Milan’s quadrilateral of fashion (quadrilatero della moda) is a city within a city: The air is rarefied and the rhythm of life slows down as your eyes are drawn to the windows of the boutiques and jewelry stores. This is what fashion is all about. The area is contained by four streets: Via Manzoni, Via Montenapoleone, Via Della Spiga, and Corso Venezia. As designers from all over Italy flocked to Milan to open their outlets in the late 70s and 80s, this street became home to names like Versace, Ferré, Armani, Krizia, Valentino, and later Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, and Alberta Ferretti. Fashion wasn’t something many people spoke about before then: These pioneers brought it to the attention of the world.
Start your walk at the corner of Via Manzoni and Via Montenapoleone, where the splendid Vertu smartphones are on view: Handcrafted in England, these unique creations are made of platinum, gold, diamonds, and precious stones. Walk down the road and on your left you will see the Valentino boutique. Redesigned some years ago by David Chipperfield, the atmosphere is that of a Venetian palace, complete with marble, leather, and fine-wood interiors. Just past the Hogan store, a favorite of Italians and foreign tourists alike, you come to the Gucci flagship store and 16,000 square feet of luxury. Frosted glass and mirrors, gold, and bronze, all combine to evoke a 1920s atmosphere, harking back to the time when the company was formed in Florence as a leatherwear brand.
Walk the length of Via Montenapoleone, allowing yourself to be seduced by the creative masterpieces on show in the windows, until you get to No. 2, where you will find Giorgio Armani‘s flagship store. The space was recently refurbished in the style of the 19-century building in which it is housed. Milan, fashion, and sobriety are the three bywords which have brought worldwide fame to the man from Piacenza. Inside there are three floors—women’s, men’s, and bespoke—connected by a metal spiral staircase with platinum fittings. Follow the street a little further and you will reach Bulgari, the iconic jeweler famous for its multicolored creations, complete with precious and semiprecious stones.
Make your way back up Via Montenapoleone, and on the right you will find Via Sant’Andrea. Here, stand back and admire Jimmy Choo’s stiletto heels or the Casadei footwear on display—real design pieces. A little further down is Banner, one of the two multi-brand stores in the quadrilateral of fashion. The other is Giò Moretti, in Via Della Spiga. The extremely qualified staff at either store will be only too pleased to show you the brands and items that embody the latest fashion trends.
Via Della Spiga, a pedestrian street, has more of a familiar atmosphere. Walk towards Corso Venezia and you are in Dolce & Gabbana territory, where fashion for the modern and the traditional woman meet. Their opulent windows, with their hints of Sicily, provide a show that’s pure theater. But, there’s still a lot more to see, touch, and buy. How about venturing as far as Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, home of Prada Galleria, a huge retail space spanning 50,000 square feet and looking out over the Ottagono, and then into Via Brera, stopping at No. 2, where you will find an extraordinary boutique, Cavalli e Nastri, which specializes in vintage pieces, with clothing and accessories dating as far back as the 1940s.