1. Peace on earth
1. Peace on earth
Set in the orchard of a monastery, the sumptuous new Bulgari hotel, favoured by fashion-house chief executives as well as supermodels, is an oasis in the smoggy city. The white marble façade overlooks landscaped gardens scattered with laurel trees. Inside, clusters of divans in neutral shades are set off by black granite walls and pale teak panels. Bedrooms are cool and light with Frette linen, CD-players and flatscreen TVs; there are real sponges in the bathrooms. The USP, however, is the spa, which boasts a candle-lit indoor pool in emerald and gold mosaic, and a hammam housed in a cube of jade-green glass. In summer, guests lounge on cushions scattered over the sinuous teak terrace. Expert therapists dispense luxurious massages and facials using the Espa range of essential oils. Most life-enhancing are the hot stone massages that use volcanic river stones from Arizona, once employed in American Indian rituals, to release blocked energy points. You'll hit the shops floating on air.
Bulgari Hotel and Spa, via Fratelli Gabba 7,(00 39 02 80 58 051; www.bulgarihotels.com). Doubles from €560; spa day membership, €55.
2. Style temple
Conceived by Carla Sozzani, sister of the editor of Italian Vogue, the 3rooms complex is legendary in the fashion community across the globe. Located in what was formerly an old Fiat factory, it encompasses a shop, art gallery, bar-restaurant, and a trio of bed-and-breakfast apartments. The 3rooms b&b is a temple to the best of contemporary design. Each of the interiors is resplendent with fabrics by Charles and Ray Eames, chairs by Arne Jacobsen, and Bisazza mosaics in the bathrooms. Yet the feeling is warm and welcoming rather than icily intimidating. Breakfast is a leisurely banquet, which includes a spiced Indian omelette. Down in the courtyard, beautiful people linger over cocktails, caviar and exotic salads before indulging in the city's ultimate retail therapy fix. From Alice Temperley's new collection to the exclusive cosmetics of Botox guru Jean-Louis Sebagh and James Dyson's latest vacuum cleaner, anything fashionable for face, figure or home is found here first. Upstairs, a contemporary art gallery and well-stocked book and CD shop fulfill all cultural needs.
3rooms, Corso Como 10. Doubles from €295 per night (00 39 02 62 61 63; www.3rooms-10corsocomo.com).
3. Trendy Triennale
At the weekend, style-conscious Milanese head to the Triennale, located in the Palazzo dell'Arte, in Sempione Park. A striking example of Fascist architecture, the cavernous, angular building was designed in the early 1930s by Giovanni Muzio to act as an "extremely flexible container" for decorative and industrial arts. Once host to triennial exhibitions, it has retained the name but now puts on a series of excellent temporary shows. For the main attraction until 20 March, Dressing Ourselves, 30 international designers have been asked to design self-portraits in the form of costumed mannequins. The week-long exhibition British Fashion in Milan (until 27 February) showcases British home, fashion and jewellery designers. Meanwhile, New York-based designer and artist Gaetano Pesce's show (until 18 April) has a rota of celebrity curators, so displays differ from one week to the next. In the café overlooking the park, visitors perch on designer chairs and tuck into salads and toasted sandwiches.
Triennale di Milano, viale Alemagna 6 (00 39 02 72 43 41; www.triennale.it). Open 10.30am-8.30pm, Tues-Sun, €7.
4. A night at the opera
A fly tower on the roof and much improved acoustics are among the renovations made during La Scala's three-year, €60m refurbishment. Milan's neo-classical opera house reopened in December and is once again the jewel in the city's cultural crown. The gleaming auditorium has tiers of gilt-ornamented boxes, a carved ceiling and opulent claret velvet seats. In true Italian style, however, the building work wasn't quite finished on time, so this month sees a light programme of concerts; opera kicks off again on 10 March with Sancta Susanna by Hindemith and Il dissoluto assolto, by Azio Corghi.
Il Teatro alla Scala, Piazza della Scala (00 39 02 72 00 37 44; www.teatroalla scala.org).
5. The discerning palate
It's surprising how few contemporary restaurants exist in Milan. Little wonder then, that artists, composers and designers are beating a path to Altro. Tucked away behind the dense wooden doors of a palazzo in the Porta Romana district, it is the brainchild of architect and cult kitchenware designer Marco Gorini. Diners cross the gallery-like showroom, Spaziostrato, where the gleaming units appear more like modern sculpture than functional sinks and ovens. Upstairs, the restaurant continues the minimalist theme with geometric stainless steel tables, understated tableware, 1970s chairs, acres of space between the tables and monochrome canvases. Centre stage is the glass-screened kitchen, where a posse of sous-chefs perform a culinary ballet under the eye of French-trained Fabrizio Ferrari. Dishes are presented with artistic precision and a sublime blend of flavours - foie gras is gently melted on a bed of lentils; a crisp-crusted sea bass lies on a thin layer of beetroot and black spinach. Try the deconstructed tiramisu: three little bowls of sponge fingers, mascarpone, and coffee and sugar granules.
Altro, via Francesco Burlamacchi 5 (00 39 02 54 12 18 04).
6. Bar scene
Hunkered beneath the Torre Branca, Giò Ponte's mini-Eiffel creation in Sempione park, the Just Cavalli café bar-restaurant, is beloved by Milan's fashion set for aperitivi, dinner and Sunday brunch. One of several locales conceived by Florentine designer Roberto Cavalli, the opulent décor exploits the maestro's flamboyant prints to the full with generous sofas upholstered in brilliant emerald and zebra-skin chairs glowing under crystal chandeliers. Arum lilies adorn the tables while photographs of Cavalli with assorted VIPs cover the walls. The menu is an inviting fusion of modern Mediterranean and Milanese classics such as osso buco. Don't miss Cavalli's own risotto which breaks all culinary rules by putting parmesan cheese with prawns. On Sundays, a sumptuous brunch is served from 12.30pm to 4pm. Equally hot right now is the month-old Cavalli bar in the basement of his showroom on via della Spiga, a magnet for designer shoppers. The mirrored bar, wall-sized aquarium and space-age lift make a perfect backdrop for cocktails and a banquet of nibbles.
Just Cavalli Café, via Luigi Camoens, Torre Branca (00 39 02 31 18 17). Evenings only, except Sunday. Just Cavalli Bar, via della Spiga 30 (00 39 02 76 31 65 66).
7. Clubbing cachet
Milan's nightclub scene was a stuffy affair, the celebrity model/footballer set dancing around their handbags at Hollywood, a 1980s-style discotheque. Now, however, the fashion pack head for Giorgio Armani's exclusive new nightclub, Armani privé, below his ultra-chic Japanese restaurant, Nobu. Bouncers stand on the pavement surrounded by a cordon of black tape but if it's not already heavingly full and you look the part (designer jeans, skimpy tops and vertiginous heels for girls, Armani shirts, blazers and V-neck sweaters for the chaps) you're in. The Japanese influence is clear with a tatami-style floor, and opaque port-hole panels. Guests gather around nests of pale cube armchairs under the blinking lights for costly cocktails. It's hip to jiggle about at your table rather than on the exposed central dance floor. Recent booty-shakers are Beyoncé Knowles and Dustin Hoffman.
Armani privé, via Pisoni 1 (00 39 02 62 31 26 55). Open Tues-Sat, 11.30pm-2am. No entrance fee. Drinks €20 each.
8. Fashion central
Although the international designer brands cluster around the Via della Spiga, fashion-conscious shoppers also head west to the elegant Brera district, which has an understated, Marais-like feel. Uma Thurman and Sarah Jessica Parker have treated themselves to sublimely feminine creations from star local designer Luisa Beccaria (via Formentini 1, 00 39 02 86 46 00 18). Round the corner at Veronik (via Fiori Chiari 24, 00 39 02 86 45 41 91) exquisitely structured clothes, both off-the-peg and bespoke, are the speciality. Don't miss the cashmere jumpers with a tie-dye effect. At no 5, Pietro Brunelli (00 39 02 45 47 57 90) has chic, fluid maternity wear - cashmere wrap jumpers and skirts and empire-line evening mini-dresses - to make mums-to-be feel like a million dollars. At via Brera 6, scent connoisseurs such as Riccardo Muti stock up at Profumo (00 39 02 72 02 33 34) whose range includes Frederic Malle's exclusive Editions de Parfums. Vintage clothing fans visit Cavalli e Nastri (via Brera 2, 00 39 02 72 00 04 49; www.italianvintage.com) to pick up bygone creations from the likes of Miu Miu and Moschino. Down on via Ciovasso 4, (00 39 02 80 52 661; www.slobs.it) Slobs is an extraordinary home-cum-gallery which showcases one-off pieces from top-flight artists and designers.
9. Factory chic
The new kid on Milan's cultural block, La Fabbrica del Vapore, is a Docklands-style complex of buildings that was was once home to the city's traincar and tram factory. Renovated by the city, it is being transformed into a multi-cultural arts centre dedicated to young artists, designers and stylists. Across the road from Milan's monument-laden cemetery, it's 10 minutes' walk from the glamorous Corso Como but the edgy, downtown location makes it feel like another country. Until 28 February, you can see video installations by prize-winning Dutch and Flemish students, plus installations by two young Milanese artists. Another exhibition, Inhabituel, until 6 March, displays works on the theme of artist as nomad, by 25 Milanese students drawing on their experiences in residence at an arts foundation in Paris.
La Fabbrica del Vapore, via Procaccini 4, (00 39 02 33 15 800; www.fabbrica delvapore.org), Tues-Sat, admission free.
10. It's got the lot
A lounge bar, restaurant, nightclub and theatre all rolled into one, the chameleon tendencies of TH have been wooing a cosmopolitan crowd ever since it opened in September. The latest venture of the boutique hotel Town House 31, the venue owes its eyecatching look to the Argentinian designer Claudio Montias, who has blended Art Deco style with vintage fabrics and eccentricities such as a crystal and feather chandelier from Miami. While diners tuck into the classic Mediterranean menu - the signature dish is pasta with lobster - the evening's spectacle unrolls around them. Performers range from tango dancers to ballad singers and street artists. After the show, guests dance to an eclectic mix of R&B and house, depending on which DJ is spinning the decks that night. Book in advance.
TH, via de Amicis 28, (00 39 02 80 54 140). Lunch and dinner, Tues-Sun.