This article is part of a New guide to Milan From FT Globetrotter
When I’m in Milan for the weekend after a busy week, I make sure to stay at the Palazzo Parigi hotel next to the Brera Design District. I think it is one of the finest hotels in Milan, with a real sense of family hospitality. The Zegna Group is a proud family business, and for this reason, I always appreciate other family-run businesses. The hotel’s Bistrot Lounge Caffè Parigi, with its wonderful private garden, is the place where I start and end my day, where I enjoy breakfast – coffee, seasonal fresh fruit and croissants – in the morning and a glass of Barbaresco at the end of the day, set far from the hustle and bustle of the city.
After breakfast, I usually walk to the nearby Pinacoteca di Brera gallery, which houses one of the finest collections of Italian paintings in the world. Its permanent collection includes pieces by famous artists such as Andrea Mantegna, Piero della Francesca, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, and Carlo Crivelli, all of which will transport you to the great courts of Renaissance Italy.
I’m a walker, and the Brera neighborhood with its unique cobblestone streets, historic buildings, bars, restaurants and artisan workshops is a paradise for exploring the city. Two streets in particular – Via Fiori Chiari and Via Fiori Uscuri – are my favorites as they still retain their unique historical charm. As I walk through the latter area, I inevitably find myself making my way to the Brera Botanical Garden. An appreciation for the environment has always run in my family and is central to my upbringing and work, making this park the perfect place to relax surrounded by nature in the middle of the city.
Milan, like many of the world’s great cities, is greatly appreciated when you allow yourself to get lost in its streets, buildings and squares. While most people choose to walk through the heart of Milan’s fashion district, crossing the Quadrilatero della Moda, I enjoy strolling through the tranquility of the Quadrilatero del Silenzio. Every building in this elegant neighborhood is a masterpiece. Villa Necchi Campiglio is one of the most interesting places in the city, and a must-see if you are in the area. Located in the heart of an elegant park, it was designed between 1932 and 1935 by the Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi on behalf of the sisters Nida and Gigina Nicci and Angelo Campiglio, Gigina’s husband, a bourgeois industrial Lombard family interested in art and architecture. culture. The villa houses important works of art including paintings by Tiepolo and Canaletto through to Sironi, Di Chirico, Martini and Wilde, as well as great 20th century artists such as Picasso, Fontana, Modigliani, Matisse and others.
The villa is open to the public, thus respecting the wishes of the Necchi sisters, who in 2001 entrusted the residence to Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI), an Italian non-profit foundation founded in 1975 with the aim of protecting and promoting the historical heritage of Italy. and artistic and landscape heritage, which has also preserved my family’s Oasi Zegna natural area in the province of Biella since 2014.
If you’re as passionate about art as I am, you might want to visit another beautiful museum nearby, the Fondazione Luigi Rovati, named after the famous doctor, researcher, and pharmaceutical entrepreneur. Housed in a historic mansion, it was restored and redesigned to accommodate the museum that opened in September last year thanks to the dedication and passion of the Ruvati family. It contains a stunning collection of pieces ranging from Etruscan to contemporary art, with archaeological finds on display alongside works by Lucio Fontana, Andy Warhol, Giulio Paolini and Alberto Giacometti. The museum’s recently opened Caffè-Bistrot by Chef Andrea Aprea is the perfect place for lunch, too.
From there, my path would take me through Andro Montanelli’s Giardini. Although it may be less famous than Parco Sempione, it is my favorite park to wander through on my way back to the Palazzo Parigi hotel. After all this art, I will return to the beautiful indoor conservatory in the hotel restaurant for an excellent risotto Milan style.
This full-day walk through Milan’s historical, artistic and natural heritage is the way I renew my soul. Throughout its history spanning more than two and a half millennia, Milan has developed and grown with its people. It is a city that always looks towards its future without sacrificing the beauty of its past, hiding some of its treasures for true wanderers to find.
Gildo Zegna is President and CEO of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group
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