Italy’s Soccer Capital
From bars, nightclubs and restaurants to the makers of the World Cup trophy and the hairdresser whose style is the pride of the pitch: how to explore this city like a soccer star.
TEXT: Enrico Fantoni | photos: Stefano Pedroni | maps: felipe sáez
The northern Italian metropolis of Milan is a world fashion capital, the nerve center of the Italian economy, the most European city on the peninsula and, above all, the king of calcio – soccer, Italian style. Its two top-level teams, the eternal rivals AC Milan (Milan, for short) and FC Internazionale (a.k.a. Inter) – have provided Italy’s national team with nearly 200 players over the history of the sport. Despite their heated rivalry, the teams share a stadium, and the showdowns between the two rank among the most spectacular sporting events in the world. Milan is fashion, style, glamour and plenty of soccer. In tune with the opening whistle of the World Cup in Brazil, we present this tour of Milan’s more soccer-centric side. It’s a guaranteed score.
THE CATHEDRALS OF SOCCER
(1) STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA, SAN SIRO
Fans call it “La Scala del Calcio,” a reference to the famous local opera house. Built in 1925, the stadium was expanded over time to its current monumental dimensions, with a capacity of 80,000 spectators. Since 1947, it has also been home to the two most popular teams in the city, Inter and Milan. In 1980, the stadium was renamed after the diplomatically chosen Giuseppe Meazza, who won two World Cups with Italy (1934, 1938) and also played for both teams. Soccer fans can take a tour and visit two museums, one dedicated to each team.
(2) MILÁN MEGASTORE
If you find yourself wandering around downtown Milan and suddenly feel the urge to buy some cat toys emblazoned with the AC Milan logo, just head to the team’s megastore. This 5,400-square-foot establishment is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and it’s located near Piazza San Babila and the Duomo. The imagination of the rossonero club’s marketing team comes to life with the team’s logo on everything from sheets to umbrellas, ashtrays to towels… even toothbrushes. For diehard fans only.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Galleria San Carlo
(3) GDE BERTONI
The skilled artisans who craft the trophy held aloft every four years by the World Cup winners are based in Milan, specifically, the town of Paderno Dugnano, home to the prestigious trophy and medal manufacturer GDE Bertoni. Designed by sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga and awarded for the first time in 1974, the trophy has two versions: the original – safeguarded by FIFA and brought to the workshop for touch ups before being presented after the final – and a replica given to the world champions with the country’s name inscribed on its base. The trophy’s value is estimated at €300,000.
TAKE THE FIELD
(1) DISCO HOLLYWOOD & CORSO COMO
An almost surefire way of running into soccer players is to enjoy an aperitif at one of the bars on Corso Como, a short pedestrian street connecting Garibaldi Station with Brera. One of the hippest spots in this land of models, businesspeople and wannabes is the bar at 10 Corso Como, a shopping and dining complex. If you don’t see any stars here, try Hollywood, a historic Milan nightspot, on a Sunday night. The party called “Any Given Sunday” finds players rubbing elbows with movie and television stars.
(2) VIA MONTENAPOLEONE
“Whoever said money doesn’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.” This Bo Derek quote sums up the essence of Via Montenapoleone, the glamorous and luxurious avenue lined with shops like Armani, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Versace and Ferragamo. Here, soccer players compete with the Russian nouveau riche, coming in and out of the stores with loaded bags. Window shopping here is guaranteed to turn you green with envy.
(3) MIKI IL PARRUCCHIERE
What do Nigeria’s Obafemi Martins, Uruguay’s Ribas, Inter player Maicon and Milan midfielder Sullay Muntari have in common? They all sport exotic hairstyles from Miki, the Eritrean hairdresser who turned his small and colorful establishment on Tadino (in the working-class neighborhood of Porta Venezia) into a favorite among the city’s soccer players. A telltale sign that a player is on the premises is when the curtain on the door is half-drawn to give the star a little privacy.
Via Tadino, 5/6
(4) CAVALLI CLUB
Nestled in the heart of Parco Sempione, just a short walk from the Torre Branca (designed by celebrated architect Gio Ponti), the establishment run by Tuscan stylist Roberto Cavalli is Milan’s hot new sensation. Perfect for a romantic dinner or post-dinner dancing, Just Cavalli boasts a garden outfitted with armchairs, candles and torches. For €270, up to five people can take a table and enjoy drinks and fresh fruit. And then, it’s time to hit the dance floor.
SOCCER ON THE MENU
Founded in 1899, Giannino boasts a century of culinary excellence, which earned this restaurant a Michelin star in 1998. Its luster may be slightly tarnished by recent financial problems, but its lasting fame is owed in part to the fairly frequent presence of the big guns from AC Milan. Even former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi lunches at this restaurant at Vittor Pisani 6. Try the cotoletta alla Milanese and wait for “crazy Balotelli” to make one of his animated appearances.
A more interesting culinary concept is on offer at Botinero, another landmark of soccer and dining. Behind cleats from soccer stars on display in the windows, Botinero serves quality Argentinean meat. The owner – Argentinean Inter player Javier Zanetti – has made good use of his nearly 20 years residing on Italian soil. He also owns Finger’s, where you’ll find some of the best sushi in the city, and El Gaucho, in the charming
bohemian neighborhood of Navigli.
Via San Marco, 3