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The fashion model's guide to Milan

By Silvia Marchetti, for CNN
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 0940 GMT (1740 HKT)
Would you trust these people to make you look beautiful? Top models do. Vigal & Jus (pictured) does everything from hair to spa treatments to, apparently, bubbly breaks. Would you trust these people to make you look beautiful? Top models do. Vigal & Jus (pictured) does everything from hair to spa treatments to, apparently, bubbly breaks.
Fashion model's guide to Milan
Yes, they eat well
Your guide: Roberta Defez
Old Fashion Club
Armani Bamboo Bar
Simple tastes
Your guide: Olga Lopatina
Armani Privé
QC Termemilano
Oh, OK, one last stop
  • Milan-based models reveal where fashion insiders hang out
  • Platters of pasta aren't on the menu, but Michelin-starred small bites are
  • At Armani Bamboo Bar you have a good chance of spotting models out on the town
  • Most Milan beauty parlors also cater to men

Editor's note: This piece, and several others on Milan, complement the CNNGo TV series. Starting with a tour through the city with two top fashion models and a photographer, this month's CNNGo TV episode then ventures into the "fashion quadrangle," arguably the most fashionable shopping district on the planet, and also takes a trip to the city's most famed umbrella maker. More on Milan plus the full show can be found here:

(CNN) -- Cabbies, concierges, local websites.

Traditional sources all, commonly used by travelers seeking local information.

But Italy's fashion capital of Milan is no common city.

In a place that feels more like one big catwalk, swarming with models, the best guides to the city are those closest to the fabulous action.

That's why we asked a panel of local glamour gurus to fashion a tour of the best places in Milan to get close to the beauty.

Fashion model Roberta Defez has done photo shoots for Italian designer labels such as I Ragazzi del Rosso and Gianmarco Rii and luxury hotel brand Belmond Hotels. The Naples native works for the ICE Models Milan agency and has a degree in marketing and communications.

Milan Model Roberta Defez is ready to show you the town.
Milan Model Roberta Defez is ready to show you the town.

MORE: Happy when it pours: The umbrella man of Milan

Also from ICE Models Milan, Olga Lopatina, born in Yekaterinburg, Russia, is a showroom model whose clients include Ermanno Scervino, Pinko, Diesel, Jil Sander and Marlboro Classics. She speaks four languages and has degrees in foreign languages and marketing. 

Enrico Labriola is a well known Italian fashion photographer who has shot for Grazia, Vogue Italy, Max France and Paris Match. Clients include Pitti Immagine, Dupont and Pomellato, and his work is regularly exhibited at the Cannes' Fashion Photography Festival.

Below are the pros' picks for places models and fashionistas drink, eat, dance, shop and generally look hot.

Be prepared to bump into more than one.

Enrico Labriola does what models like -- makes everything look good.
Enrico Labriola does what models like -- makes everything look good.

Getting pretty

Before or after a runway walk, there's really no wrong time to hit one of Milan's luxury spas, salons and beauty parlors.

Vigal & Jus (Piazza della Repubblica 12; +39 02 3966 9451) is a "beauty hotel" with the expected hair and beauty services, as well as spa suites where models go to get the pretty on before a photo session.

Services suggested by our panel include baby-blond highlights and hot water stone massages that come with aperitif and finger foods.

Enclosed within Renaissance stonewalls, Milan's thermal bath at QC Termemilano (Piazzale Medaglie d'Oro 2; +39 02 551 9936; from €45) are a favorite hangout of model Roberta Defez.

"At night, the blue LED lights have a soothing effect and you can sip a cocktail while nibbling on some fruit," she says.

Most Milan beauty parlors and spas also cater to men.

MORE: Milan: 7 things to know before you go


Arriving in style is key in Milan, as this Enico Labriola shot shows.
Arriving in style is key in Milan, as this Enico Labriola shot shows.

Milan has four main shopping districts.

Which one you visit depends on how much money you're ready to blow.

Model Olga Lopatina's favorite is the famed Fashion Quadrangle, even though she says can't always afford it.

"Prices are sky high here," she says.

One of the world's most fashionable shopping hubs, the Fashion Quadrangle is enclosed by four intersecting streets -- Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni, Corso Venezia. Inside of them you'll find shops from luxe labels such as Gucci, Armani, Valentino and Dolce & Gabbana.

Roberta prefers three other more affordable areas: San Babila, Corso Buenos Aires and the Duomo neighborhood.

"You can find everything at these places, not just luxury items," she says. "I drain my credit card at American Apparel."

Models -- they're just like us!

MORE: World's best shopping cities


Freshly scrubbed and empowered by new clothes, the Milan model is ready to start the day.

Or, rather, night, which is really the model's day.

Model Olga Lopatino is a fan of Just Cavalli Restaurant & Club: \
Model Olga Lopatino is a fan of Just Cavalli Restaurant & Club: "You can have cocktails, dine and even party."

First thing to know -- evening drinks rule in Milan, a city where aperitivos often serve as an acceptable substitute for dinner.

"The fashion industry's coolest get-together spot these days is Armani Bamboo Bar (Via Manzoni 31; +39 02 8883 8703; from €10)," says photographer Enrico Labriola. "This is where you want to be and be seen by others."

Enclosed in a metal and glass cage-like structure, it's a classy-chic rooftop lounge with illuminated floors and a 360-degree view overlooking the Duomo cathedral.

Signature cocktails include the Tokyo Spritz with Aperol, wasabi and fresh ginger -- it's served with mozzarella braids and swordfish sandwiches.

Then there's the the Smoked Fizz, made with shaken salmon.

Yes, there is indeed salmon in the drink -- a tiny morsel of smoked salmon is placed in a cocktail bottle, smashed up to squeeze out the juice than shaken.

We know, it sounds disgusting but with just a delicate flavor of salmon it's actually pretty good.

There no dress code at Armani Bamboo Bar -- a pair of blue jeans and a white tee will do.

Defez also likes to hit Fashion Café (Via San Marco 1; +39 02 657 202; from €10) and Radetzky (Corso Garibaldi 105; +39 02 657 2645, from €10).

"Radetzky buzzes with people and it's at the heart of Brera and Moscova, the most trendy districts," she says. "A great place for show-offing."

MORE: Insider guide to the most fashionable place on Earth

Around midnight, the restaurant at Just Cavalli Club gives way to a thunderous disco. Models abound.
Around midnight, the restaurant at Just Cavalli Club gives way to a thunderous disco. Models abound.


Models don't do huge meals.

So forget massive platters of spaghetti and pizza.

Lopatina and her pals often hang out at Just Cavalli Restaurant & Club (Via Luigi Camoens; +39 02 311 817, from €15), which serves snack plates of traditional Italian at a Michelin-star level.

Specialties include raw Sicilian tuna; mozzarella and cream burrata with tomato carpaccio; flatfish fillet in olives; and lobster and artichoke pasta.

"It's a nice place to hang out with bella gente, nice looking and elegant people," says Lopatina. "You can have cocktails, dine and even party. Stay the whole night."

Defez calls the atmosphere at Serendepico (Piazza Castello; +39 02 7209 3846; from €8) "fascinating," partly for its location across from an historic site.

"I love sipping my glass of white wine and tasting risotto in front of the Sforza Castle." she says. "It's spellbinding."

MORE: Italy's 20 regions, dish by delicious dish

Armani Privé is chic and shiny. Just the way Milan\'s fashion elite like it.
Armani Privé is chic and shiny. Just the way Milan's fashion elite like it.


The fashion industry works mostly at night, so clubs are natural magnets for models to showcase their hotness and unwind after work.

As a result, Milan's discos are among Italy's best.

Defez calls Armani Privé (Via Pisoni 1; +39 02 6231 2655) the most élite club in town.

Located in the Fashion Quadrangle, where houses for all the top brands are located, the club is lit in soft, reddish tones and features a minimalistic Japanese design motif.

"If you want to be noticed you need to wear tight pants and 12-inch high heels, but the dress code doesn't stop you from feeling at ease and having fun," says Defez. "Different from other clubs, it's not cramped inside. It's spacious."

Defez and Lopatina also suggest The Club (Corso Garibaldi 97; +39 33 8951 5667) and Old Fashion Club (Viale Emilio Alemagna 6; +39 02 805 6231) -- the latter rises from inside Parco Sempione and has a large tree jutting out of its ceiling.

Cover charge at most discos and clubs is €20.

The scenery is worth it.

MORE: World's best nightlife cities

Silvia Marchetti is a freelance journalist and writer based in Italy.

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