Alongside design and finance, Milan is a powerhouse for haute couture, where the latest in new fashion jumps from the catwalk to the clothing rail within days. It is the fondest dream for visiting fashionistas who want the hottest new fashion before it makes its debut in cities like London and New York up to a year later. For those seeking to ravage the city's boutiques, they will most certainly head home laden with shopping bags and fashionable new clothes to keep them up-to-date for some time.
Unlike the sprawling fashion district of Paris, all of the boutiques showcasing the latest in big name fashion fit into a the tight square known as Quadrilatero d'Oro, or "Rectangle of Gold," so named likely because you need to have a gold or above credit card to shop here.
Della Spiga is the one stop accessory boutique. They stock everything from D&G and Prada accessories to Armani and Roberto Cavalli. Next door the Armani superstore Manzoni attracts finance moguls and those looking to break into the business through being well-dressed. However, the biggest boutique with the biggest collection is easily Montenapoleone. It can usually be plucked out by the collection of window shoppers that can't afford a $3,000 dress or a $500 pair of Miu Miu boots. Inside, those with the money can spend can find the latest releases from Italian classics like Gianni Versace, Sergio Rossi and Valentino. There is also a small selection from international designers that visit Milan to display their new collections.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II
For those that are put off by the budget-breakingly high price tags of the latest fashion of Milan, it does have its bargains. The thoroughfare of Corso Vittorio is a treasure trove of end-of-season shops, warehouse returns and outlet stores. They feature last season and end of season wares for up to 70% off, which may still seem pricey, but in comparison to Quadrilatero d'Oro prices, it is a haven. The thoroughfare is also home to the Prada flagship store, but the joke among Milan locals is that only the tourists shop there. This street is for the bargain shoppers with taste. The best known and longest established outlet in the area is Il Salvagente, or "The Lifesaver". This three-floor behemoth hosts the top discount fashion for men and women, all carefully arranged by size and colour. When it comes time for the end-of-season sales, this large store becomes a chaotic flurry of activity.
For those looking for further discount fashion and other neat antiques and knick knacks that may be lurking around Milan, there markets can provide. Like the discount shops at the end of the season, the Milano Markets are always a flurry of colourful activity every day of the week. From cheap leather bags and hand crafted jewelry to antiques from all over Italy, there is a multi-day adventure lurking in the alleyways and side streets of the pedestrian-only markets. Visitors can find them all throughout the city, some only open on certain days of the week like the Alzaia Navioglio Grande on Saturdays while others like the Viale Papiniano are open every day for locals to browse and shop. In true European tradition, Milan also hosts a festive Christmas market in December around the Sant'Ambrogio.
While Milan may exude that it is about nothing but high fashion, not everyone in the city is a stylish millionaire and everyone certainly has to eat. For the foodie fashionista that want to take a break from looking at clothes and deciding if they can afford them, Porta Ticinese is the best food market in town. This is truly where all the locals shop to pick up their groceries for the day. This is not ostensibly one of those fancy organic farmers markets, but it is the real deal. Shoppers can find everything from basic meat and vegetables to more specialty items like fresh parmesan and Parma ham. While generally limited to Italian fare, the market is give an exotic touch by hosting select stalls showcasing items from South America and Africa. The foodie is sure to find some delicious souvenirs inside as they go around sampling goods that are not easy to find or nearly as fresh as they would find back home.