A few months back I went on a work trip to Milan to help set-up, work and then breakdown an exhibition as part of Milan Design Week 2015. Although I was there for two weeks, my schedule was so busy I only managed to squeeze in a couple of afternoons exploring. When I was there, the weather was only just beginning to warm up, and as a true Brit, I wore shorts and t-shirts at every opportunity whilst the Milanese were strutting around in jackets and trousers.
Having visited Milan once before it was already up there with Venice as one of my favourite Italian cities. Aside from being frowned at every time I asked for a latte past midday – apparently milk in coffee is only allowed before lunch – the Milanese are a pretty friendly bunch, the whole city seems to get excited in the build up to design week. Like most Europeans, the Italians know how to balance work and play – especially at this time of year – and the streets were constantly packed with city dwellers and visitors alike. One evening we were invited along to the private view of Housewarming, an exhibition put on by Airbnb, partnered with Fabrica at the stunning Palazzo Crespi, a 19th century mansion located in the city centre, privately owned by the Crespi family it rarely open to the public. It was incredible – and I don’t mean that lightly! On entering into the gated courtyard, we were then taken up the most amazing marble staircase, through rooms with beautifully painted ceilings, full of furniture intricately carved and dripping with gilt, to the Wisteria draped terrace where we were served the finest bubbling refreshments – it was insane.
On my afternoons off I hired BikeMi’s, the Milan version of London’s Boris Bikes, and hit the road to visit my favourite parts of the city. As I am sure everyone knows, any trip to Milan is not complete unless you gorge yourself on the finest Italian ice cream, and pay a visit to the Duomo – so that is exactly what I did. Besides it always being packed with tourists the sheer scale of the Cathedral is always impressive. I also paid a visit to Castello Sforzesco, which just like the Duomo was massive! Throughout my stay I had been planning to visit one of Milan’s many open air food Markets, each day putting it off until the following morning, finally on my second to last day when I was all ready to go the heavens opened. However I was not to be perturbed, found myself a rain-mac/bin-liner, hoped on my bike and followed my stomach – my head was screaming no – and ended up at Mercato V Alpini. I was soaked, but it was well worth it.
We were working/staying in the Lambrate district in the north eastern part of the city centre, which over the last couple of years – in my opinion – has become one of the better locations, in terms of exhibitions during design week, not only is it easy to get to being right next to Milan Centralle, its also just a stones throw away from Bar Basso – an English designers favourite haunt during design week.
All in all, Milan is a great city, and during Design Week is probably one of the best times of year to go. This year they are hosting the World EXPO, which pulls together design from across the world to showcase it all in one place, so if your visiting soon be sure to check it out. But if design isn’t for you then its still worth a visit – one afternoon I walked past someones garden to find a flock of flamingos guarding a fountain, and on another I stumbled across the most amazing pet shop – full of parrots – I will definitely be going back.