As the birthplace of Armani, Missoni, and Prada, Milan is Italy’s style capital, and not the kind of place you think of for a cheap and cheerful weekend away. So how do you enjoy a stylish sojourn in Milan when your wallet is lighter than a catwalk model? It’s all about being creative with your budget, and we’ll show you how.
We’re not going to ask you to rest your beautifully styled head in a hostel, but elegance comes at a price, so you’ll need to find ways of securing discounted rates from hotels. Book in the off-season, or midweek when prices can be as much as 50 percent lower. Call the hotel in advance and find out exactly when its off-season rates begin and what kind of package deals, promotions and special discounts are available (are you a pensioner, student, or Automobile Association member, for example?). When you are quoted a rate, enquire if cheaper rooms are available. All this haggling should get you a good deal, and even if your hotel is not the Bulgari, you can always sip a latte in the lobby.
Even if you are not one of Milan’s beautiful people, you can always shop like one. But unless there are wads of cash lining your last-season pockets, you should avoid the impossibly elegant boutiques on the Quadrilatero d’Oro, (Golden Quad). It’s time to turn away and sharpen your elbows because you’re about to battle for your designer bargains. Search the warehouses and pop-up shops around Corso Vittorio Emanuele II for everything from high fashion to jewellery. Il Salvagente
at Via Fratelli Bronzetti is a treasure trove of designers from Cavalli to Chloe.
Outlet at Via Montenapoleone and Via Forcello has a store set right in the heart of the fashion district. Train an eagle eye on the markets and join the locals at the packed Viale Papiniano in search of designer gear. L'Armadio di Laura
is where the wealthy Milanese head when they want to clear out their wardrobes. Owner Laura Gentile has great connections with Blumarine and Ferragamo, so occasionally you will find their end-of-season returns here.
Eating & Drinking
Even if your new (last-season) Versace jeans are digging in rather uncomfortably, there’s no need to starve yourself just to save money in Milan. Embrace the city’s eminently sensible aperitivo tradition, which supplies punters with tasty free food once they buy a drink. Resist the urge to stuff your face with salamis, cheese, biscotti, pasta, and salads, and do as the Milanese do. Linger at the bar with your glass of champagne (well, prosecco) and nibble on a plateful of treats. The chief aperitivo area is the canal-side of Navigli, with bars such as Le Biciclette and Caffe Del La Posterla ideal for the hip and trendy. Free evening meals give you licence to splash out at the more exclusive restaurants at lunchtime, when their menus are not quite so expensive. Lunch at Nobu
in the Armani Emporium is a must if you enjoy a free fashion show. Before you raise an eyebrow at such indulgence, remember you will be mingling with the cream of Milan’s style crop, and this branch of the famous Japanese restaurant is more affordable than its British counterpart, especially for lunch.