Milan, the capital of northern Italy, has always had a knack for combining local flavor with cosmopolitan charisma. Home to the world-renowned Fashion Week, as well a Design Week, Milan’s place in the world is guaranteed. But it’s also defined by the countless small shops, cafés and eateries that thrive in each neighborhood. And such a combination of local and international could never be more present than in the Gogol & Company café and bookshop.
“It was very important for Danilo [Dajelli] and Tosca [Bua] to create something that was part of their neighborhood,” says Paul de la Héronnière, a French bookseller who moved to Milan three years ago and manages the Gogol bookshop. “They wanted to create Gogol with a group of friends and they wanted something that was familial but also international. It is still very much the neighborhood café and locals come here every morning for their coffee. But it is more relaxed than a lot of Italian cafés where you pretty much drink your coffee and go. That’s not the case here.”
Indeed, the bookshop encourages customers to browse the shelves with coffee in hand, instilling the relaxed environment. Children play easily in the kids’ section while other customers find refuge in the easy chairs and work stations on the upper level as they focus on their laptops or simply leaf through the generous selection of Italian, English, French and Spanish books.
“Today, Gogol is firmly considered part of the fashion district. We are only a 15-minute walk from Via Tortona, one of the centers of the Milan fashion scene. But that was not the case 10 to 15 years ago,” de la Héronnière, explains. “No, back then there was just a factory and the factory owner’s home. The bookshop and café were founded here 10 years ago and for years there was nothing here except Gogol and the factory. But that has really changed in the last few years with other commerce, like the bakery, another bar, etcetera.”
In some ways, Gogol & Company could be described as a social experiment. The owners’ desire is to foster an international destination with a local vibe, well removed from the city center (it’s about 2.5 miles from the historic Duomo). But what was once an experiment is today very much a success as young and old mix here as easily as locals do with the constant flow of international travellers.
Classical music plays gently in the background, an uncommon feature in many bookshops, but it helps link the café in the lower corner. No, Gogol & Company may not be a fixture on the tourist map, but that is part of its appeal. It’s a great getaway spot for a quiet afternoon in the big city. And it is well worth the short journey from downtown.