Europe; and a cathedral made entirely out of marble that took over five decades to complete, this city really is rich in history and culture. Nevertheless, it’s a city that is not afraid to modernise and wants to stay ahead of the curve. Fun fact: tradition has it that the symbol of the city ‘La Madonnina’ (a golden statue of the Madonna) always has to be on the highest point of the city to watch over it and this used to be at the top of the Cathedral where the most famous statue lives, but as high rise buildings were built in the city, a miniature version was placed on the top of the highest building – the epitome of a city floating between old and new. The city is increasingly trying to become greener with an extensive recycling scheme, bike lanes and the rehabilitation of an historic area of the city with sustainability in mind, including the “Bosco Verticale” (meaning vertical forest) high rise buildings that each house 900 trees, and 11,000 floral plants, built with the aim of helping to mitigate pollution.
Once a year Milan opens its doors for the Salone Del Mobile – the biggest design fair in the world – which means that apart from seeing cutting-edge design from all over the world, you also get to see the beautiful courtyards and gardens of old Milanese houses that hide behind heavy wooden doors the rest of the year (they are so beautiful there is even a book about them).
If you’re heading to Milan, these are our tips on how to visit the Italian city more sustainably:
FOOD & DRINK
Soulgreen – Because Italy is not just pizza and pasta, if you’re looking for a healthy, plant-based meal then head to Soulgreen. The restaurant also has a give-back program that gives three meals a day to more than 280 kids who used to have to work for their meals in India and Cambodia.
Matcha Café – Even though Italy is known for the exceptional coffee (and to be honest a 1€ espresso tastes great in almost every bar), Milan also has the perfect place for matcha latte aficionados: the Matcha Café. Tea, lattes, lunch bowls and veggie burgers made with matcha green tea can be found here. #instagrammable
And of course let’s not forget the friends, family and collegues that didn’t make it out to Milan with you. Take home a few tasters of the delicious food specialities or fresh pasta from Eataly – the store in itself is already a wonderful experience.
Between 6pm-9pm in Milan it’s Aperitivo time, where friends or colleagues get together and have a pre-dinner drink accompanied by small platters of shared food bits, that often turn into dinner. For an eco-friendly aperitif head to Gesto, where everything is made from reclaimed materials, the furniture is vintage or made by local artisans, and the ingredients are locally-sourced.
Left: Soulgreen / Right: Gesto
Vintage and antique shopping
On the last Sunday of every month a vintage and antiques market is hosted along the Navigli canal, where you can pick up all kinds of treasures. Along the canal there are also lots of wonderful vintage fashion shops and cafés to explore. In the evening, the canal turns into a dreamy spot for an aperitivo as the sun sets on the canal – highly recommended!
Cavalli e Nastri is a wonderful little vintage shop in the heart of Milan’s design district, Brera. This is where you find the most special and unique finds and is a definitive stop for a lot of fashion industry insiders when in the city for Fashion Week.
Lipstick vintage – If the name didn’t give it away, this is the kind of vintage store you go to when you have to find an evening gown or Daisy invited you to Jay Gatsby’s summer party in Lake Como, the most GLAM vintage you will ever see.
Lastly, the final destination on your vintage shopping tour through Milan will definitely have to be Madame Pauline Vintage, a whimsical adventure into the Narnia closet of a very fabulous grandma. Milanese ladies are so glam, there is even an Instagram account (@sciuraglam) about them that counts 148K followers so far and Madame Pauline Vintage is how you get on it.
If you’re travelling it can feel so refreshing and energising to stretch it out in a yoga class or find some peace and quite in a vibrant city with a mindfulness practice. From Hot Yoga, to Kundalini, Pilates and Prana Healing, you can practice it all at City Zen.
If you’re interested in contemporary and modern art then there are two art galleries you must visit. The first one would be Fondazione Prada, which also futures Bar Luce – a café entirely designed by Wes Anderson (and an incredible experience in itself) and the iconic gold painted wall just infront. Secondly, right next to the Duomo cathedral there is the ‘Museo del Novecento‘ which showcases artists like Fontana, Modigliani, Picasso and Kandinsky.
– Milan is a desert in August, as most Italians have the month off from work since temperatures can rise up to 40C degrees.
– You can adopt a gargoyle from the cathedral to help fund restoration of this iconic landmark.
– If you’re living in an Airbnb and are looking for a ‘health store’ find a NaturaSí near you.
For more sustainable travel tips, read our guides With Love from London, Brighton and Sri Lanka and see our list of the most sustainable cities in the world to visit.
See the best eco resorts on the planet.