Wes Anderson Designed a Café in Milan and It’s Delightful


Like many movie fans, I’ve always wanted to be a Tenenbaum – or any of Wes Anderson’s creations for that matter. I never dreamed that, dressed like one of his cast of characters in cherry–red Converse and hot pink sunglasses, I’d visit Milan in order to live out that fantasy. But as soon as I opened the doors of Bar Luce, and stepped out of the oppressive summer heat, my alter–ego took over.

Designed by the director in 2015, Bar Luce is housed in the Fondazion Prada, home of many of the city’s art shows. Yes, the sprawling complex is associated with the designer Prada, and yes, its imposing buildings – including one covered in gold – feel extremely high fashion. Which makes Anderson’s Formica–covered tribute to 1960s Italian café culture the ultimate stylish art installation, where you can enjoy the iconic director’s vision while satisfying a caffeine craving. (“While I do think it would make a pretty good movie set, I think it would be an even better place to write a movie,” he notes on Luce’s official website. “I tried to make it a bar I would want to spend my own non–fictional afternoons in.”)

September 1, 2020
The interior of Bar Luce in Milan, Italy
Bar Luce, Milan.

Across 10 films, Anderson has established a strong visual style that features bold colour palettes and symmetry. Even when he’s not directing a cartoon – like Fantastic Mr. Fox or Isle of Dogs – there’s still a strong sense of otherworldliness, as though characters are operating in a bespoke, dollhouse world. With its bold colour blocking, glass ceilings and patterned wallpaper meant to represent Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, it feels like I’ve stepped into one of the director’s upcoming films, right down to the exaggerated menu fonts and pinball machines based on The Life Aquatic and Moonrise Kingdom.

Vintage arcade machines at Bar Luce in Milan
Bar Luce, Milan.

I briefly eye Bar Luce’s well–stocked liquor collection and dream of a Negroni. But in the interest of not having happy hour before breakfast, I order a strong cup of tea and a jam–filled croissant instead, as something to crunch on while deciding which of the jewel–coloured cakes I’ll be taking to go. Around me, the odd mix of Instagram–happy tourists, locals reading the paper and fashion industry types dressed in solid black come and go. It’s a cinematic and calming scene, one that I’m not eager to leave anytime soon. Just as Anderson intended.