One night in Milan

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There is arguably no country on earth that is as steeped in culture and history or has a richer wine and cuisine landscape, than Italy. It is no surprise then that Italy is now home to the world’s second largest network of MGallery hotels, a high-end branch of the Accor hotel group that aims to create “memorable moments” for their guests. With MGallery’s reputation and the choice of setting – Milan, Italy’s design and fashion capital – the bar was set high from the outset. With a spring in our step, Glass set out to see what memorable moments MGallery had in store.

Our first stop was the Grand Visconti Palace. Inside, the hotel is all marble floors and high ceilings. Later, as we are shown around by Claudio, the hotel’s approachable General Manager, we are told that the Grand Visconti was once a former mill. These personal touches are what the MGallery brand prides itself on – its commitment to preserving a building’s history (if it has one), a beautiful locale, or a signature style. The Grand Visconti falls under the “heritage” umbrella and it is clear why. Near the Porta Romana, (one of the city’s historic gates,) it has the feeling of a town house on the outskirts of a city, with space for a swimming pool, spa and restaurant situated in elegant grounds and a garden that doubles up as a perfect area for evening entertainment. It is in this beautifully decked-out setting that a highlight takes place – when the brand’s ambassador, the actress Kristen Scott Thomas takes to the stage situated in the garden and adds an extra touch of class to whole the affair.

On the second day, we are treated to a viewing of the Uptown Palace, another of MGallery’s hotels in the Lombardy capital. In Milan, everything is taken in relation to the city’s prized Duomo, (the fifth largest cathedral in the world) and its stunning image adorns maps and guidebooks throughout the city. While the Grand Visconti is a little further out (four stops from the Duomo), the Uptown Palace is right in the heart of the city centre. Another memorable moment includes taking breakfast in one of the Uptown Palace’s presidential suites, sipping Italian coffee while taking in the view of the Duomo in the morning sunshine. We are told that the usual breakfast area is currently inside, on one of the lower floors, which is met with surprise considering how beautiful our breakfast experience has been, but staff quickly assure us that a rooftop terrace is currently being fast-tracked.

While it is perhaps less palatial than the Grand Visconti Palace, the Uptown Palace’s appeal is undoubtedly its location and its stylish yet understated décor makes it the perfect base for exploring the fashionable Montenapoleone district and the lesser-know historical district of Brera, which is known for its winding alleyways and charming cafés. It is here that Milan’s growing reputation as a vibrant tourist destination is palpable. Historically, Milan has taken a back seat to Italy’s main tourist destinations – it is not as picturesque as Florence, as romantic as Venice, and not as influential or historically-rich as Rome, but MGallery’s expanding portfolio in the city is just one indication of how Milan is evolving from mainly being known as a fashion and business centre.
Our third and final destination is the Grand Hotel Villa Torretta, which takes the idea of a city-haven like the Grand Visconti Palace to the next level. On the outskirts of Milan’s regional park, the Parco Nord, the Grand Hotel Villa Torretta is 52 rooms of 17th century magnificence. Outside, the villa’s three-sided layout forms a stunningly beautiful courtyard with arched colonnades that run the length of the building. Inside, chandeliers and Venetia stucco abound, transporting you back to a different time of Italian luxury and nobility.

Risotto is the regional dish of choice, and it is a testament to the cuisine that even after three different types in two days, we were still begging for more. For a truly memorable experience, try the risotto “carnaroli pavese” with saffron whilst being surrounded by original frescos (restored to full magnificence) in the hotel’s exquisite restaurant.

This is all fairly impressive for a brand that you would not even have heard of six years ago. Since 2008, MGallery has put its name to over 60 hotels in 22 countries, with a view to reach 100 by 2015. When seen on paper, the statistics can appear a little overwhelming, but their ethos seems to be a sustainable one. With new properties in destinations such as South America and London opening in the near future, it looks as if MGallery will continue to be a welcome presence in the hospitality industry for years to come.

by Jo Gilbert

All photos by Edmondo Angelelli, Andrea Getuli, Erica Fadin, Maurizia Galliazzo and Domenico Basanisi, provided courtesy of MGallery.

For more information on rates and availability, please visit the MGallery website.
The official Milan tourism website can be found here