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Brera, Milan

15 June 2015

Words: IVAN CARVALHO Images: GAIA CAMBIAGGI

A leisurely stroll from Milan’s fashion boutiques and the Duomo, the Brera district has historically been the place where artists and intellectuals congregated to smoke, eat and chat at bars and cafés. Full of quaint side streets and prestigious palazzos – it hosts the Pinacoteca art gallery with works by Caravaggio, Raphael and other great masters – it has in recent years undergone a mini-revolution.

Restaurants have been opening at a steady rate, perhaps in anticipation of the food-themed Expo 2015 world’s fair, which Milan hosts from May 1 to October 31. A whole array of new establishments have sprouted up of late, happily ensuring that those who want an alternative to Italy’s best-known foods of pizza and pasta will not have to venture far when hunger calls.

PALAZZO PARIGI

A mix of sober Milanese elegance and Parisian luxury, the recently completed 98-room Palazzo Parigi hotel looks to compete with the city’s existing five-star properties for attention. The lobby features a mix of Venetian mosaic tile flooring, marble, impressive columns and opulent Murano chandelier – the interiors were designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, whose portfolio includes the Hotel George V in Paris.

Rooms have oak parquet with rugs and there are 33 suites, which enjoy unparalleled views of the historic downtown and the city’s new Porta Nuova business district. The property has a 1,400sqm spa and conference rooms bathed in natural light, while the stylish lounge has an onyx-lined bar and parquet with refined neoclassical inlay. The gourmet restaurant is a mix of traditional, featuring a 17th-century fireplace with red Verona marble and gilded bronze detailing, and modern as waiters arrive from the kitchen with expertly curated dishes via a transparent glass cube.

Corso di Porta Nuova 1
Brera
Milan
Tel: +39 02 625 625
palazzoparigi.com

MASSIMO ALBA

Recognised for his way with cashmere – he had stints as creative director for fashion brands Agnona and Ballantyne – clothing designer Massimo Alba is at home making wearable knitwear for men and women. Since 2006 he has run his eponymous label and won plaudits for his collections of super-soft garments tailored to a laidback lifestyle. His Italian cashmere is dyed with natural, chemical-free pigments in a range of exclusive colours.

Fans flock to see his understated looks at his boutique set on a quiet side street a stone’s throw from the Pinacoteca. An old-fashioned shopkeeper’s bell announces a visitor’s arrival in a space featuring well-worn hardwood floors, wallpaper made of pages taken from gardening journals and vintage dressers and loungers from Alba’s home. On hangers one finds knitted jumpers and cardigans together with slim pants, shorts and casual shirts in luxurious cotton and linens done in an array of pastel tones.

Via Brera 8
Brera
Milan
Tel: +39 02 7209 3420
massimoalba.com

N’OMBRA DE VIN

Few wine shops in the world can match the atmosphere inside Milanese enoteca N’Ombra de Vin. The cave-like interior, with imposing 14th-century granite columns and vaulted ceiling, was once a refectory used by Augustinian friars. Today, meals are available for hungry travellers in the cellar but don’t be surprised to see oenophiles perusing the shelves shopping for wines.

Staff stock an impressive selection of over 1,000 that cover everything from robust Sicilian reds made from Nerello Mascalese grapes on Mount Etna to biodynamic Tuscan wines to aged white wines from Italy’s Austrian-influenced South Tyrol region (seek out vintages from Cantina Terlano for tasting). In the evenings, a relaxing drink and finger foods can be had upstairs at outside seating. Quaff a glass or two of Italian bubbly from the country’s Franciacorta region or sample the house cocktail that locals swear by (a mix of ginger soda and champagne).

Via San Marco 2
Brera
Milan
Tel: +39 02 659 9650
nombradevin.it

PISACCO

Few wine shops in the world can match the atmosphere inside Milanese enoteca N’Ombra de Vin. The cave-like interior, with imposing 14th-century granite columns and vaulted ceiling, was once a refectory used by Augustinian friars. Today, meals are available for hungry travellers in the cellar but don’t be surprised to see oenophiles perusing the shelves shopping for wines.

Staff stock an impressive selection of over 1,000 that cover everything from robust Sicilian reds made from Nerello Mascalese grapes on Mount Etna to biodynamic Tuscan wines to aged white wines from Italy’s Austrian-influenced South Tyrol region (seek out vintages from Cantina Terlano for tasting). In the evenings, a relaxing drink and finger foods can be had upstairs at outside seating. Quaff a glass or two of Italian bubbly from the country’s Franciacorta region or sample the house cocktail that locals swear by (a mix of ginger soda and champagne).
Via San Marco 2 Brera
Milan
Tel: +39 02 659 9650
nombradevin.it

FIORAIO BIANCHI CAFFÈ

Originally a neighbourhood florist, Fioraio Bianchi has morphed in recent years into a café-cum-bistro. People pop in for a cosy lunch, intimate dinner with friends or a lazy mid-morning cappuccino in the midst of a riot of fresh flowers that are available for purchase – there’s even a popular cocktail hour from 6pm to 8pm that has locals cramming in to procure a glass of Sicilian red from the French maitre d’ in charge.

The kitchen does a contemporary take on traditional Italian fare, serving up freshly made garganelli pasta, Piccadilly tomatoes, aubergine and a sprinkling of mature cacio ricotta cheese followed by a main course of rack of veal cooked over embers with a mushroom reduction. To finish off proceedings, or for an afternoon standalone snack, sample the house cannelès, a traditional Bordeaux dessert with a soft vanilla and rum-infused dough.
Via Montebello 7
Brera
Milan
Tel: +39 02 2901 4390
fioraiobianchicaffe.it

GUIDO GOBINO

Founded in Turin, where he still prepares batches of chocolate daily in his sweets laboratory, confectioner Guido Gobino is for many foodies the Willy Wonka of Italy. For the past five years he has had a foothold in Milan with his mini-boutique on the pedestrian friendly strip of Corso Garibaldi. Milanese with a sweet tooth to satisfy frequent the shop to stock up on his gianduja-style sweets made from a mixture of quality cacao and Piedmontese hazelnuts – be sure to sample his prize-winning cremino al sale, a sugar-cube size chocolate treat made with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.

Among Gobino’s delicious treats are the Tourinot dark chocolate candies made without milk and his range of creamy ganache delicacies that are infused with a variety of flavours (black tea, Sicilian lemon, vermouth to name a few). To beat the heat in summer, order a chocolate granita to go.

Corso Garibaldi 39
Brera
Milan
Tel: +39 02 8909 6601
guidogobino.it

DRY

Don’t be deceived by the name, as Dry has quickly become the favourite watering hole of discerning Milanese. Inaugurated in the summer of 2013 and open only in the evenings, the thirsty wet their lips savouring the bar’s line-up of vintage cocktail recipes – forget about the available everywhere Aperol Spritz and order a Corpse Reviver #2 made with a sweet Piedmontese aperitif wine, dry gin, Cointreau and fresh lemon juice.

Nibble on focaccia laced with prosciutto crudo and creamy strips of mozzarella in the front lounge, listen to a hip soundtrack of tunes and watch the fast-moving hands of bartender Guglielmo Miriello execute long pours into an array of antique stemware. At the rear, Dry hosts an upscale pizzeria that serves Neapolitan-style pizzas in a smart setting that includes video art installations. There’s beer on draft or in the bottle and for dessert scoops of classic Italian gelato.

Via Solferino 33
Brera
Milan
Tel: +39 02 6379 3414
drymilano.it

NATHALIE JEAN

Montreal native Nathalie Jean moved to Milan in 1987 to work for famed architect Ettore Sottsass before branching out on her own as a product designer. In 1998, she switched gears to focus her creative talents on making jewellery. In her Milanese atelier she and a team of artisans bring to life her designs using sterling silver and 18k gold. Jean draws inspiration from both nature and her extensive travels and has won a cult following that includes art gallery owners and magazine editors from New York to Dubai.

Last year she inaugurated her bijou boutique in Via Solferino’s gourmet ghetto where, on afternoons and evenings, she greets clients and invites them to sit on vintage Gio Ponti chairs and browse her assortment of rings, bracelets and chains spanning the organic shell-like shapes of her alluring Hoya Carnosa necklaces to the limited edition Saphir Infini geometric pendants crafted in matt silver.

Via Solferino 48
Brera
Milan
Tel: +39 02 6208 6089
nathaliejean.com

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