Discovering hosts’ favourite Porta Venezia hidden gems in Milan Craftsmen’s workshops, unconventional art galleries and a “time restorer”

Porta Venezia is a notable neighborhood in Milan, offering a mix of cultures, art and cookery styles. Named the “Eastern Gate” and once located just outside the old city’s fortified walls, Porta Venezia has always been the crossroads for many travelers who, today, meander its streets to visit galleries and showrooms. Travelers enjoy Ethiopian or Eritrean dishes or pastries from bakeries, drink at the fanciest clubs, shop at craftsmen boutiques or at major brands in Corso Buenos Aires. They can admire Art Nouveau architecture of the local buildings and courtyards, walk in the old Lazzaretto area in search of unique comics or old vinyl records, cycle in Viale Tunisia towards Garibaldi’s skyscrapers and Isola or towards Stazione Centrale. The eclectic soul of the neighborhood has been the focus of the recent walk that Airbnb hosts organized with the Porta Venezia Social District that aims to promote the local area.

Each small business received a special Airbnb sticker which shows that they are “recommended by hosts”. Here are the shops that our hosts visited during last week’s event.

Cacao-lab. Chocolate like it used to be.

Just like it used to be, Cacao-lab (Via Eustachi 47) is not only a shop that sells chocolate delicacies: it’s an artisanal lab that turns high-quality raw materials into pralines, desserts and small edible sculptures. The owners, Cristiano Spinoni and Baptiste Roundel transformed their love for chocolate into a profession, becoming chocolate masters before turning their passion into a business. The preparations draw from the Italian tradition, like the Bronte pistachios, and are carefully decorated recalling the shop’s style, an homage to the 40’s.

The “Time restorer”, a fabulous shop

Cristiano Lini has 40 years experience as a master watchmaker and is one of the few left in the city. He recently restored the clock of Villa Arcimboldi in Milan, dating back to the 15th Century. His workshop in Via Plinio 30 is halfway between a workshop and a museum. The shop’s shelves are filled to the brim with watches, pendulums, watch hands and mechanisms, and a glass section on the floor reveals his worktable downstairs. Inside the shop, a scale model of the astronomical clock in Clusone (Bergamo), the only one in the world that operates counterclockwise, originally created in the 16th Century by Pietro Fanzago, a mathematician and astronomer. You might want to browse your attic: who knows if there’s a watch in need of Cristiano’s masterful skills?

Mutinelli: 130 years of hats

Mutinelli is Milan’s oldest hat seller, founded in 1888 when Corso Buenos Aires, now one of the main shopping streets in the city, was basically countryside. The floor is original and still holds the époque’s charm 130 years on (even after intense bombing during World War Two). The founder was the great-grandfather of the owner, Matteo Mutinelli, who inherited a business that has profoundly changed with time. Speaking to hosts about his business, Matteo said: “Hats were once like shoes, people would change them often. Wearing one was a given. The hatters were the ones who made business in Monza and Milan and many businessmen started out as hatters back then. Today we serve a niche clientele. The hat has become a luxury”.

A jewellery and resine lab in the Lazzaretto

If you love Italian bijoux, this is your place. Barbara Corazza, with her son Matteo and her daughter-in-law Valentina work with the Italian producers of resin to create one of a kind designs that recall the Art Nouveau style. Ami Mops, in via Tadino 3, in the heart of the old Lazzaretto, specializes in unique colors and shapes. Visiting it was a full immersion in Italian style, so glam and minimal, the right place for travelers who are looking for something truly special to bring back home.

Lisa Corti’s hues: discovering a former convent

Originally built as a convent in the 17th Century, this shop in Via Lecco 2 features Lisa Corti’s products. A designer from Eritrea, she traveled extensively in India and brought back to Italy the woodblock printing technique on textiles with which she creates charming colorful dresses and furniture. The shop is a journey into beauty, an invitation to get lost and enjoy the warmth and spirituality that belongs to the country that has inspired her work for over 30 years. A gateway to the East, Via Lecco is an inspiring location.

Books, magazines and photos in a very special art gallery

Hidden in a courtyard in Via Melzo, the Stamberga – a derogatory term meaning “hovel”, that originates from the Barbarians – is home to photographer Marco Beretta’s works. He wanted it to be an art gallery, but also a special place. A former businessman, he then decided to invest his life in a space that would resemble his artistic career. You can’t really call it a bookstore, but you can find wonderful books to flick through and read on old wooden tables; you can’t call it a newsstand either, even though Marco selects the most interesting magazines and has even created a corner dedicated to paper lovers, with block notes and pens; it is not an emporium but there is a space dedicated to Japan, a Country that Marco visited extensively during his 20-year-long photographic research. Originally the space was a mechanic’s workshop, it is now a unique place that the hosts found while they were looking for the best locations in the neighbourhood.

The focaccia gourmand of Maddài

Last but not least on the walk through the Porta Venezia district, hosts met Augusta Cavaliere, the owner of Maddaì (slang that means “Come on!” or “Really?”), a small restaurant that specializes in focaccia of all kinds. Born as a take-away, with time it became a focaccia-themed location for aperitivo and dinner. All are prepared with organic flours and sourdough from Mulino Marino, an organic mill located in Piedmont. Augusta was extremely welcoming, the hosts found a special place to recommend to travelers who are looking to try one of our Italian specialties while in Milan.

Do you want to find out more about the local tips from hosts? Read our blog about Paolo Sarpi’s shops in Milan or hosts’ walk through San Giovanni in Rome.