Is there a city more congenial to the gentleman than Milan? The home of italian tailoring, and boasting cobbled streets and broad arcades, this is surely Europe’s capital of class. Golden, riviera-swept seasons and the thunder and drama of the Formula One at Monza make the epicentre of the nation’s most vaunted winemaking region not only multi-talented, but thoroughly worth visiting.
Naturally, you’ll want to make sure you do these auspicious surroundings justice. But as with any continental city worth its salt, Milan can sometimes feel like something of an unknown entity: an overwhelming maze of etiquettes and unwritten rules to negotiate, a warren of hidden gems and undisturbed delicacies.
Thankfully, Gentleman’s Journal is on hand with a suitable guide to accompany you into this uncharted territory…
Where to stay
There’s nothing more on trend than a reclaimed building, transformed into a hotel – and every major city seems to have their standout establishment. Milan’s is arguably Hotel Magna Pars Suites Milano, an enchanting and impressive reclaimed perfume factory in the heart of the city which has fully embraced its olfactory past – with a little help from Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
Enter into ‘The Laboratory’, where elegant wood cabinets contain objects from the perfumer’s family archive and the tens of scents they create to this day. Thirty-nine, in fact – and when you choose your favourite, you will be taken to your room that corresponds to the fragrance, and is themed with everything from elegant velvet-upholstered chairs to commissioned canvases to evoke the scent.
Where to eat
Ristorante da Giacomo, a wonderful seafood osteria that specialises in wonderful fresh seafood of every conceivable variety, exceptionally sourced local wines, and famously grumpy waiters. Well worth a trip – for the scowling and the scallops alike.
What to drink
Milan lies within the grand winemaking region of Piedmont, home to the world-beating Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Brick red in colour and lightly oaked, Barolo and Barbaresco usually exhibit notes of cherry, truffles, fennel and licorice, and a decent glass – at the right moment and in the right company – can change lives.
With seafood, the locals opt for the dry sparkling wines from the Asti region, of which MARTINI – from its cool, hilltop perch over vineyards sloped at 45 degrees – makes the finest and most memorable. And you can never go wrong with a local rose. In the evening, choose a good local vermouth, served very long over tonic and invigorated with fresh fruit and a small iceberg or six.
What to wear
The gentlemen of Milan operate a rotating uniform that is both a beautiful parody of itself and a deadly serious pursuit: Navy pleated suits with inherited Hermes ties and jackets slung on a single finger over the shoulder; just-off-white trousers, bare ankles, unstructured ultramarine blazers and battered chocolate briefcases; white or powder blue tailored shirts with a monogram on the midriff; an insouciant, silver-streaked slick back over handmade horn rimmed glasses; and at all times, a pouty, knowing aspect interrupted often by the rapturous kissing of a dear acquaintance. They also ride a lot of vintage bicycles.
When to visit
When visiting Milan, consider times. In a little over a week, the Grand Prix will descend upon nearby Monza, and it is like nothing else in Italy. In a cloud of shipping heiresses, Ferrari-red smoke, sparkling Asti and shrieking engines, the locals sob and faint and storm the track over home-grown Ferrari. But the traditional British gentleman abroad flies the flag for Williams Martini Racing: a timeless marriage of English engineering brilliance and Italian panache.