Another season, another trip to Milan (sigh). Wait, that doesn’t sound right. I promise that it’s not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Sure, I go to Italy usually twice a year to work with vendors and factories. But it’s really hard work. It’s a long travel day, endless walking, there’s jet lag and other side effects and I’m really only there for 4 nights. I get up early and start working, so I never really get fully adjusted before it’s time to turn around and go back to Seattle.
But even if my internal clock is backwards and my feet feel like little loaves of bread, I do take time to visit the city of Milan. I take in some sights, find some new places and check in on the old favorites. I have mixed feelings about this last trip to the city, so I am calling this post “the Good, the Sad and the Ugly”.
On this trip, I hit all my appointments and got all the work done and then I had my whole last day free to roam the city. So I spent the day shopping the windows of Milan, wandering the streets high and low. I battled the crowds and I meandered on the side streets, I’m getting good at knowing the ins and outs of Milan and I’m a pro at the subway (metro).
Starting with the good: Milan has so much classic architecture! I can walk through the Galleria time after time and still amazed. The Duomo is stunning, it bursts high into the sky making me feel minuscule in comparison. I never tire of walking around in this area. The perfect melting pot of neoclassical architecture with new and modern shops makes for very pleasant window shopping, despite the congestion of locals and tourists.
I have a new favorite fashion store, it’s called “& Other Stories” and they have everything you could want! Jewelry, accessories, clothing and make-up. It’s like I walked into a fashionable person’s closet, color coordinated and curated by a professional stylist and it’s all very reasonably priced. I am regretting that I passed a little black dress and next time I will have to save my pennies so I can be impulsive.
I live for the boutique windows. The italians are very creative and I can always count on the shops to have interesting (and sometimes funny) windows full of inspiring ideas. I loved the simple yet attractive neon window in a Brera showroom and of course the murdered gnome in the Navigli actually made me laugh out load.
Moving on to the sad, which is led by Chinese imports and an infiltration of big box chain stores. I was in Porta Ticinese, across the street from from Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio. This street has always attracted me for it’s historic neighborhood feel and a healthy mix of independent retail. This time, I was looking at an American Apparel shop and it was disconcerting to say the least. The indie retailers on this street used to inspire me and now I feel like it’s become homogenized, taken over by the corporations. I had a similar feeling while staring in the windows of my favorite Milan shoe retailers. The shops that once sold fine Italian footwear are now full of fast fashion items made in China. There are stores that I once aspired to emulate, and now they are full of brands that you would recognize from department stores in the US.
Seeing all this saddens me but it also makes me feel grateful too. I feel really blessed that our shop can still offer beautiful handmade shoes and unique goods, because stores like ours are few and far between not only in our country but in Italy as well. Thank you to our customers for shopping with us and demanding quality goods, it’s our passion and we love to bring you all the things we hold dear and love.
Okay, now on to the ugly. Graffitti, it’s everywhere and seriously out of control! Historic monuments tend to be sacred and yet, anything remotely public domain is covered with paint. Most of it is senseless tagging and there are a few attempts at something artistic but there is so much that I am desensitized and it’s all ugly. I passed by a shop owner painting over his tagged store front and I thought, “Wow, that’s really great, he is handling the problem head on” and later I realized that the store front was a paint shop. Well, I guess he was obliged, I just hope his paint job will last longer than a week.
To end on a good note, my favorite thing about the city of Milan is its neighborhoods. Navigli, Centro Storico, Corso Como, Porta Ticinese and the Brera each have their own character and charm. The piazzas, parks and gardens paired with the architecture of the buildings make it a pleasure to stroll and enjoy. Every time I visit, I try to discover a new area but I’m always frequenting my favorites. Milan is a busy metropolitan area and it may not be the first choice destination for travelers but what I have learned over the years of visiting, if you take the time to get to know the city, Milan has all the excitement and charm of other famed Italian cities, just in a different way.