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City Guide - Milan


A ‘unique perspectives’ city guide

As part of Canon’s continuing ‘Come and See’ campaign, we’ve introduced this series of city guides designed to inspire you to take a fresh look at the world.

Cities are packed full of fascinating stories, breath-taking scenes and hidden gems. You just need to know where to look to find them. To inspire you to look deeper, we’ve teamed up with local photographers to create these exclusive city guides. By uncovering hidden locations from unexpected angles, you’ll be able to capture Madrid, London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Milan in a whole new light.

Meet Alice - your Milan guide

Alice Pasquini is a street artist and illustrator who works across the globe. Before she begins to paint, Alice will take in the surrounding environment and pick a colour palette for her piece that complements the wider urban landscape. Through her art, Alice conveys human emotion from a different point of view. She is particularly interested in the representation of women in art and the desire to show strong, independent women in a way that differs from the feminine stereotype typically highlighted in modern art.

Milan through Alice’s eyes

Alice has a keen eye for spotting the perfect city canvas, both for her street art and for photographing. She has chosen six unique locations around the city of Milan and tells us why she finds them so inspirational. We also give you some handy tips to help you take better shots and a downloadable PDF which includes a map to help you easily get from one location to the next.

Fratelli Bonvini, Via Tagliamento 1, 20139 Milano

First stop is Fratteli Bonvini, an extraordinary stationery store located in Via Tagliamento, whose purpose is to reclaim the lost art of writing. Everything on show in the store has a rich story to tell. Visitors are invited to ink their very own story on beautifully crafted letter paper at one of the shop’s courses, workshops or seminars in screen printing and writing. Each session is hosted by a series of eccentric characters who are passionate about the world of paper, printing and calligraphy.

Alice says, “Fratelli Bonvini will make you fall in love with putting pen to paper. I think a handwritten letter tells a person’s story and opens a window to their soul in a way that online communication never will.”

Try to tell Bonvini’s story by focusing on the store’s printing machines, the surrounding environment and the interior furnishings that still remain more or less unchanged over the last century. A good tip is to experiment with wide aperture (f/2.8) and high ISO (1600) settings to make sure your imagery is sharp and impactful.

Milano Wall Art, Istituto Ortopedico Gaetano Pini, Piazza Cardinale Andrea Ferrari 1, 20122 Milano

A short walk from the Duomo and State University lies three magnificent street art murals spanning 800 square meters. The urban art project was commissioned in celebration of the hospital’s 140th anniversary and comprises the work of four of Milan’s famous street artists – Paolo Bordino, Ivan Tresoldi, and duo Walter Contipelli and Alessandra Montanari. The three murals together represent the contrast between rationality and creativity, geometric and organic, science and art and lastly male and female.

“I’m always on the hunt for graffiti that tells a story and this three-piece mural is definitely worth a see,” says Alice. “I love to accentuate the colours in my street art photography – a great way to achieve this is to use a polarising filter.”

Play with the vibrant colours of the painted walls and the shadows and silhouettes of people as they walk by. You could also experiment with spot metering to improve the exposure, colour and contrast of your shots.

Penelope Mercatino, Via M. Melloni 6, 20129 Milano

Next stop is Penelope Mercatino, one of Milan’s top rated vintage stores. It offers a loving array of fashion and design pieces, including vintage fashion from the 40s to the 70s, alongside vintage furniture, kitchen goods, bags, suitcases, tableware, records and many more items. A fact most people don’t know about this store is that it runs a unique retail concept, where goods reduce in price over time or are donated to charity if they don’t sell.

Alice loves uncovering hidden treasures and says, “Whenever I visit Penelope Mercatino I make sure I’ve devoted enough time to rummage through every single rack and rail. You can unearth some amazing vintage finds if you have the patience to go through them all.”

This shop is made up of a maze of corridors and rooms packed with vintage items and modern antiques. Our tip would be to alternate between wide (f/1.2) and narrow (f/8) aperture settings to isolate the most interesting objects on show or highlight the vast array of pieces on display in the windows and shelves in-store.

Frida, Via Pollaiulo 3, 20159 Milano

Located in Milan’s up-and-coming Isola district is Frida, a quirky café, bar and vintage shop that’s popular with locals who are in-the-know. Secretly hidden behind a wall of graffiti art, this vibrant hangout hotspot oozes cool and is the number one place to enjoy brunch while rubbing shoulders with Milanese hipsters and people-watching.

“Frida is the perfect place for people-watching,” says Alice. “I like to try and unravel a person’s story when I’m queuing at the bar or sat in the courtyard. Watching how other people walk, talk and interact with each other really helps inspire me before I choose who will be the subject of my next piece of art.”

The colourful bar, shop and bistro offers the perfect setting to capture photography of the latest trends in fashion and design. Free your creativity to secure interesting snapshots of Milanese lifestyle. Top tip – bring along a tripod and experiment with long exposure shots to capture Frida’s crowded courtyard.

Ciclofficina Stecca (Associazione +bc), Via Gaetano de Castillia 26, 20124 Milano

We jump on our bikes and head to Ciclofficina (also known as Associazione +bc), an organization that is busy making cycling popular again in Milan. Here you can get your bike repaired, have cycling lessons and even get your own bike made from scratch. Different parts of old bicycles, donated by locals, are used to create bespoke bikes within the association’s in-house workshop.

“It’s great to see that bike culture is on the rise here in Milan. Instead of hopping into a cab, it’s definitely worth cycling around the city to experience it from a different perspective, plus it’s fun,” says Alice.

If you’re into cycling and all things bike related then Ciclofficina is a must visit spot for you. The space is filled with hundreds of spare parts hanging everywhere and a multitude of animated cycling fans. Try to capture unique stories through reportage style photography. A good tip is to experiment with a wide angle lens to capture the context of your subject and atmosphere of the space or focus in on small details using a wide aperture setting.

Palazzo Lombardia, Piazza Città di Lombardia, 20124 Milano

Out final location is Palazzo Lombardia, a complex of new buildings in Milan’s ‘futuristic’ Porta Nuova District. Standing loud and proud within the complex, is an impressive glass-clad skyscraper that is considered by internationally renowned designers to represent the future of urban architecture in Milan. You can visit the roof terrace on the 39th floor on Sundays and take advantage of its panoramic 360° views, to capture Milan’s historic cityscape in all its glory.

Alice says, “Enjoying Milan from a great height is a real treat for me. It offers me the chance to take the city in from a bird’s eye perspective. Not only is the design of the Palazzo Lombardia stunning, but the views are spectacular and the photo opportunities are endless.”

Our tip is to capture 360° views during the first hour of light after sunrise or the last hour of light before sunset, otherwise known as the ‘golden hour’. These hours are when the sun is at its lowest in the sky and as a result produces soft, diffused photography which will allow you to accentuate detail and depth within your images.

You can find all of Alice's locations talked about in this article on the map in the downloadable PDF below. As you go from one to the next, remember to keep your eyes open and look around; like all cities, Milan is full of great photo opportunities.