You can’t mention the Milan design scene without hearing the name Nina Yashar. Born in Iran and raised in Milan, Yashar’s influence extends far beyond her gallery, Nilufar. Her impact in the design world needs little introduction. From her stories of women's marches spent with Miuccia Prada in the 70s to giving a young Martino Gamper rare Gio Ponti furniture to rework for the biannual design fair, Design Miami/Basel, Yashar’s name is synonymous with Milanese design.
Yashar’s career started alongside her father, who specialised in Persian rugs and precious textiles. With the desire to showcase her own tastes, Yashar opened her own rug gallery at only 21. Inaugurating the space with a collection of Kilim rugs, the gallery evolved to furniture. This instinctive shift happened during a sourcing trip to Sweden, where Yashar found herself in a warehouse full of furniture — only to return home to Milan learning that to her naïveté, she unknowingly purchased some of the most notable 20th century Scandinavian design. A testament to the instincts and intuition that have informed her approach to sourcing.
Now, just shy of 43 years later, Nilufar is highly regarded as a space for artistic expression, blurring the lines between form and function. Nina’s galleries blend worlds, showcasing important vintage design alongside contemporary talent. “Design in Milano has grown bigger than fashion, and people come from all over the world. Milan went through a long period of silence until six years ago. We had an incredible, glorious period and then after the 1980s we had a very dead period up until Expo 2015 in Milano, which concentrated on cultural development and when many social events were held. Now Milano is once again in a very glorious moment,” she told Alain Elkann when asked if Milan is the design capital of the world. Much like her approach to the gallery, her recommendations for Milan open a curtain to her diverse inner universe. Here, find her favourite places to shop for a dinner party, sit down for an afternoon gelato or enjoy a traditional Milanese pastry alongside some locals.
The Osservatorio Fondazione Prada is an avant-garde contemporary art space with innovative exhibits and shows that appeals to art enthusiasts and culture lovers from around the world. The Osservatorio offers a panoramic view of the city of Milan, making the experience of an exhibition even more captivating.
Terroir is the perfect neighbourhood shop — it has fresh products, natural wines, high-quality chocolate, herbal teas and some sought-after beauty products. It is also a great place to grab a takeaway coffee or a slice of cake. The shop recently developed a collection of bags and aprons in collaboration with the design duo OLDER (artists Nilufar works with too).
Marchesi Milano is one of the most notable pasticcerias in town. Open since 1824, it is one of the best pastry shops in Milan because it represents the traditional style of Milanese pastry — making artisanal sweets with fresh and specific ingredients. Marchesi is an institution in the Milanese gastronomic scene, which continues to attract both the residents of Milan and the city's visitors.
Horto is one of the best restaurants in Milan for a unique and refined culinary experience. The restaurant focuses on using seasonal and local ingredients to create dishes with unprecedented combinations for the Milanese culinary scene, with an emphasis on sustainability. The restaurant's environment is elegant and welcoming, with a spacious rooftop overlooking the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Gelateria Giova is renowned for its exceptional gelato. The gelato is truly outstanding, thanks to the use of fresh and high-quality ingredients. The techniques used to make their gelato are carefully selected to ensure an authentic flavour. The service is also impeccable with friendly and knowledgeable staff who are there to ensure you are both taken care of and well fed.
A guide to Milan would not be complete without the inclusion of Nina’s galleries…