This historic building in the heart of the city features rooms of rare elegance where luxury is an instrument designed to impress and envelop guests in a timeless atmosphere.
Set in via Manzoni, one of the city’s most iconic streets, and literally footsteps from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, La Scala and Milan’s exclusive shopping district (Armani is its ‘next door neighbour’), the Grand Hotel et de Milan has a memorable story to tell, and one that involves a roster of famous people.
Its story began on 23 May 1863 when the hotel was inaugurated. The hotel features a beautiful façade, decorated with Neo-Gothic motifs reminiscent of the architectural style known as Gothic Revival, that was in vogue in England during the second half of the 19th century. Towards the end of the century, the hotel – already famous for its luxurious rooms and peaceful winter garden, became particularly noteworthy by being the only hotel in Milan to offer postal and telegraph services. This was the reason that both businessmen and diplomats patronized it. However, Art was also well represented by regular guests at the hotel. Giuseppe Verdi took up residence in one of the hotel’s suites during the years when he was writing ‘Othello’ and ‘Falstaff’. In fact, after the opening night of Othello, when Verdi tried to leave the theatre to return to the ‘Milan’ (as he was accustomed to call it), he discovered that his carriage had no horses. Some of his devoted fans had unhitched them and taken their places in order to pull the conveyance and its revered passenger to his hotel. At the hotel, Verdi was kept awake by the noise of the mob outside, who refused to stop singing his praises. At one point, a spokesman sung on their behalf, Francesco Tamagno, the tenor who had just created the title role in the opera, stood on the hotel balcony and belted out Othello`s opening aria, ‘Esultate!’ (‘Rejoice!’). Today a plaque reminds us that, in 1901, after being taken ill, Verdi died in his apartment at the Grand Hotel.
The list of celebrities is long, and includes legendary operatic tenor, Enrico Caruso, who made one of the first recordings in the history of music in a room of the hotel, marking his rise to stardom worldwide. Tamara de Lempicka stayed at the hotel where she received letters from Gabriele d’Annunzio, while Maria Callas, Vittorio De Sica and Richard Burton were guests here until 1969, when its former manager decided to open the ‘Milan’ to the world of fashion. The hotel then began hosting fashion shows, fashion shoots, and the exhibitions of emerging designers. Today the Grand Hotel et de Milan is swathed in an aura of luxurious, cultured worldliness, a perfect blend of art and fashion.
The ‘Milan’ is not only frequented by celebrities, but also by locals who drop in for a cup of tea or an ‘aperitivo’, enjoying the comfort of beautiful velvet couches, set amongst golden stuccoes, elegant fringed floor lamps and old-world fireplaces. In addition to the bar, its restaurants have become a meeting place for connoisseurs, starting from the sublime Don Carlos restaurant, decorated with silver candelabras, walls covered in sketches of the theatre and supremely classical and elegantly-laid tables. The sophisticated menu, rooted in the culinary traditions of Italy, offers fresh, seasonal ingredients and a Mediterranean-style cuisine, elevated by touches of originality which have won the restaurant favorable mentions in the some of the world’s most exclusive gourmet guides. For a contemporary touch, the Caruso restaurant, which boasts a charming green ‘winter garden’, serves traditional Milanese fare with a contemporary twist. The restaurant’s setting blends classic, period pieces, including two 1920s Murano lamps, with modern, design elements (many of which have been created ad hoc) to reveal its multi-faceted nature. From a breakfast room to a restaurant, from a bar to a bistrot, the Caruso marks the day’s passing with good food and drinks. Last, but not least, Gerry’s Bar at the hotel has a refined, timeless quality and is an ideal spot to meet up with friends for an aperitivo, lunch, a light dinner, or a post-theatre drink.
Rooms and Fitness
The rooms and suites, typify an ambience of refined elegance. Boasting exquisite details worthy of a five-star property, each one has its own individual character. For those wishing to add a touch of glamour to their stay, we suggest choosing a suite dedicated to one of the famous people, who chose the hotel as their ‘Milanese domicile’, and left them filled with objects, photographs, autographed documents and various memorabilia, currently protected in the rooms themselves. The Verdi Suite, the hotel’s most impressive and sumptuous suite, where the famous composer lived for some twenty years, is decorated with exquisite period furniture and a magnificent fireplace. The Caruso, Luchino Visconti, Tamara de Lempicka, Maria Callas, Giorgio De Chirico, Vittorio De Sica and Giorgio Strehler suites, designed to offer guests unforgettable memories, are no less glamorous. Finally, the hotel’s fitness centre, set on the top floor terrace surrounded by greenery and overlooking an inner courtyard, is the perfect place to relax after a hard day’s work…or shopping!
An historic hotel must know how to reinvent itself while maintaining the exclusive atmosphere that has made it a legend. Generally, restyling is based on the ideas and projects of its manager. For the past few months, the Grand Hotel et De Milan has been run by the young and enthusiastic 44-year-old Federico Versari, who was born into the trade. His appointment marks the apex of his career, which began in 1987 in Rome at the Grand Hotel, followed by spells at The Westin Excelsior, the Hyde Park in London and Le Bristol in Paris. Versari moved to Australia as a food and beverage manager, before returning to Rome at the end of 1999, to re-open the St. Regis (the hotel run by his father for approximately 30 years). He followed this in 2001 with the re-opening of the St. Regis in Aspen.
[quote]“My father, who managed several hotels of the Ciga group, always said to me. ‘You have to know everything about the hotel if you want to be a good manager’, explains Federico Versari, who has taken on one professional challenge after another. “When Starwood acquired the Le Meridien brand, in 2005/2006, I went to Malta to open Le Meridien St. Julians, raising it to the level of a world-class hotel in the space of just one year.” Versari spent the next five seasons in the charmed world of the Emerald Coast, at the helm of the Pitrizza and the Romazzino. “The Emerald Coast is a world apart”, says Versari. “Managing a luxury hotel in that area means working at a facility that enjoys an extremely high turnover and a very high room occupancy for approximately five months a year. The remaining winter months are focused on sales and public relations. When it comes to properties of this nature, bookings are strongly influenced by word of mouth and recommendations given by our wealthy clientele. The target market in this case was represented, particularly, by Argentina, Brazil, the USA and Italy.” His next professional engagement was in Sciacca, in Sicily, with the opening of the Verdura Resort owned by Rocco Forte. This was followed, in 2011, by Borgo Egnazia, in Puglia, where Versari held the dual role of hotel manager of the resort and general manager of the Masseria San Domenico, and the San Domenico Golf Club. When talking about the Grand Hotel et de Milan, Versari says: “It is a unique hotel, where luxury creates a cocoon-like atmosphere, that even excites the younger generation. My next objective? To increase occupancy by focusing on ‘bleisure’, a new means of injecting fun into business trips. This means that those travelling to Milan for business can add a few extra vacation days to their stay to discover the leisure side of the city.”[/quote]
>> Official website: www.grandhoteletdemilan.it
Article by Simona Daviddi
Translation by Carey Bernitz
Photos by Matteo Azzaroli