Live Like a Real Milanese

Live Like a Real Milanese

Milan has a style of its own: it’s unique, cosmopolitan, understated but also flamboyant and a bit snobbish. It is a city where tradition is deeply entwined with innovation.

The Milanese are workaholics

Locals pride themselves on being the efficient, hard-working class that keeps Italy’s economy afloat. They’re always in a rush, have a sense of entitlement and since they are perfectionists they always expect nothing but the best from others.

There has always been some rivarly with Rome, the political capital of Italy: Rome would definitely win a beauty contest against Milan, but Milan houses the banks, the stock exchange and the fashion world. It’s where Italy’s largest chunk of gross domestic product is concentrated.

The Milanese are punctual, so if you reserve a table or have an appointment, make sure you’re there on the dot.

It is more than just high end fashion

Milan’s fashion stage doesn’t showcase only the big flashy brands and glossy designer boutiques. There are couture artisans and historical family-run ateliers that have passed down through generations the art of hand-making tailored clothes with the highest quality fabrics.

Gallia e Peter, founded in 1930, is the most ancient milliner’s shop in Milan.

Caraceni is a traditional Italian tailor run by the Caraceni family (now in its fourth generation). The award-winning boutique is dedicated to quality traditional craftsmanship. 

Zagliani is one of the finest leather ateliers in Milan, renowned for their incredibly soft leather handcrafted bags. The workshop was taken over by Bally fashion house in 2015 and is now devoted to the Made to Order service at Bally.

Pino Grasso Ricami is an embroidery workshop run by Milanese artisan Pino Grasso and his daughter, Raffaella. Preserving the traditional art of embroidery, the atelier employs some of the best craftspeople around to design and create beautiful items for its clients.

Ombrelli Maglia has been crafting handmade umbrellas for more than 150 years. Using fine materials including lace, leather and natural wood, the family-run workshop (currently under the management of fifth generation family member) offers a beautiful selection of classic, vintage, sports and automatic style umbrellas for men and women.

The shoes made at Stivaleria Savoia aren’t just renowned in Milan, but around the world. Each bespoke pair is a wearable work of art, handmade and built to last, taking over 50 hours to make from scratch. Customers are invited to watch their shoes being made in the workshop by expert artisans.

An example of embroidered fabric by Pino Grasso with sequined flowers
A precious embroidery by Pino Grasso Atelier

The happy hour is called Aperitivo

Milan’s cool lounge bars, wild cocktails and gourmet finger foods set new trends across Italy. Evening drinks time, dubbed “aperitivo,” is a ritual.

People rush out of the office and get together to relax. It can last for hours, turning into a small dinner: an “apericena” (aperitif-dinner).

The Spritz (Prosecco, Aperol, soda), imported by the Austrians during their rule of Italy, is the iconic aperitif served everywhere, but there are plenty of creative twists.

You can enjoy an Aperitivo at almost any bar in Milan (and they are all packed) but one of the most popular areas for after work drinks is the Navigli district, located along a network of canals.

people sitting outside a cafe in the navigli area enjoying an aperitivo
Aperitivo time in the Navigli District

Real risotto was born here

How many times have you had risotto? Chances are it wasn’t the real thing.

The one and only original recipe is Risotto alla Milanese, which is yellowish, not white. It’s a creamy rice dish that gets its golden color from the addition of saffron.

A premium rice variety called carnaroli is added to veal broth, butter and raspadura, a delicate cheese that was given to the poor in the Middle Ages, leftover from aristocrats’ meals. The saffron, imported by Spanish conquerors in the 1500s but grown today in central Italy, gives it an exotic twist. A piece of ossobuco (bone marrow) is used as garnish.

The Milanese are so addicted to risotto that they are nicknamed “risottari” (rice-eaters).

Restaurant Ratanà serves both the traditional recipe and modern twists, with broccoli, bacon and crunchy chili peppers.

Milanese risotto with a side of Ossobuco
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