While many would consider London for a shopping trip, Milan is also an ideal city for fashion, with the added bonus of the delicious Italian food.

There may be no carbs in Marbs, but there most certainly are in Italy, yet all the locals still manage to look fantastic. Take a weekend off and head to Milan, where the flight time is only two and a half hours from Málaga, which is roughly the same as a trip to London.

Stay at the Mandarin Oriental for pure luxury right in the heart of Milan, near to all the great shops and restaurants. Located on a discreet side street, the hotel is a haven of peace and tranquility while being a safe enough distance from the hustle and bustle of Milan. With the Asian theme in mind, rooms have been created with the perfect Feng Shui, alongside classic Italian décor. The Hotel’s very own Michelin star restaurant, Seta, should definitely be on your list of restaurants to sample. Enjoy a delicious and varied menu of Italian cuisine within the restaurant’s delightful courtyard, guaranteed to be full of ambience, being one of the most popular settings in the city.

Savvy travellers should make use of the tram. With a total of 18 different connections, this form of transport also runs after midnight. Most sites are within walking distance, so don’t be afraid to have a wander and get lost in one of Italy’s most sublime cities.

Culture and Couture

Based in the North of Italy in the Lombardy region, Milan is the largest city in Italy after its capital, Rome. Known for its large Cathedral, the ‘Duomo’, which has been around since 1306 when it was founded by the Archbishop Antonio de Saluzzo. It is easy to see why the construction continued for six centuries, from all the intrinsic detailing both inside and out. Gothic features stand guard on the exterior of the Cathedral, including the 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 additional figures. Inside, you can find 52 pillars to support the grandiose ceilings, one for each week of the year. Climb the stairs to the rooftop to admire the brilliance of the Duomo further, as well as the view of the square below.

Although the tour of the Cathedral may have ended, it does not mean you have to stop admiring this beautiful work of art. Study it further from the nearby Terraza Aperol, where you can sip on Italy’s renowned cocktail, the Aperol Spritz. This citrusy sour infusion of prosecco, Aperol and soda water is best enjoyed served with ice on a sunny day overlooking the Duomo and taking in the scene that Milan is famous for. People watching is inevitable, as you can admire the well-dressed Italians chattering effusively as they walk past. Don’t be surprised if the locals look you up and down too, as the Milanese will also admire your fashion choices (or not, depending on your style!)

Milan is recognised as one of the fashion capitals of the world, along with Paris, London and New York. This fashion hub hosts Fashion Week once a year, where the streets and historical venues become catwalks. Naturally the Italians like to associate their history and culture with these events, presenting them in the main historical sites, including in the Piazza right in front of the Duomo.

Due to this, shopping is a must when visiting Milan, where you can find some iconic items, whether you wish to splurge or bargain hunt. Thrifty shoppers should head to the Outlet stores if they fancy picking up some serious deals. One of the best, Serravalle Designer Outlet, is well worth the 50-minute drive from the centre of Milan. Based outdoors, you can enjoy Milan’s beautiful sunshine as you explore both high street and designer brands alike, at up to 70% off normal retail prices. This shopping village has plenty of ground to cover, so you may want to go early to make the most of it. Buses also pick up and drop off regularly, providing a good alternative if you do not feel like renting a car.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is next to the Duomo and here you can find all the most luxurious designer brands. These include Prada, Versace and Louis Vuitton, where you can treat yourself to a luxury purchase to add to your wardrobe. This is Milan’s oldest shopping mall, stemming back to 1867, and spread out over a four-storey double arcade featuring classic Italian architecture. Naturally this is a heavily touristic area, so expect lots of chain stores and expensive restaurants where the food is mediocre. Make sure you do not waste any of your precious meals around here, and ensure you fuel up prior to arriving if you do not fancy Burger King for lunch.

Italian Indulgence

The Milanese are big on two things: their dogs and healthy food. Expect to see plenty of these throughout the city, and do not be surprised if you notice people taking their faithful companions into shops and even some restaurants. As a result, most pets behave beautifully here, quite unlike in some other European countries. In terms of healthy eating, be sure to try a different version of a typical Italian meal. Bioesseri Milano Brera is one such restaurant, where you can savour wonderfully inventive Italian vegan and gluten free meals, including tasty pizzas and pastas in a beautiful romantic setting. Bioesseri pride themselves on the fact that everything served is organic, even their Bio Cola, which is actually nicer than the real thing! Spoil yourself with a look at their dessert tray afterwards, where you can be won over by the tempting selection before you make a decision.

Stop off for a cocktail at the nearby Palazzo Parigi Bar, where elegance and intimacy are paramount, making it the perfect place for a nightcap. This is also a great location for a classy breakfast in the morning. If you fancy more of a party atmosphere, head to Bamboo Bar at the Armani Hotel, where you can enjoy some chilled music while overlooking the fabulous views of the city below from the seventh floor. There are many drinks to enjoy, including a prestigious list of Italian wines, signature cocktails, and a range of spirits; whichever way, you can’t go wrong!

An alternative evening out could involve a night at the fun-loving ME hotel, which offers an incredible restaurant onsite, and is also an ideal place to have a couple of drinks afterwards. This hip and happening hotel is a short distance away from the centre, so be sure to get a taxi. Its STK Restaurant is a trendy venue to dine in, especially if you’ve had your fill of indulgent Italian carbs. Here they serve up some mouth-watering specialty steaks, including wagyu selections, alongside a variety of flavoursome sauces and sides, including Parmesan truffle chips which are to die for! After dinner, make your way to the Radio Rooftop Bar on the 10th floor, where you can watch the night go by from up above, buzzing with the vibrant Italian ambience that can be found here. If you haven’t had your fill at dinner, enjoy the complimentary amuse-bouches that are presented with your drinks. They will give you that extra bit of energy you need to carry on into the night.

Those looking to immerse themselves in Italian culture should spend an evening at the Teatro alla Scala, just a stone’s throw from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, to enjoy the ballet. According to their tagline, you are advised to ‘let your soul be touched’ by the beautiful music and dancing. The Theatre is steeped in history, having opened its doors back in 1778. It is one of the first venues to have staged ballet performances and is considered to have influenced other countries, including Russia, in this art. Today, choreographers within the Teatro aim to keep things relevant by using modern techniques and styles such as expressionist dance. This, together with a powerful orchestra and chorus, makes for an evening of pure Italian entertainment that cannot be missed. Be sure to buy your tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment, as these ballets sell-out fast.

If you would prefer to have more of a relaxing evening after indulging in retail therapy all day, look no further than the QC Teremilano Spa, which invites you to unwind in enticing outdoor pools and Jacuzzis overlooking original Roman ruins. The onsite tram, which has been converted into a sauna, makes for a unique spa experience where you can detox in a comforting peaceful environment. The best time to visit is at night, when you can enjoy the magic of the ruins lit up and admire the wonderful history that surrounds you. Once you have taken it all in, head inside for an aperitivo of delicious cheese, which is in good supply and can be washed down with a refreshing glass of Prosecco.

With this, as well as an array of other healthy snacks on offer, you can take your time before sampling some of the other rooms that the spa has to offer. These include steam rooms where you can help yourself to the Epsom crystals provided, which can be massaged onto the skin to reap the full benefits of the treatment. Follow this with a meditation session in the relaxing light and sensory room, where it would not be a surprise if you fell asleep on the comfortable beds provided, due to the relaxing sounds that surround you and the dimmed lights which take you to a place of ultimate calm. Stimulate the senses with calming essential oils that will help you ease any possible tension you may have left. You are guaranteed to leave this place with a great weight lifted from your shoulders, and will surely be ready for tomorrow’s adventures!

Deviating Destinations

Make the most of your trip and explore the beautiful areas surrounding Milan. Based in the North of Italy, Switzerland is within reach via the Bernina Express. This train ride is an experience in itself, given that it runs across a UNESCO World Heritage railway line. Board the train at Tirano, a small town adjacent to the Swiss border, a two-hour drive away. From here you will be taken up into the Swiss Alps where you can enjoy the beautiful scenery, which looks straight out of the film The Sound of Music. This enchanting train ride covers more than 40km, and takes just over two hours. Once at the top, you can enjoy the town of St Moritz, one of the top ski-resorts in the winter. The lack of snow does not make this quaint little town any less popular in the autumn, as it abounds with water sports on the Alpine lake and hiking in the mountains. If sports aren’t your thing, you can take advantage of the many boutique shops on the high street or sit in a bar and enjoy a delicious authentic Swiss hot chocolate, where the views alone will be enough to keep you occupied.

Closer by, Lake Como is also a picturesque neighbour that cannot be missed on your trip to Milan. Located an hour and a half away, you could spend a day on the lake itself by hiring a boat to enjoy the beautiful calm waters. Alternatively, see the lake from the funicular train, which runs every half hour to the village of Brunate, where you can take pleasure in the stunning views below before heading back down. As with Milan, Como is a buzzing city with plenty of shops to visit and lots to see. Be sure to pick up a scarf or tie, as Como is known for its silk production. It produces beautiful pieces at reasonable prices, perfect as souvenirs to take back to family and friends on your return home.

When it’s time to head home, one thing is for sure: it won’t only be your suitcase that’s a couple of pounds heavier! Having indulged in everything Italian, you’ll make a vow to return next time you need a wardrobe update and a little pick-me-up in one of Italy’s most vibrant cities. For this, Milan is your place!