The best shopping in Milan

Your guide to stores, streets and districts

By Silvia Marchetti, CNN
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(CNN) - Ready to max out your credit card? Milan is one of the world's top fashion capitals.

Rich foreigners hop on a plane for so-called "parachute day shopping," where they drop in for a quick day of deal hunting.

Whether you're in for a quickie browse or a longer visit, here's a roundup of the best spots.

Fashion Quadrangle

The Quadrangle refers to the square enclosing the city's big glossy boutiques and luxury designer brands, bound by four main intersecting streets: Via Monte Napoleone, Via Alessandro Manzoni, Corso Venezia and Via della Spiga.

"Here you can breathe the essence of Milan's sheer luxury fashion universe. It's creative, vibrant and dynamic," says Annamaria Lamanna, who takes foreign clients on shopping tours.

Via Monte Napoleone is Italy's Fifth Avenue, so to speak, lined with parked Ferraris and Lamborghinis and store entrances guarded by serious-faced security agents. The street is home to Giorgio Armani, Ferragamo, Fendi, Roberto Cavalli, luxe lingerie line La Perla and Gucci, to name a few.

Via della Spiga is car-free, with a dreamy, curated atmosphere. Boutiques in and of themselves are artworks, set in historical buildings in silent courtyards. The items inside are highly stylized: Mannequins draped on leather couches, handbags hung on stone statues, shoes inside tiny boats.

Via Manzoni, dubbed one of the most elegant streets in the city since the 1800s, runs close to the prestigious La Scala theater and has an old aristocratic feel, dotted with a number of storied cafes for shopping breaks.

Brera district

The Brera neighborhood is the main competitor to the Fashion Quadrangle, dotted with elite concept stores, bohemian artisan boutiques and funkier independent shops.

Cavalli e Nastri (Via Brera, 2, 20121, Milano MI, Italy; +39 02 7200 0449), for example, is one popular vintage spot for one-of-a-kind clothes, bags and bijoux.

The area is also famed for its high-end perfume boutiques, including The Merchant of Venice (Via Brera, 4, 20121, Milano MI, Italy; +39 02 8058 1268) and L'Olfattorio (Via Brera, 5, 20121, Milano MI, Italy; +39 02 3653 2901).

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

This area's stunning location alone makes it a worthwhile stop, even if you're not looking to spend money.

The glass-roofed, arcaded gallery, open since 1867, is located between the Duomo and the Scala Theatre, and is one of the world's oldest shopping malls, featuring frescoes, decorated statues and colored marble floors.

In the early 1900s, the gallery served as an open-air meeting spot, and it remains a journey through time, blending history with modern apparel and accessories.

"The Galleria is one of Milan's most beautiful sites, an ideal place, especially for foreigners, to shop and admire stunning architecture and get a feel of the history that has made Milan such a great city," says Ornella Boeretto, proprieter of Sartoria Principessa, one of the city's bespoke ateliers.

Pop into an elegant cafe or one of the area's historic libraries in between visiting the Prada flagship store and Louis Vuitton.

Corso Buenos Aires

It's one of Europe's longest shopping streets, often compared to London's Oxford Street and Paris' Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Nearly 400 international brands and more affordable Italian labels line this one-kilometer-long avenue, including Desigual and United Colors of Benetton.

There are also smaller, family-run stores, such as atelier Mutinelli (Corso Buenos Aires, 5, 20124, Milano MI, Italy; +39 02 2952 3594), making hats of all sizes, shapes and colors since 1888 from premium leather, felt, straw and tweed.

Navigli district

This old network of canals with a bohemian, laid-back vibe is home to small charming boutiques, art galleries, bars and bistros. It's also one of Milan's groovier places to meet for evening drinks (aperitivo) at bars that line the canals or barges floating on the water.

Entering Navigli is stepping into a world of vintage oddities and unique finds.

Pourquoi Moi (Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 27, 20143, Milano MI, Italy; +39 339 579 2838) sells clothes, shoes, handbags, bijoux and rare design items from the 1960s and '70s like funky colorful skirts and blouses.

Naviglio Piu serves up cool military uniforms among other finds (Via Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 33, 20143, Milano MI, Italy; +39 02 837 3834).

'New Milan' area

It's where futuristic architecture meets fashion.

One standout stop is the area's CityLife Shopping District (Piazza Tre Torri, 20145, Milano MI, Italy; +39 02 4349 5911), Italy's largest urban shopping block that's modern, sleek and a bit corporate-feeling.

Nestled between the Three Towers skyscrapers designed by architects Zaha Hadid, Arata Isozaki and Daniel Libeskind, the district encompasses 80 stores, including Guess and Calvin Klein, and 20 restaurants and bars.

In the Porta Garibaldi district, undergoing renovation, fashion lovers flock to 10 Corso Como (Corso Como 10, 20154, Milano MI, Italy; +39 022 900 2674), a concept store with a cafe-restaurant and art gallery.

Also worth a visit is Dsquared2 (Via Carlo de Cristoforis, 1, 20124 Milano MI, Italy; +39 02 9769 5470), selling casual wear for stylish women, men and children.

Bespoke ateliers

Milan is dotted with niche ateliers that turn out tailored clothes and jewels with premium fabrics and materials.

N.H. Sartoria (Via Chiossetto, 2, 20122, Milano MI, Italy; +39 02 780531) is a gentleman's temple where even ties and shirt cuffs are customized.

Atelier Bergnach (Via Alessandro Tadino, 15, 20124, Milano MI, Italy; +39 02 8739 0327) is an oasis for ladies who love skirts: there's a wide variety of whirling, tube, godet and asymmetric styles, with silver lines and flower motifs resembling the fantasyland of Alice in Wonderland.

At her namesake shop, jeweler Daniela de Marchi (Via dei Piatti, 9, 20123, Milano MI, Italy; +39 02 8699 5040) custom creates pieces to match a client's personality, outfit, mood or special occasion -- with silver, bronze and brass as well as diamonds, onyx, amethysts and pearls.

Sartoria Principessa (Via Castel Morrone, 22, 20129, Milano MI, Italy; +39 02 2952 5290) is run by Ornella Boeretto, who inherited a passion for handmade clothes from her seamstress auntie. Boeretto specializes in sophisticated tailored cocktail and ball gowns, for both women and little "princesses."

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