“Every little detail is curated to fit a precise vision”: Milan’s cinematic Bar Luce

The Wes Anderson-designed coffee bar, operating out of Fondazione Prada, rewards the repeat visitor

Milan’s Bar Luce, designed by Wes Anderson and part of Fondazione Prada’s cultural centre
Milan’s Bar Luce, designed by Wes Anderson and part of Fondazione Prada’s cultural centre

One of my favourite hobbies when travelling is to seek out unique design – be it a façade, a storefront or a piece of furniture – that could double as a set on a Wes Anderson film. I am not alone: @accidentallywesanderson, an Instagram account that celebrates the dreamy aesthetic of the American director of whimsical films such as The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel, has over half a million followers.

Bar Luce’s signature pink sponge cake, €6
Bar Luce’s signature pink sponge cake, €6 | Image: Giulia Mulè

So naturally, I have paid more than one visit to Bar Luce, a coffee bar designed by Anderson himself and part of Fondazione Prada’s cultural centre, which occupies a converted distillery in Milan. It is not the first time the director and Prada have worked together: previous collaborations include short films Prada: Candy and Castello Cavalcanti.

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Bar Luce is an all-day dining space reminiscent of Milanese cafés of the 1950s and 1960s – chairs and Formica tables in bright pastel colours sit on a pink terrazzo floor. Hand-painted ceilings create the effect of being inside Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of Milan’s landmarks and home to a Prada flagship store. Every little detail is curated to fit a precise vision: the candy glass jars, the sixties-style Faema E61 coffee machine, the Steve Zissou-themed pinball machine that works with old 100 lire coins (ask for one at the bar).

The pinball machines – one of them Steve Zissou-themed – work with old 100 lire coins
The pinball machines – one of them Steve Zissou-themed – work with old 100 lire coins

The food offering starts in the morning with coffee and pastries, then turns into lunch with a selection of panini (from €6.50), before moving on to aperitivo hour in the evening. There are plenty of drinks to choose from, but I recommend an Italian classic like a Negroni or Spritz (€9). I love to visit for breakfast, when I can enjoy cappuccino and brioche served at the table by impeccably dressed waiters for less than €5 – even with the extra 15 per cent for table service, prices are very reasonable, especially compared to Prada’s other old-style coffee bar, Pasticceria Marchesi in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. In the afternoon, a slice of Bar Luce’s delicious signature cake, an airy “pan di Spagna” sponge, layered with light chocolate cream and iced in pink fondant, costs €6.

The space recalls Milanese cafés of the 1950s and 1960s
The space recalls Milanese cafés of the 1950s and 1960s

The only downside is the location, slightly out of the city centre and a good 10-minute walk from the closest Metro station, Lodi. You will not come upon it by chance while wandering around Milan’s chic streets, but Bar Luce’s cinematic feel is worth a detour.

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Giulia Mulè is a food and travel writer based in London who is passionate about sharing food photography on her Instagram feed (@mondomulia) and blog Mondomulia (mondomulia.com). Originally from Rome, Mulè has spent over a decade living in London and travelling the world. In her spare time, she organises brunch meet-ups with the @IGBrunchClub and fundraising events with @CreatingForGood – a collective of Instagrammers who share their creative skills to raise money for selected charities.

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