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Salone Survival Guide: Where the Insiders Eat, Drink, Shop and Sleep in Milan

Spring has arrived, and that means one thing for the design world: It’s time for the annual pilgrimage to Salone del Mobile in Milan. The tentpole of Milan Design Week, which is known for unveiling emerging trends, the Salone will draw 2,350 exhibitors from around the world this year from April 9 through 14. Like fashion week, but for contemporary-design devotees, it transforms the city, with heavy-hitting dealers, designers and collectors zipping from presentation to presentation showcasing what we’ll be coveting in the year ahead.

The penthouse of the Torre Breda is where 1stdibs is staging an Italian disco-themed retreat during Salone. Photo courtesy of Eden Milano

Thousands of top furniture makers and sellers — including Altreforme, Emeco, Vitra, Duplex and Chapel Petrassi — are showing fresh creations at the main event. In addition, there are numerous must-see satellite exhibitions, among them Nada Debs at Dilmos; Quincoces-Dragò at Six Gallery; Mmario at the Square Garden Conservatories; Fabscarte at its own showroom; and Aldo Cibic, Amleto Missaglia, Mati and Pretziada at various Fuorisalone venues.

Not to be outdone, 1stdibs is turning a 1950s penthouse atop the famed Torre Breda into an Italian disco retreat, outfitting the interiors with pieces from Gufram’s ultra-glam Disco collection and serving up midday cappuccinos, afternoon affogatos and sunset spritzes to be enjoyed on the pink-marble roof terrace (April 9 to 11).

Milan has a reputation for being a gray, industrial labyrinth. But behind the city’s many concrete walls are plenty of gems to be discovered. For help in uncovering these hidden charms, we asked some Salone regulars about how to do Milan like a design insider.

 


WHERE TO STAY

The vaulted pool at the Four Seasons. Photo by Paul Thuysbaert, courtesy of the Four Seasons

 

A 19th-century interior at the Grand Hotel et de Milan. Photo courtesy of the Grand Hotel

Sara Story
Founder of Sara Story Design

“I love the Four Seasons. It’s a luxurious respite from the bustle of Milan, and it has the most divine pool.”

 

Samer Alameen
Industrial designer

“Grand Hotel et de Milan has beautiful nineteenth-century interiors and a great location, near La Scala and via Montenapoleone.”

 

Charlie Ferrer
Founder of FERRER design studio and gallery

“If budget isn’t a concern, my favorite is the Bulgari hotel. The approach is down a private street at the end of which the nineteen-fifties building, footed with a lovely garden, appears unexpectedly, almost mirage-like. The interiors embody simple, modern luxury. The handsome, quiet textures of the rooms immediately relax me.”

 

The gardens of the Bulgari hotel. Photo courtesy of the Bulgari Hotel

 

Camilla Pescetta
Owner of Pescetta Antichità and cofounder of AMART, the Milan Antiques Fair

“The area around Porta Venezia, where I live, is amazing — it’s a mix of Italian Liberty and Art Deco buildings alongside modern everyday shops. I love the garden at the Diana Majestic hotel, and nearby there’s the historic Farmacia Diana and Gelateria Concordia, a great ice-cream shop on the Piazza Risorgimento.”


WHERE TO EAT

The mid-century-inspired dining room of Ceresio 7. Photo courtesy of Ceresio 7

 

Sara Story

“To me, Ceresio 7 combines the best of Italy: eye-catching art and design, fabulous people watching and an impeccably curated menu. But in true Italian fashion, it comes with a twist: It occupies a sleek, lushly planted rooftop on a historic building featuring two swimming pools and amazing views of the skyline. It’s not to be missed!”

 

Atrium dining at Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone. Photo courtesy of ll Salumaio di Montenapoleone

Fanny Bauer Grung
Founding partner of Quincoces-Dragò architecture and design studio

“For breakfast, I love Pasticceria Cucchi — it’s so traditional, very Milanese. It’s populated by recurring clients, which always sets a nice atmosphere. It’s quite large, so there’s plenty of space to take your time and read the paper while you enjoy your coffee.”

 

Andrea Bonini
Founder of Andrea Bonini Bespoke Interiors Studio

“Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone is always a classic. I love the garden and the antique interiors of the Palazzo Bagatti Valsecchi, where it’s located.”

 

Elena Salmistraro
Product designer and artist

“I love Carlo e Camilla in Segheria, for its atmosphere. It’s calm, elegant but not too formal. You can drink fantastic cocktails, and the food is delicious. The perfect place to have an aperitif and dine.”

 

The soaring, rustic spaces of Penelope a Casa. Photo by Enrico De Luigi courtesy of Carlo e Camilla

 

Charlie Ferrer

“Penelope a Casa is situated in a former private home, which lends the restaurant a familiar, cozy atmosphere. The scene is up — current and fun, a favorite of my Milanese friends.”


WHERE TO DRINK

Fioraio Bianchi Caffè bursts with fresh flowers. Photo courtesy of Fioraio Bianchi Caffè
The Armani Bamboo Bar sits high in the sky. Photo courtesy of Armani Bamboo Bar

Fanny Bauer Grung

“Fioraio Bianchi Caffè is a good classic! The atmosphere is so special, with the flowers curated by Vanny and the ambience set by the manager, Renée. It’s a little délabré, which makes it all the more charming.”

 

Camilla Pescetta

“LùBar is a really charming place. It’s in an ancient building that’s shared by the Galleria d’Arte Moderna. The design is an incredibly chic take on colonial style — a winter garden with pastel pinks and blues, wrought-iron furniture, palm trees, pineapples. The music is always perfect, and at night, there’s a live band with a retro spirit. I love this place!”

 

Andrea Bonini

“The Armani Bamboo Bar has the perfect sophisticated, metropolitan atmosphere — as one would expect from Mr. Armani. Plus, it offers views of the beautiful Chiesa di San Francesco da Paola, on via Mazoni in front of the Armani building.”

 


WHERE TO SHOP

Stephan Janson with his coveted garments. Photo courtesy of Atelier Stephan Janson

 

Martina Mondadori Sartogo
Founder and publisher of Cabana

“One of my favorites for fashion is Atelier Stephan Janson, as it’s something one can only find in Milan, so rare in today’s globalized world! And I love shopping on via Santa Marta and its surroundings — in particular, at Osanna Visconti’s atelier and Arjumand’s World for fabrics.”

 

Brightly colored shoes, clothing and accessories at Wait and See. Photo courtesy of Wait and See

 

Annalisa Rosso
Editor in chief of Icon Design and cofounder of Mr. Lawrence design consultancy

“Wait and See is a crazy place, full of colors and amazing people. And for books, Libri Belli is a brilliant project that curates vintage books based on their beautiful covers.”

 

Antonia’s sleek, minimalist showroom. Photo courtesy of Antonia

 

Sara Story

“I love Antonia in the Brera — it’s in a gorgeous palazzo, and they always curate an eclectic mix of luxury fashion brands with emerging designers. And I always enjoy perusing the 5Vie Art + Design district — the boutiques encompass everything from jewelry and housewares to antiques. I could get lost for days!”

 

Vintage finds at Compasso. Photo courtesy of Compasso

 

Charlie Ferrer

Compasso deals in twentieth-century Italian design, with a focus on lighting, furniture and objects of the nineteen fifties, sixties and seventies. It’s located in a warehouse space. The top floor is a more curated presentation, where the amazing lighting really stands out. Downstairs, you’ll find a more raw space in which to shop a breadth of incredible seating.”

 


WHAT TO SEE

Dan Flavin’s light art in the Santa Maria Annunciata church. Photo by Roberto Marossi, courtesy of Fondazione Prada

 

Sara Story

“I’m excited to see so many things this year! I’m looking forward to seeing the Dan Flavin installation at the Santa Maria Annunciata church, which is only visible in the late afternoon and evening.”

 

Camilla Pescetta

“One must visit the Università Statale. You go there only for one reason: to be surprised! There’s always some very conceptual work of art or installation that is like being transported to an alternate world. The space is huge and very antique, so the juxtaposition with contemporary art is amazing.”

 

Paolo Gavazzeni
Art director of Portaluppi Milano Design

“I’ve heard great things regarding the Broken Nature exhibition at the Triennale. I am intrigued by the idea itself: how design could save the planet. And I’m very much looking forward to seeing the Ingres show at the Palazzo Reale.”

 

Fondazione Prada was designed by Rem Koolhaas’s firm OMA. Photo by Bas Princen, courtesy of the Fondazione Prada

 

Matteo Cibic
Product designer

“There are too many things to see in such a small time, but one of my favorite things to do is go to the Fondazione Prada, and on the way, I always stop to have some super-fresh mozzarella at Centro della Mozzarella on via Benacco.”

Shop Our Salone del Mobile 2019 Collection

Top photo: The Gothic Duomo di Milano at dusk. Photo by Westend61/Getty

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