No wonder it is the fashion and design capital of Italy! In terms of urban sustainability, Milan is also on the rise: many historic buildings are being refurbished and converted for new purposes, there are plans for extended canal and cycle path systems and improved recycling. But that's not all.
Want to discover the sustainable and innovative side of the city? Then make sure not to miss these hotspots:
For fans of contemporary art and culture, a visit to Fondazione Prada is a must. Fondazione Prada is home to an impressive permanent contemporary art installation and regularly hosts new exhibitions, film screenings and parties. Also the building, a former gin distillery, is worth seeing. Among other things, you will find a gold-plated wall and a bar designed by Wes Anderson...
The vertical forest of the architects Stefano Boeri, Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra in the Porta Nuova district symbolizes Milan's sustainable urban development. Two apartment towers, overgrown with about 800 trees, 5,000 shrubs and 110,000 ground covers, are designed to clean the air, improve the microclimate and increase biodiversity. The twin towers offer a total of 50,000 square meters of living space and 10,000 square meters of forest. Read more about the Bosco Verticale here.
In the halls of a former locomotive factory, you can find Pirelli HangarBicocca, a non-profit institute for contemporary art. The exhibition space is impressive: High ceilings, concrete architecture and brick walls create the perfect setting for various site-specific projects. The German artist Anselm Kiefer has been presenting his "The Seven Heavenly Palaces" here permanently since 2004: Seven cement towers about 14-18 meters high, which despite their brutal material seem almost fragile.
Naples has pizza, Florence has art, Rome has film – and Milan has fashion. The city is a real paradise for (sustainable) fashion lovers, especially regarding vintage and second-hand.
Good to know: The fact that Milanese are well dressed is by no means a cliché. Especially older ladies are dressed so elegantly that there’s even an Instagram account for them - with more than 170,000 followers. Fanno la moda!
Cavalli e Nastri (Italian for "horses and bows") is a Milanese institution. The first store opened in 1970 and has since been attracting vintage lovers from all over the world. Here you will find a unique collection of vintage clothing and accessories, from the late 18th century to the present day. They also sell a small selection online.
Bivio is Milan's first re-sale store, and with a total of three locations a true second-hand treasure trove. The selection is well cured, ranging from Gucci, Fendi and Stella McCartney to COS and ZARA. Bargain hunters beware: Bivio's Instagram stories are always showing the latest treasures. But better be fast! Sometimes the pieces are sold out within a few minutes.
If you visit Milan during the weekend, have a look at the recent events calendar. Every last Sunday of the month there is a large vintage and antique market in the Navigli area. (If time doesn’t fit, do not worry: all the other days along the Navigli Canal there are many small vintage shops, galleries and cafes to discover.) Another tip: The monthly East Market Milano, a large in-door market in a former aviation hall. You can browse through antiques, furniture, vintage, curiosities and enjoy good food and music.
Un Posto a Milano is set in a renovated 18th-century farmhouse that is now used as a meeting and cultural venue. Chef Nicola Cavallaro prepares traditional Italian dishes exclusively with fresh, seasonal and high quality products. Where these come from and who produces them is 100% transparent: in on the menu, not only the ingredients are added to each dish, but also name and location of the producer.
A visit to WALDEN feels like a mini vacation in a quiet forest cabin - right in the middle of the lively centre of Milan. Inspired by the literature of the American writer Thoreau, WALDEN wants to remind us to lead a simpler and more sustainable life. If you want to relax for a moment, read a book or have a good conversation, this is the place for you. The lunch is vegetarian and changes daily. In the evening there are cocktails and wine - and often cultural events.
Pasta, risotto, wine and: nature! The Erba Brusca is the perfect retreat for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of Milan for a moment. The restaurant is located just outside the city, but with its vegetable garden, outdoor terrace, great wine selection and delicious Italian food, it's definitely worth the trip. For those who want to explore the area and the nearby canal a little closer, bicycles are available.
Right in the heart of the Brera district, just a few minutes walk from the Duomo and the Scala, is Milan's first "zero-emission" bio-hotel. Here, sustainability - and in particular the reduction of energy consumption - is just as important as comfort and luxury. An on-site garden supplies fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs which are processed into traditional dishes in the restaurant. You can enjoy them on the panoramic terrace on the 8th floor - with a great view of the city.
Close to Milan Central Station and Bosco Verticale, the 4-star Hotel E.c.ho. welcomes its guests with an interior made of sustainable wood and textiles, natural light, panoramic views and organic, seasonal food. Perfect for environmentally conscious travellers.
+ Words: Lena Bäunker
After living in Hamburg, Shanghai, Groningen and Milan, now Lena works and studies in Rotterdam. Lena is committed to Fashion Revolution, helping sustainable brands tell their stories, and writing about the interfaces between sustainability, art, culture and business.