The sight that hits you when you are flying into Milan is the Alps. Most of the taller peaks are covered in snow. Milan is a very business-friendly city; small by international standards, but with a wonderful co-existence and adaptation of business within an old European setting. You could conduct a multi-billion dollar deal in a bank that is headquartered in a medieval building. Enormous courtyards, Roman statues and tall ceilings; the atmosphere is something else.
Business over a meal
The first thing you should know about Italians is that around 60 percent of businesses are family-owned. So it is very important that you connect on a business and personal level. And the best way to do that is by meeting them in a restaurant over a meal. Restaurants in Milan are very regional, just like in India. You can have a choice of cuisine like Milanese, Roman, Florentine or Venetian.
There are two kinds of ristorantes in Milan. Professionally-run ones like the Boeucc that serves Milanese cuisine — very sophisticated and quite expensive. Then you have small family-owned restaurants that have very good food and wine. For a business meeting you must ask them for a private room. And wine flows through the dinner. But I have never seen a drunk Italian.
There is a Tuscan restaurant called Montalcino, by the Naviglio Grande canal. You can have a meeting in the wine cellar. You are surrounded by wine and the table can accommodate up to 15 people. It’s a wonderful experience. It is common for dinners to go on till one in the morning.
I usually stay at the Principe Di Savoia hotel that’s centre of Milan. Another option is the Four Seasons that’s situated near an old cathedral called the Duomo.Tips
The nightlife is quite good. Medieval canals that run through the city — I think some of them were designed by Leonardo da Vinci. A lot of jazz plays at the restaurants along the canals. There is also a bar run by an Italian called the Bhangra Bar. There are also a couple of restaurants on boats in summer.
Milan is also the fashion capital of the world. So, if you are planning a trip during spring or autumn, make sure you have reservations because that’s the time for the famous fashion weeks. You can shop at the Via Montenapoleone, a street where all major fashion brands have their boutiques: Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Giorgio Armani…
Beware of Italian drivers. They regularly drive over the speed limit. They have their Ferraris and their Lambhorginis and they don’t hesitate driving over 200 kmh.
Big tip for visitors? Don’t tip! In Milan, or Italy for that matter. The locals will tell you that it ruins the culture over there.Getting Away
Milan is very central to most European countries: Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Monte Carlo. If you are in the city for a longer duration, you can drive to Switzerland — that’s just 45 minutes away.As told to Abhishek Raghunath
(This story appears in the 20 November, 2009 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)