Italy is home to some of the world’s hottest design spots, and none come hotter than Milan.
I was there in April 2014 for the Salone del Mobile.Milano design fair. Predominantly trade only, the fair is open to the public on the Saturday and Sunday. But even if you don’t want to splash out for a ticket to the fair itself, the whole of Milan comes alive for Saqlone del Mobile with art shows and design installations popping up all over the place which drag you into nooks and crannies of the city that won’t appear in any guide book.
Following the design trail is a great way to play tourist in Milan! We filmed down all sorts of side streets and laneways, discovering cute little one-off boutiques like the sort you’d find in Brunswick and Fitzroy in Melbourne, or Crown Street, Surry Hills, in Sydney. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, these unique places are tricky to find, but it’s well worth taking a detour down the cobbled side streets off Milan’s main shopping squares to discover the hidden gems only the locals know about.
When I’m overseas I’m always on the lookout for tea houses, and I found a beauty in Milan. The design was all tessellated tile and chandelier opulence, with silver service waiters dishing out dainty little petit fours and desserts. I just popped in for a cup of tea, but it would be easy to succumb to the luxury and stay for hours. I think that’s Italians’ secret to enjoying life. They immerse themselves in everything they do, and do it wholeheartedly.
Expect the unexpected when it comes to Milan. We were searching for a place to film me doing some sketching one day and found this little bar that literally had three stools in it. I was about to get settled when they whisked me off downstairs to this huge wine cellar that used to belong to the monks next door. Again, I could have spent hours there sketching to my heart’s content!
My highlight in Milan was interviewing design doyenne Rossana Orlandi. Famous for being several steps ahead of any trend, Rossana didn’t know me from a bar of soap, but she was so generous with her time and knowledge, spending two hours chatting to me instead of the 20-minute spot we were originally allocated. You can see the interview on Shaynna’s World Of Design.
I guess my top tip for Milan is to ask people about the history of the place as you tour around. You’ll meet fascinating people, discover things you didn’t know and places you didn’t know existed.