Hot to shop: Milan

Belinda Jackson uncovers the best spots for vintage and high-end finds in this global retail hub.

Staple diet

You'd expect Milan's premier department store to be beautiful and la Rinascente, on Piazza Duomo, doesn't disappoint. It makes buying design objects "as natural as going to the supermarket". Homewares range from Artemide to B&B Italia to Conran, with fashion "shops in shops" for Hugo Boss, Etro, Missoni, Mochino, et al. The nearby Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built in 1865 and is worth a visit for its architecture alone, if not for shops of Gucci and Fendi's ilk.

Must-buys

Italians respect leather. Visit Valextra's flagship store for beautiful handbags and briefcases (Via A. Manzoni 3, Metro Lanza). Dance into Mauro Leone for handmade ballet slippers that won't blow the budget (Corso di Porta Ticinese, 103, Metro Porta Genova).

Cheap trick

If you've got a car, hit Max Mara's outlet, Diffusione Tessile, on Milan's outskirts (Via Bendetto Croce); Levi's in the town of Cernusco sul Naviglio; or Fratelli Rossetti in Parabiago. The McArthur Glen Shopping City, about an hour from Milan, stocks Bulgari, Diesel, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and other labels, and runs a shuttle from the city (www.mcarthurglen.it). Otherwise, the savvy girls at Milano Fashion Tour will whisk you around laboratories of young clothing, shoe and jewellery designers and the secret rooms of one-off post-catwalk sales. They don't receive commission from the shops or designers. Tours from €40 (www.milanofashiontour.com).

Market madness

Saturday mornings are earmarked for Fiera di Sinigaglia, for clothes, records and knick-knacks along the wharf at Viale d'Annunzio (Metro Porta Genova). Fashionistas on a budget are seen scoping Italian brands at the Viale Papiniano (Metro San Agostino) and Mercato Fauche (Via Fauche, tram 14).

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Insider trading

Slow-retail aficionados will love three great concept stores, led by 10 Corso Como. Stop at the store for fashion, luxury goods, a bookstore and a design gallery (Metro Garibaldi). Set in the too-hot Brera district, its neighbours include Giorgio Armani's concept store and aperitif stop in Via Manzoni. Add to the list the wildly innovative Spazio Rossana Orlandi (Via Bandello 14, Metro Conciliazione) and TAD (Via Statuto 12, Metro Moscova).

Home help

Go back to where interiors began with Milan's own Kartell, celebrating all things 1960s and '70s plastic (Via Carlo Porta 1, Metro Turati); beautiful B&B Italia design (Via Durini 14); and the quintessentially Italian Alessi for quirky bottle stoppers and juicers (Via Durini 25, both Metro San Babila). Visit Society for divine bedlinen and robes (Via Palermo 1, Metro Moscova).

Fash & trash

Milan's "golden quadrilateral" is one of the world's most glamorous shopping zones. Via Monte Napoleone will quickly have you speaking Italian - Versace, Gucci, Ermenegildo Zegna Global Store - while nearby Via della Spiga is home to Bulgari and Dolce & Gabbana. Vintage hounds should cruise Serendipity in the upcoming Porta Genova area (Corso di Porta Ticinese 100, Metro Porta Genova) and vintage stalwart Cavalli e Nastri (Via Brera 2, Metro Lanza). Men run riot in the Trussardi 1911 flagship store in a 19th-century mansion (Via Sant'Andrea 5, Metro San Babila), and at Franco Jacassi for vintage Pucci (Via Sacchi 3, Metro Cairoli).

Locals love

Corso Genova is a great boutique strip whose shining star is Biffi at No. 6. It leads to the Navigli canal district, good for ethnic finds. The streets come alive on the last Sunday of the month with the Mercatone dell'Antiquariato, peddling antiques, books and homewares (Metro Porta Genova).

The fine print

Milan's underground is the best way to get around. Milan goes on sale in July and January; come August, the city wiggles into a bikini and heads to the beach. italiantourism.com.au.

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