Once a year, during Salone del Mobile and Fuorisalone, most of normal life is on hold in Milan’s streets. The world’s most important week for interior design draws hundreds of thousands to the North Italian metropolis. smart magazine and fashion entrepreneur Carolina Molossi hop into the brand new smart EQ cabrio edition nightsky for a personal tour of the city.
The city of Milan is buzzing with excitement. Among many events, smart is showcasing the smart mobile disco, a spectacular nightclub on wheels designed by Konstantin Grcic. We are in the Porta Venezia neighborhood which is still filled with a serene morning atmosphere. As the sun is poking through the trees and first shops are opening, we meet Carolina Molossi at Riad Food Garden, a cozy café dressed with lush greenery. Carolina, co-founder of fashion service Bookalook, is excited to share her love for her hometown with us. We start in style by ordering espressi.
Ciao, Carolina. We’re loving the relaxed vibe of this area – even though it’s quite close to the center of Milan. What do you like about Porta Venezia?
Carolina Molossi: I have always lived here. This is my kind of area. It’s very serviced – I have everything in close proximity to my place. There is a lot of change and growth here, it’s really vibrant. You can see that with Riad Food Garden, where we are sitting. The place is obviously quite hip. Fresh concepts are mixing in with the traditional Italian coffee culture. That’s why I love living here. Another coffee spot you need to try is Pasticceria Sissi – it’s amazing. Definitely taste their unique croissants. I like the ambience as well – everything is pink. At the same time, it’s very old Milano. Back in the day, when all of my childhood friends lived in the same neighborhood, it was always “let’s meet at Sissi.”
You studied abroad in London. After coming back, did the real essence of Milan reveal itself to you?
Carolina Molossi: The city has the perks of being kind of small and cozy, with an international, worldly twist. It is not the most beautiful city in Italy, but certainly one of the most vibrant. Milan is full of life. Compared to London, it is more human-centered. You can walk everywhere – and I also drive a smart myself, so I can quickly reach any spot in the city. Shops are popping up all over the place, there is fantastic art and restaurants, events, music – it’s a good time to be in Milan.
Your company Bookalook offers digital services for the fashion world. We’re sure you can show us your fashion highlights in Milan.
Carolina Molossi: Definitely. As we head into the center, our first destination is a boutique called Mari. It has a selection of some of my favorite brands like Forte Forte or Kristina Ti – kind of niche brands. The shop is in a very nice square. I personally know the owner and go there quite a bit. Right around the corner, there’s Tearose – a very unique shop. It’s like stepping inside a fairytale or enchanted forest. Apart from a great fashion selection, you can also find niche perfumes and candles as well as amazing flowers and plants.
During Salone del Mobile, all of Milan is about interior design. Do your interests cross over into that field at all?
Carolina Molossi: I love this exciting time of year. I try gathering inspiration as much as I can. Interior design is really fascinating to me as well. I’d like to show you Nap Atelier, a furniture shop which is also an interior design studio. You can walk in, browse, and take something home – or the owner will visit your place and help you design the space. She has a huge selection of patterned wallpaper and fabrics used for reupholstering old furniture pieces. It’s all about the colors and patterns – Nap Atelier is fashion for your house.
We start seeing a pattern, literally …
Carolina Molossi: I’m obsessed with the floral theme (laughs). Another spot for crazy objects is Mercatino Penelope. They are hidden away in what looks like a garage on Via Macedonio Melloni. At the beginning, they were buying antique furniture and vintage fashion so I went to drop off some clothes and bags I wasn’t using anymore. The store got better and better with time. By now, they are producing their own pieces. Penelope is a go-to place if you’re into furniture, art, and design. Even if you don’t buy anything, browsing the store is really inspiring. I often pass by just to check out new arrivals and get inspired by the crazy vintage objects they have.
Around midday, Carolina navigates the smart EQ fortwo cabrio through the Milanese traffic, past narrow streets and busy piazzas flooded with sunlight. The sunroof is wide open, the black finish and blue details of the nightsky edition catch the light just right. What better way to experience the start of Italian spring than by driving a fully-electric convertible? We reach a big park, the Indro Montanelli Gardens in the center of Milan. We pull up to the archway of Galleria d’Arte Moderna, housed in a sublime city palace. In the sunny courtyard, the city’s sounds are reduced to a distant murmur. This is where we find LùBar, a stylish restaurant.
This place looks like it has an interesting story.
Carolina Molossi: LùBar offers Sicilian cuisine. The owner, a friend of mine, has Sicilian roots. He started out selling the typical Arancini Balls in a food truck. It’s a Sicilian specialty – delicious fried rice balls with a meat filling. It was so successful that he opened this place in what used to be a neglected city property. Inside, the restaurant has a very stylish, playful jungle vibe. There is a strong aesthetic – pastel tones and muted colors, mixed up with crazy accessories like a plastic flamingo in the corner. It kind of relates to my personal fashion style. Even if I am basic with jeans and a white shirt, I will wear rainbow shoes or a huge necklace (laughs).
What’s next after lunch?
Carolina Molossi: A very eclectic shop called Wait And See. It’s located in an area called Cinque Vie – the five streets. You can find fashion accessories and weird little objects as well as very colorful pieces. It’s a bit like Penelope but for clothing. Go here if you are looking for something edgy. Around the corner, swing by Funky Table. They sell tabletop accessories from all around the world.
Refreshed after a delicious meal, we jump back into the smart EQ fortwo cabrio and start tracking south. Large apartment cubes give way to industrial structure and office buildings. We park next to a uniquely-shaped, gleaming white tower.
Where have you led us, Carolina?
Carolina Molossi: We are in the Ripamonti district of Milan – but I call it the “Fondazione Prada area” (laughs). This area used to be kind of forgotten, until Fondazione Prada set up shop here a few years ago. It sparked new life in the district. Miuccia Prada, Prada’s co-owner and head designer, is passionate about arts, so she decided to dedicate a space in Milan to showcase art. There are exhibitions year-round. Also make sure to swing by Bar Luce for a coffee or an aperitivo. The bar is on the premises and has been designed by famous director Wes Anderson. Prada itself is an institution – it represents Milanese fashion. Of all the heritage Italian brands, I like it the most. Their interpretation of fashion is always arty and forward.
What else does Milan have to offer in terms of art?
Carolina Molossi: Aside from the Mudec museum, which I really like, I can recommend the Triennale. It’s a real cultural hotspot. There are exhibitions, screenings, and other cultural happenings all the time. On top of the building is a terrace, from where you have a great view of the Milanese skyline and Sempione Park. Triennale is a very important spot in Milan. You can just stop at the gate and marvel at some of the sculptures in the garden.
Carolina – what’s for dinner?
Carolina Molossi: How about Asian Fusion? I will take you to Sakeya – the only Japanese restaurant in Milan that doesn’t do Sushi. Italians are so proud of their own cuisine, but Asian food is definitely growing on them. Sakeya was suggested to me by a friend of mine. I loved it the first time I came here. Definitely try their signature dishes from the traditional charcoal barbecue.
To unwind from our urban adventure, we make it to Castello Sforzesco – a 15th century fortress in the middle of Milan. This is where a day of Fuorisalone events culminate in an exuberant party. The smart mobile disco, designed by Konstantin Grcic for smart and Vitra Design Museum, is a definite eye-catcher and lets the crowd shake their legs in the middle of the square. The mild Italian night is still young.
After studying Philosophy in Milan, Carolina moved to London to study Fashion Communication at renowned Central St. Martins College. With an interest in all things styling, visual communication, and art direction, she started getting her hands dirty in the fashion industry before co-founding Bookalook, a digital service for fashion brands and PR. Her Instagram page is a colorful lookbook of quirky, sun-soaked Italian adventures.
Local Secrets Milan:
Riad Food Garden
Viale Piave, 17
Piazza Risorgimento, 6
Via Alessandro Manzoni, 27
Via Croce Rossa, 2
Viale Piave, 19
Via Macedonio Melloni, 6
Via Palestro, 16
Wait And See
Via Santa Marta, 14
Via Santa Marta, 19
Largo Isarco, 2
Via Tortona, 56
La Triennale di Milano
Viale Emilio Alemagna, 6
Via Cesare da Sesto, 1