On our first visit to Milan, my husband and I hired a guide to see the historic sights of this busy city and discover its past.
While there were many highlights, including Michelangelo’s The Last Supper, and tours of the Duomo and La Scala Opera House, the sweetest discovery was a visit to Pasticceria Marchesi.
This unexpected surprise started with a visit to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the most beautiful luxury shopping centers in Italy. Built in 1865, the Galleria connects the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza della Scala in front of the opera house. The Galleria is anchored by stores such as Versace, Rizzoli, Louis Vuitton and Prada. This historic building is like a jewel box boasting colorful marble and mosaic tile floors, skylight glass ceilings and beautiful old world architecture nestled among some of the most delicious and legendary ristorantes.
There are loads of fascinating stories about famous people like soprano star, Maria Callas, who loved to dine at some of the best restaurants including Ristorante Savini. Callas frequented this popular meeting place for artists and scholars after many of her performances at La Scala Opera House.
This was one of the many stories our tour guide shared with us about celebrities and their favorite haunts; these insider history tips make hiring a tour guide well worth the expense, not to mention the added benefit of discovering where to find the best gelato in town or saving time skipping long wait lines to enjoy special exhibitions.
It was during a tour of this gorgeous Galleria, that our guide casually mentioned a second floor pasticceria; an Italian pastry shop. This fact would have been lost on me if it weren’t for the word pastry. Hmmm… Turns out the shop is the oldest in Milan so I duly filed this information under a note to myself – MUST VISIT!
We awoke the next morning to a gray, rainy day. What better conditions for indulging in a decadent breakfast? Our hotel was near the entrance of the Galleria, so we set off for Pasticceria Marchesi armed with our umbrellas and appetites . As the sparse yet elegant window displays of filled with chocolates and other confectionary delights came into view, it felt like we were leaving the real world for a fairy tale island of sweetness. The displays pulled us up a winding staircase, the way Christmas windows on 5th Avenue in NYC do. We were like excited children who couldn’t wait to see Santa Claus.
Pasticceria Marchesi specializes in chocolates, fruit jellies, single origin teas, jams, marmalades and creams packaged in beautiful pastel boxes making them an elegant gift or treat to take home. I discovered Pasticceria Marchesi was established in Milan in 1824. It is the first of several, and is located at Via Santa Maria alla Porta. It’s no wonder it is still in operation today. The shop has gained a reputation for its fine confectionery offerings from exquisite treats to rich coffees. It has a cult following among the Milanese as well as world travelers.
The spring green marble interior, with green silk wall coverings and inviting velvet green seating, is an oasis in the middle of the crowded city. We bathed in the soothing colors and soft upholstery as the waiter directed us to our table. It was a perfect setting to focus on the impossible task of choosing which pastry or sweet to enjoy. I fell under the spell of the tranquil mood of the cafe, as I relaxed into this beautiful, intimate setting.
Italian coffee is always delicious and my Americano café, robust and hot, was no exception. It was the perfect companion to my sweet Pasta Ciotti pastry, a heaven-sent custard filled pastry. But the standout was my non-coffee drinking husband’s hot chocolate. It arrived accompanied with a separate demi bowl of fresh whipped cream. Dark, thick, brown liquid in a simple white cup, his spoon stood upright in the aromatic concoction!
Wonderful, perfectly rolled omelets with fresh vegetables and parmesan cheese followed our sweet starters. The flawless service during this delicious repast matched the perfection of our meal. We lingered an embarrassing length of time, soaking in our verdant atmosphere while observing the mixed clientele of tourists: a small executive power meeting being led by a young, well dressed woman who held two businessmen captive, while other locals enjoyed their espresso standing at the bar before rushing out the door to start their day.
The traditions and allure of Marchesi have remained, despite changes in 2014 when Prada, another Milan institution, acquired 80% ownership of Marchesi. Miuccia Prada, the female designer and head of Prada and the pride of Milan’s business community, saw the value of expanding and promoting the much adored Marchesi. Prada seems like a match made in heaven, with this powerhouse brand known for its luxury goods.
Two more Marchesi stores have opened in Milan, and Prada is thinking about expanding outside of Italy since the merger. Discussions about new locations include expansion into Hong Kong, Japan and Abu Dhabi. The two latest restaurants in Milan have certainly maintained the exclusiveness of Marchesi as a beautiful place to indulge in delicious treats with a loved one or special friend. This unique place is rich in both history and decor, making it a great place to celebrate life’s small pleasures in our fast paced life. Linking luxury brands with luxury treats is a sweet deal that makes Milan’s most beloved bakery even sweeter!