When in Milan: Shop ‘til you drop
LUGANO, Switzerland – As the last of seven church bells chimed, the phone rang. Only in Switzerland I thought as I was greeted, “Good morning signora, this is your 7 o’clock wake-up.” During my visit I had grown accustomed to the precision and cleanliness of the Swiss.
This date promised to be full. Earlier in the week I was given a gift – a free day, this day.
My locale was Ticino, Switzerland’s Italian region. The possibilities were endless – exploring the town of Lugano, visiting lakeside villages by boat. But when I learned I was less than an hour by train from Milan, my shopping instincts derailed all other options.
So, here is how I spent my expensive “free day”:
9:17 a.m. Aboard a high-speed train bound for Italy’s capital of style I methodically plotted the day. I knew that to achieve my goal, shop ‘til I drop Italian style, I needed a plan.
10:15 a.m. Immediately upon arrival at Milano Centrale, the starting gun sounded. My first assignment was to find an ATM to withdraw ample euros.
Next stop was the Milan transport authority – there I purchased a one-day metro/bus pass (3 euros).
“Do you speak English?” I quizzed a vendor. “What is the fastest way to Corso Buenos Aires?” The reply: “From the station take bus #33.
On the train I narrowed my expedition to three areas:
* Corso Buenos Aires (metro Lima) – trendy, fun fashions with moderate price tags;
* Via Monte Napoleone (metro Montenapoleone) – the Rodeo Drive of Milan showcasing one designer boutique after another: Versace, Ferragamo, Gucci;
* Piazza del Duomo (metro Duomo) – a shopping/sightseeing combo. Its main feature is Milan’s mammoth centerpiece, the Duomo cathedral. Shopping opportunities include Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and La Rinascente, Milan’s biggest and oldest department store.
10:59 a.m. On Corso Buenos Aires, I walked into a very sleek store named Promod. I grabbed several items and sprinted to the fitting room.
11:20 a.m. Emerging from Promod, I toted my first purchases: three blouses and a double-zip black cotton jacket. Very stylish, very reasonable. Price tag: 115 euros. Noticing an outdoor purse vendor, I crossed the street and spotted a black multicolored faux Louis Vuitton for 25 euros. I made a mental note.
12.31 p.m. After speed shopping along Buenos Aires I popped underground into the metro for the short ride to the fashion world’s uppercrust district, Montenapoleone.
1:05 p.m. I entered Gucci with a goal: to purchase a purse within my budget. But I was on a time schedule. If I couldn’t find an affordable item, it was necessary to move on. Then I spotted it: a small, tasteful bag with Gucci’s signature green and red band.
A very attractive saleswoman stood nearby . . . doing paperwork. I patiently waited. And waited. Finally I spoke, “Scusilo, signora.” Giving me a look she quoted a price of 180 euros and continued to work.
I splurged on the several minutes necessary to locate someone sincerely helpful, purchased the designer bag and raced onto via Monte Napoleone in search of the nearest metro station.
1:43 p.m. Arriving at Piazza del Duomo, I could feel Milan’s heartbeat. The area teemed with activity – outdoor cafes, street vendors, couples strolling. The Duomo was the scene’s commanding backdrop.
La Rinascente was like a department store in any large city.
However, additional purchases did not elude this shopper. An Italian silk tie (16 euros) was found in a specialty shop beneath the glass-roofed arcade of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
2:45 p.m. I reluctantly departed the Piazza to return to Corso Buenos Aires. Emerging the metro, I spotted the vendor of Louis Vuitton fake fame. Pointing to the black purse I quizzed, “Venti due?” With a simple nod, it was sold for 22 euros.
3:20 p.m. In a celebratory mood I visited the nearest eatery, Caffe La Piazzetta, for my day’s first meal and last Milano experience – cappuccino and sandwich (6 euros).
5:54 p.m. Clutching shopping bags in each hand, I stepped onto Lugano’s train platform. Nearby a Rolex wall clock marked the exact time.
Milan shopping tips:
- Do your homework in advance. Study guidebooks and develop a plan you can execute the moment you arrive in Milan.
- The ATM publishes a helpful map detailing bus routes and metro stops (Guido Rete dei Trasporti Pubblici).
- Traditionally shop hours are 9:30 a.m. -1 p.m. and from 3:30 – 7:30 p.m. However, many larger stores, fashion boutiques and stores in the city center no longer close for lunch.
- During the month of August most of Milan (many restaurants and stores) is closed. An exception is Supercentrale, which is open year around.
- Winter sales begin after Christmas. Summer sales are in June.
- If traveling by train, be sure and ask which platform (binario) your train will depart from; the big boards posted in the stations are not always correct.
Some Web sites to remember:
Transportation, sightseeing, entertainment