Text Ilona Marx Photos Andy Rumball Illustration Roman Klonek
There are those who fall in love with Milan at first sight. Who lose their hearts on their first official visit to the northern Italian metropolis, despite the traffic in the streets and the choking fumes in the air. But really Milan is the kind of city that blossoms discreetly – and lives out its contrasts to the full. This is where cool-headed commercial savvy meets southern temperament.
In the lee of the towering modern business district, little ancient work-shops slumber in narrow alleys. The ultra-cool storefront décor of the designer shops creates an interesting contrast to the flower-bedecked balconies in Romeo and Julia style. Milan is well known as the most cosmopolitan and commercial city in Italy. With its energetic radiance it hardly fits the image of Dolce far niente, or sweet idleness. Big business is more the name of the game – it's not without reason that all of the international designer brands rub shoulders here. If the fashion world were robbed of the Via Montenapoleone and its elegant side streets, it would be a harsh, almost unbearable loss.
But, don't forget, we are in Italy! And here enjoying life is the done thing: with its exclusive restaurants and internationally acclaimed chefs, small traditional trattorias, the delicatessen and patisseries, brimming with treats, exuding sweet scents, Milan is a den of iniquity for culinary aficionados. Having to live with these gourmet temptations day in day out and still fit into designer clothing – that must be the biggest challenge faced by every style-conscious Milanese. But luckily there are pleasures that do not transfer to the thighs: art and culture for example. The legendary opera house Teatro alla Scala is the cornerstone of Italian musical history, whilst the Piccolo Teatro, which opened just after the Second World War, remains inextricably linked to the name of director legend, Giorgio Strehler.
Naturally it's not all sunshine in the capital city of Lombardy, and that's not just due to the infamous Milan fog: like so many other large cities this northern Italian one also struggles with unemployment, corruption and homelessness. A continuing thorn in the side of the industrious inhabitants: the competition with their eternal rival Rome, which seems to have had so much simply served to it on a plate, whilst Milan, at least that is the impression, has to fight so hard for every contribution. But perhaps it is precisely this fighter spirit that adds to the appeal of the brusque beauty. And those who remain unmoved, after a visit to the marble cathedral and the blinding white gothic architecture surrounded by alpine panorama, must have a heart of stone.
J'N'C-editor-in-chief Ilona Marx and Berlin-based photographer Andy Rumball were certainly smitten even before their cathedral visit. Cheeks flushed with wonder, they basked in the gently warming November sun – and spited the northern Italian autumnal storms. However, their attempt to keep the cash flow to a minimum was doomed to failure from the out- set. All on behalf of our readers ... Here are J'N'C's 20 favourites when it comes to shopping, eating and sleeping – con piacere!