There’s a fine line between Epicureanism and obsession. In Milan it’s the latter that is most common, where even the anniversary of the city’s patron, Sant'Ambrogio, is celebrated with a four-day feast of grilled meat and mulled wine. The city’s cultural showpiece, the Teatro alla Scala, hosts not simply a coffee shop but rather a full-blown gastronomic temple courtesy of Italy’s most famous chef, Gualtiero Marchesi.
While Milan’s latest artistic icon, the Fondazione Prada, is as well known for its psychedelic bar, designed by movieman Wes Anderson, as it is for its contemporary art.
Milan is Italy’s commercial capital, where hard-nosed, high-value trading is the norm (the city’s region, Lombardy, produces a massive 20% of Italy’s GDP).
Therefore, Milanese are both clued-up and demanding, especially where their favourite pastime is concerned.
Neighbourhood cafés and even basic osterie are dissected over dinner.
Street market produce and brioche alla marmellata from the local bakery are pondered in the smallest detail before purchase.
Of course, Milanese can afford to be choosy; they reside in Italy’s richest city. They host the country’s most acclaimed chefs. And they have been at the nexus of the nation’s culinary communication since the Navigli canals shipped in Gorgonzola and baccalà (salt cod) five centuries ago. Later, trains from Trieste and planes from Palermo landed the freshest seafood straight into the city.
Food here is thus contemporary yet timeless, and fashionable without being faddy (they leave trends like haute dogs and hipster chicken to London and New York).
Arrive hungry for a cappuccio-cotoletta-panettone-pasticceria hurrah: Milan promises a meal that exceeds all expectations.
Milan owes both its heart and wallet to the Navigli, the vast waterway system that once operated more lines than the London Underground.
Half a millennium ago, Leonardo da Vinci perfected a hydraulic system that channelled the canals as far as Switzerland,...