Most people don’t fall for Milan. I’m one of the exceptions. I’m drawn to its nexus of style.
On a recent weeklong trip to work on the Spring/Summer 2012 collection for Dea Rosa, I visited two hotels, the Gray and the Hotel Straf. Both are precisely central, with the Duomo at the end of the street and La Scala and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele around the corner. My favorite gelateria, Grom, is a stone’s throw away, and, the central location of both properties affords you the opportunity to fall through the front door of the city’s top department store, Rinascente. I had met my perfect accommodations.
The Gray looks glossy, with a solid, mirrored rectangle as an awning. On the left as you enter is a small cocktail lounge, boudoirish, with velvet banquettes; the reception area has a giant fuchsia-upholstered swing. My suite was a triplex and twice the size of my TriBeCa apartment. The foyer featured a sauna, the mid-level was the bedroom, sitting area and desk, and the loft was home to the walk-in closet and bathroom. This place could easily double as my Milanese pied-à-terre. Beds were super comfortable, the lighting perfect, and the staff lovely and gracious.
Just across the street, Hotel Straf is a celebration of bona fide cutting-edge fashionista minimalism, with distressed fabric under glass along its stylish corridors, and scuffed-satiny walls. Its unassuming facade masks a modern-elegant interior: raw-concrete walls and chocolate-brown chaise lounges in the lobby. My room was industrial: the bathroom had copper walls and hidden compartments – small in size, but strong on function, everything had its place. My favorite part of the entire stay was the extensive tea and juice menu – quite surprising for a hotel in an Italian city. Each morning I had an açaí or other equally exotic fruit and at night, I enjoyed multiple infusions served in a traditional Asian style.
Milan is a surprisingly walkable city, that is, if you know where you’re going. I usually start the shopping day mid-morning before the tourists hit the streets and work my way around via Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga and its environs, dip in and out of a few of the major designer boutiques, and then book a leisurely lunch at Il Bacaro del Sambuco at #13. In the summer, it has a great outdoor patio, and in the winter, it’s a buzzy spot. The food is exceptional, and save room for the homemade cakes and gelato.
From there, you can walk to the Brera district and head straight for my shoe go-to, L’Artigiano di Brera. Ballerina flats are represented in a rainbow of colors and textures from around 89 euro and there’s always a new model sandal or pump based on the season. I’ll then head to my vintage clothing standby, Cavali e Nastri (there are three locations, one at Via Brera, 2) and see what has been added since my last visit.
Just a 10-minute walk from Brera, another must-have shopping spot on my Milan list is 10 Corso Como, located in the inner courtyard of a traditional Milanese palazzo. The ultimate concept store, it’s a virtual museum of fashion fused with lifestyle, complete with a fab little restaurant for a late-afternoon pastry and caffè. Don’t miss the bookshop upstairs – you wouldn’t find it if you didn’t know it was there.
I booked my entire Milan trip through Mr and Mrs Smith, the boutique hotel expert that combines the sexy, the rare, the fabulous, all in one website. Consider them that cocktail-party couple that is always in the know. The site features original destination guides, online bookings, and more than 700 hotels, villas and properties, all of which are anonymously reviewed by artists, writers, entrepreneurs and bold names such as Stella McCartney and Cate Blanchett, who supply tongue-in-cheek accounts of their stays. And you don’t have to do everything online: they also have a cult-like following for their in-house travel team who are available 24/7.
No membership required, Smith will be your new obsession…well, second after Milan of course.
The Gray 6 Via San Raffaele, Milan, Milan 20121
Hotel Straf 3 Via San Raffaele, Milan, Milan 20121
Il Bacaro del Sambuco, Via Monte Napoleone, 13, +39, 02 76394832
L’Artigiano di Brera, Via Solferino n. 1, +39-02-80581910
Cavali e Nastri, via brera 2, Via Gian Giacomo Mora 3 and 12
10 Corso Como, +39-02-002674