It’s impossible not to come to Milan and avoid Montenapoleone district. I mean, you can, but you shouldn’t. Montenapoleone, a street that gave a name to an entire district, is a true mirror of Milan’s luxury fashion and welcomes its visitors with high-heels catwalks and refined boutiques.
It proudly treasures a long-established history, that dates back from the founding of Milan and that has made the street a centre of fashion.
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Until 1700, the street was called Contrada di Sant’Andrea and represented one of the city borders, thus it was little known and praised. In 1800, Church exponents began to visit it and to fall in love with its quiet atmosphere: they soon decided to buy some parts of it and to transform them into monasteries and cloisters.
The area was not supposed to be part of the clergy’s possessions for a long time. In fact, aristocrats, who covered only the 9% of the entire population but owned over 2/3 of the entire city, decided Milan needed more space. Thus, they converted convents and cloisters into their own dwellings and boutiques.
In 1872, Maria Theresa of Austria had built s Monte, that is to say a pawn shop for needy citizens: hence, the name of the Contrada changed from Sant’Andrea to Contrada del Monte. Only under Napoleon’s reign, the street conquered its present name, Montenapoleone.
Through the years, the neighbourhood was home to internationally renowned personalities: for example, the writer Carlo Porta lived in Palazzo Taverna, at the number 2, while Giuseppe Verdi composed the Nabucco. Montenapoleone became more and more popular among wealthy families, who both came here to live and to open jewelleries and boutiques.
Year after year, Montenapoleone emerged as one of the most important shopping streets in the world: international brands started taking place in it, such as Prada, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana.
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And today, in fact, the street became an icon of the most prestigious and refined shopping of Milan, producing over 12% of Milan’s GDP.
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Unlike Via della Spiga, another strategic point of the Fashion district, via Montenapoleone is not fully pedestrian: in fact, cars can either reach via Manzoni or San Babila. Towards via Manzoni’s direction, there is via Croce Rossa, which has lately become a square hosting a monument-fountain and the yellow metro station of Montenapoleone.
Walking along Via Montenapoleone means being able to live a double experience: an experience based on a craftsmanship tradition, and another one based on luxury fashion.
The neighbourhood is, in fact, undoubtedly famous for the presence of high fashion stores, but nevertheless it still keeps some of the most traditional places it used to host in the period when aristocrats fully dwelled the street. Among these, don’t miss the Cova, located at number 8 and one of the most famous venues of Milan, the ancient Parini grocery store, with an entrance from Borgospesso 1, and the Salumaio, a restaurant based in a cloister which amazes tourists with its stunning mosaic floor.
As another evidence of the aristocratic presence there is also the Borgospesso area, lined with elegant antique residences, such as the palace Gallarati Scotti, standing at number 7.
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Haute-couture signs are spread all over the street as well. It’s only sufficient to stroll around Montenapo, as the locals call it, to gaze at limitless windows and boutiques, like Cavalli, Gucci, Missoni, Versace, Ferragamo, and Hermès.