Design

Our Editor-in-Chief’s Guide to Actually Enjoying Milan Design Week

This year’s top places to stay, eat, drink, and shop—along with the galleries to visit and nearby locales to flee to after it’s all over.

Every year, starting in mid-March, the inbox-overloading, headache-inducing madness that is the lead-up to Milan’s Salone del Mobile design and furniture fair comes in a fury. We know we’re not the only ones who face this onslaught. So, to help make planning for Milan Design Week a bit easier this year—and to make the experience, once there, more enjoyable—our editor-in-chief rounded up some of his favorite hotels, bars, restaurants, and galleries in the city, as well as some places to escape to for the weekend once it’s all over. Salone, above all, should be fun. We hope this shortlist can be of some help in achieving this. (For the extra-curious, see our Destination Guide to Milan.)

Lobby of the Room Mate Giulia hotel. (Photo: Courtesy Room Mate Giulia)

STAY

I’ve always found it strange that, for a city full of fashion and design brands, Milan doesn’t have many hotels to match its sophistication. Maybe, when it opens, the forthcoming Milan Edition hotel will change all of that. Until then, the Patricia Urquiola–designed Room Mate Giulia (Via Silvio Pellico, 4, room-matehotels.com/en/giulia) would be my top choice. Another worth considering, designed by Nicola Gallizia, is Hotel Viu (Via Aristotile Fioravanti, 6, hotelviumilan.com). A couple of years ago, I stayed at the centrally located Mandarin Oriental (Via Andegari, 9, mandarinoriental.com) and would highly recommend it, as well, though be ready to splurge if you book it—rooms during Salone start at 1,500 euros a night. The most practical, budget-friendly alternative, though the options may be slim at this point, is finding an apartment on Airbnb (this year, through the site, I snagged a nice spot near the Duomo).

A rendering of The Diner by David Rockwell with Surface + 2x4, taking place at Ventura Centrale.

EAT AND DRINK

Okay, this is going to sound self-serving, but the place to get drinks and a bite this year is The Diner (Via Ferrante Aporti, 11), a collaborative, weeklong installation and full-service restaurant—thanks, Murray’s Cheese!—that David Rockwell is designing in collaboration with Surface and 2×4. (Reserve a table here.) A celebration of Surface’s 25th anniversary, the space will offer a twist on the classic American roadside restaurant with furniture pieces from Design Within Reach Contract and other elements from the likes of Cosentino, Pure+FreeForm, and others. More likely than not, if I’m not running around the Fiera Milano fairgrounds, I’ll be posted up here.

As for other options, the ultimate Milan staple is Da Giacomo (Via Pasquale Sottocorno, 6; giacomoristorante.com), which is beautifully done, in a classic trattoria style, by architects Renzo Mongiardino and Roberto Peregalli. For the uninitiated, it’s an absolute must. Another favorite is Carlo e Camilla (Via Giuseppe Meda, 24; carloecamillainsegheria.it), which chef Carlo Cracco and art director Tanja Solci opened in 2014; it may be the most memorable culinary experience in the city. The industrial interior by the firm Solci, the Richard Ginori tableware, the Capellini chairs—it’s all so perfect. (Pro tip: Call both restaurants ahead to make sure they’re not already booked for a special event.) And, for first-timers—or the utterly clueless—be sure to head to Bar Basso (Via Plinio, 39; barbasso.com) and ask for its signature Negroni Sbagliato.

Nilufar Depot. (Photo: Courtesy Nilufar Gallery)

SEE

The nearly 200-foot-tall, OMA-designed white concrete Torre (or tower) at Fondazione Prada (Largo Isarco, 2, fondazioneprada.org) finally opens on April 20—so it may be worth staying in Milan all the way through the week to tour it. Six floors will house galleries, and a panoramic terrace and bar will be situated on the top. I find the Fondazione’s programming and collection, run by head of programs Astrid Welter, to be astoundingly good. I’m looking forward to seeing the current exhibition, “Post Zang Tumb Tuuum. Art Life Politics: Italia 1918–1943,” conceived and curated by Germano Celant.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Italian legend Achille Castiglioni’s birth, so a stop by the Studio Museo Achille Castiglioni (Piazza Castello, 27; fondazioneachillecastiglioni.it) is also in order. The space will be presenting the centennial exhibition “100×100 Achille,” curated by Chiara Alessi and Domitilla Dardi. And, as always, I will be visiting one of my favorite galleries in the world, Spazio Rossana Orlandi (Via Matteo Bandello, 14/16, rossanaorlandi.com), which during Salone will have a special installation by the trend forecaster Li Edelkoort and Google. (If you don’t know anything about the place or the incredible woman behind it, here’s a profile I wrote of Orlandi, which was the cover story of Surface’s April 2017 issue.)

A room at the G-Rough hotel in Rome. (Photo: Claudio Sabatino)

ESCAPE

You don’t have to go far to clear your head, and because it’s still relatively early in the year to head to Lake Como, that’s my top recommendation. While Villa D’Este is the popular place to stay there, I recommend Grand Hotel Tremezzo (grandhoteltremezzo.com), which looks like it’s straight out of a Wes Anderson film. I stayed there one weekend after Salone a few years ago, and was one of just a few guests at the hotel.

Rome is another great getaway, just a quick flight or three-hour train ride from Milan. Right next to the Pantheon, in the city’s center, is one of the most pleasant hotels I’ve ever experienced: the small and charming (if oddly named) G-Rough (g-rough.com). Its well-appointed, apartment-style rooms overlook a piazza. For the more adventurous, I suggest going on a Carrara Marble Tour (carraramarbletour.it). After looking at design objects all week, it’s probably the best thing one could do: go straight to the source.

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