It’s pretty much undisputed that Milan is a shopper’s paradise, heaving with designer fashions, but I wondered whether Milan is also a souvenir shopper’s paradise. While I knew the fashion scene here is bar none, could I find anything unique here that I couldn’t be found in their Madison Avenue outpost? And just as importantly, was any of the shopping even remotely affordable?
I knew uncovering Milan’s unique, affordable local shops would be tricky. Nearly all the articles out there cover the high-end fashion shops, so I would have to do my research on foot. Since my visit to Milan would be brief, I wouldn’t have time to explore every nook and cranny of the city for the absolute “best of” shops. I had to make some executive decisions and pick a few areas to focus on, and hope for the best.
Luckily, I picked right and even in a short visit found fantastic shops and Milanese souvenirs. I divided my picks into three areas– first, the independent fashions I found along a few side streets in central Milan. Next, I explored a popular gourmet grocery store for regional Milanese food souvenirs. When visiting the Cathedral, I popped into Milan’s (and the world’s) oldest shopping gallerie for a walk-through. Finally, I hit a busy outdoor flea and food market for cheap finds and to get a hit of local culture.
Quick Content Guide
Shopping Milan for Affordable Independent Fashion: Brera Design District
I took a chance and headed to the Brera design district area, hoping it would yield some interesting local shops. I lucked out when I found a local jewelry shop with a helpful owner– she pointed me to a few streets in the area with the types of shops I was looking for– via Pontaccio, Solferino and Fiori Chiari (near Piazza del Carmine). I also happened upon a side street with several artisan shops, Via Ciovasso. I recommend you do what I did– stroll the area and check out the shops for yourself.
I snapped some photos so you know what you might find– all the shops in this area (with exceptions noted) are what I consider mid-range affordable.
While the handmade alligator bags here were not exactly a bargain, you can stop in to watch artisans at work, pet the sweet dog, and pick up a keychain for only 30 euros.
Via Pontaccio, Solferino and Fiori Chiari
We loved the subtle way the iconic Milan cathedral was incorporated into the jewelry at this local shop.
Peck: Milan’s Best Gourmet and Local Regional Foods
Want to sample specialties from all over the Lombardy region without leaving Milan? Peck is your best bet. I read about this gourmet shop everywhere so I put it on my list. Peck is sort of like New York’s Dean and Deluca– fancy merchandise of the highest quality. Most of the products are made for (and specifically branded Peck) so you won’t find variety in brands but you will find a dizzying diversity of products.
Shopping Milan’s Gallerie
If you are a shopper or just love architecture, you simply cannot skip the world’s oldest shopping arcade at Milan’s famous . While I visited for the photos and to pay homage to Milan’s shopping culture, I wasn’t expecting to find anything both unique and affordable here (the rents I imagine are sky high). But I was drawn into Rizzoli bookstore and spent way too long browsing the regional cookbooks and photography books.
Shopping Milan’s Flea and Food Market at Santa Marta Mentana
Before you get excited about a spectacular flea market similar to those in Paris, I want to clarify: that is not what this market is (I didn’t have time to investigate more traditional flea markets, there may be some great ones). The flea market I visited was a jumble of mostly new, dirt cheap merchandise– some from Italy and some featuring Italian styles (but made in China). The other part of the market had fresh veggies, fruits, cheeses and meats– which depending on your home country and travel time, could make for some interesting souvenirs (or for snacks as you shop the area). It was a fun stop for us– my friend Amy bought several inexpensive and flattering sweaters that she wore on the rest of the trip and snacked on just-picked fresh figs from a vendor.
Have you been to Milan? Share your best local finds!
Disclosure: I visited Milan as part of the Blogville program sponsored by Lombardy tourism.