No one knows the rules of chic as well as Milan’s supreme matriarchs, the sciure, the elite women who keep their house, their wardrobe, and their entire life in immaculate, high-style order. We interviewed the city’s coolest sciure for their rules on high heels in the mountains, Prada presents, and the importance of the panettone.
The philosophy-trained architect launched Carlo and Camilla inside her grandfather’s ex-sawmill, the stunning restaurant that has become a favorite for some of Milan’s most glittering evenings thanks to her exquisite conversion and decoration of the factory space. The aesthetic maverick breaks down how to make Christmas count whether you want a fashion show at church or a plastic tree.
You can’t have Christmas in a restaurant. That’s sad. That’s homeless. Natale è casa– Christmas is home.
I have a fake tree. My grandmother always had a big, 3-meter high tree so everything smelled like pine needles, but I’ve gone pop with plastic.
I have flashing lights everywhere, American style– all over the house, on the balcony, but not on my plastic tree.
Go all the way on the table: I always set it with the good silver and my English and Japanese porcelain, but at Christmas, I load on embroidered napkins, crystal goblets, the silverware and tons of porcelain.
Go with your gut: I just put everything I like all mixed together on the table, and that makes the chaos harmonious, always with lots of small plates on the table even if you don’t need them for eating.
A quick guide for visitors
Chiesa Sant’Ambrogio– it’s super chic, like a fashion show. You absolutely have to wear fur and lots of jewels.
Chiesa Via Manzoni– it’s the radical chic church, very understated, very cool.
Chiesa San Babila– still decent, but mostly full of out-of-towners, so you don’t really get the show there.
Prada for Christmas: Every Christmas, I’m at Prada’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele shop to pick up bags or little agendas– they’re handmade in Italy, and so classic but so contemporary. Prada is my Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Make it count: a lovely piece of jewelry or some beautiful cashmere, Malo or vintage Ballantyne sweaters, or vintage Loro Piana blankets last a lifetime.
Vintage and antique books make perfect presents. Last year, I gave everyone a few books from the first-ever series of travel guides that I found at the American Bookstore in Milan.
A really good gift, you can always sell. Life is long and you never know what may happen. My cousin sold the Kelly bag her mother gave her.
Christmas demands panettone. And it’s got to be from Pasticceria Cova. Panettone’s not that tasty but it’s tradition– for breakfast, dessert, with coffee and with prosecco– all day. Don’t ever bring a pandoro for Christmas. Pandoro is not as chic, and it’s for Venetians. It’s a no-go for the Milanese.
Even though I have a restaurant, my best experiences usually involve fasting– a two-week liquids-only stay in the California desert or detoxing at the Chenot Merano.
Peck is a Milan must: it’s not Christmas Eve without their gamberoni in salsa rosa (prawns and red sauce) and salmon for the crostini. Lining up on the 23rd at Peck with everyone else in Milan is part of the Christmas tradition!
Food made by hand: it takes forever but we have our family rituals– stuffing agnolotti, churning out the tagliatelle, the four-day pheasant paté, and making our special meat sauce with a top-secret family recipe.
Stick to what you know best: my cousins and aunts do all the Christmas cooking. They inherited the talent from my grandmother and her six sisters. I’m more into the table and the general aesthetic of things.
A dessert imperative: marron glacés (candied chestnuts) from the amazing Giovanni Galli pastry shop. My grandmother brought them every year, and I do whatever she did.
A big sit-down dinner: There’s a lot of us at the table– 27 all together– but no one would miss it. We’ve been doing this for generations.
For after dinner, Passito is chic, but you have to go to Sicily or the Nombra de Vin wine store in Milan for a good one.
We do as Grandma did, a sit-down Christmas dinner with the same menu she always served: