Marcel Wanders’ perfect weekend in Milan

The Dutch designer is owner and art director of avant-garde furniture company Moooi, and has created more than 1,700 products for brands including Alessi, Flos and Baccarat

Marcel Wanders at Potafiori in Milan
Marcel Wanders at Potafiori in Milan | Image: Mattia Zoppellaro

I have lived nearly my whole life in Amsterdam, but now I live in Milan. Last year I lived in San Francisco; next year I will move again. I want to live in five cities in five years. Milan is having a wonderful moment right now. The weather and people are beautiful – two things I appreciate when I go for breakfast at the Princi bakery. I always have a coffee and a fancy pastry, with fruit.

After breakfast it’s nice to walk around the Brera district, for the architecture. I’ll go and see Raphael’s painting The Marriage of the Virgin at the Pinacoteca di Brera. It’s such a strong and serene image and a great one to experience at the start of a weekend – beautiful and subtle. 

I’ll go for lunch at Potafiori, a crazy but stylish place that’s a florist and a restaurant all at once. The food is modern Italian and always fresh and surprising, much like the perfumed floral displays dotted around. The owner is a great singer who often surprises guests with unexpected performances. I’ll have the sliced beef with smoked salt, baked Vitelotte potato and thyme oil.

Afterwards I’ll go to the design stores. Rossana Orlandi has a great place; it’s a gallery for cool and wacky things. It’s a little like how Moss used to be in New York. The space is flashy and funky, a mixed marketplace for design – there’s work by young designers, and a collection of pieces you wouldn’t see anywhere else.

Late in the afternoon, it’s aperitivo time; the best places are in the Navigli area, by the canal. You go from bar to bar, right by the water. For dinner, I like Osteria Brunello, which is close to where all the new skyscrapers are in town. It has some great local specialities like cotoletta alla Milanese – a breaded veal cutlet with roast potatoes and purple cabbage.

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One of the highlights of an evening in the city is the beautiful, historical Teatro alla Scala. After my father died, I sat in front of it and felt I had been there before. Then I recalled that when I was 10, we were on a family holiday at the lakes and came here to visit the opera house. It was midday, we were on a tour and my father stood on one of the seats and sang Ave Maria for my mother. Everyone fell silent and applauded at the end. So the building is magical to me. I love opera – it has words, sounds, light, melody and people, and if you are in control of all those elements, you are a master. If I could pick one opera to see there, it would be Puccini’s Madam Butterfly.

I might end the evening at Bar Basso, which is iconic. There are often hundreds of people outside; it’s a madhouse, but you have to go. It helped make cocktails really popular in Italy: before there were fridges, the original owner used to go out and buy huge blocks of ice to make the drinks. A Negroni is the thing to have.

On Sunday morning I might go jogging in Parco Sempione, near where I live. Then I’ll go to see some art. I love the huge Pirelli HangarBicocca gallery. It installed a wonderful new Anselm Kiefer last year.

In the evening I’ll have dinner at Alice, the Michelin-star restaurant inside the Eataly store. All the dishes are beautifully arranged, like complex plates of art: colourful, minimal and sweet. Take the bella con l’anima: crispy sweetbreads with beetroot ice cream, beetroot “earth” and yoghurt – the name alone is pure poetry. The other option would be D’O, chef Davide Oldani’s place a 45-minute drive out of town. His food is innovative; he uses healthy local ingredients and imaginative combinations to create extraordinary flavours. I’ll have his spaghetti – cooked to perfection and topped with a delicate tomato and mint salsa.

I’ll end the evening with drinks at the Bulgari Hotel. It has a beautiful garden in the middle of the city, a stone’s throw from the Duomo. You sit there having the best drinks, with the best service and good company. I couldn’t ask for anything else. 

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