There’s this feeling among Italian businesses that, if you can make it in Milan, you can make it anywhere. The New York-turned-Milano concept certainly applies to fashion brands for obvious reasons, but it’s equally relevant for hospitality companies. Lungarno Collection has a foot in both fields, owned as it is by the Ferragamo family.
For years, the press had been hearing about president Leonardo Ferragamo and CEO Valeriano Antonioli’s mission to open a Portrait, the hotel chain’s pinnacle brand, in the Lombard capital. After some false starts and dead ends, Antonioli had a eureka moment. Looking out of a window in the Quadrilatero, Milan’s fashion district extraordinaire, a sprawling city block he’d never noticed before suddenly caught his eye. That was the instant that sparked lengthy negotiations with the Diocese of Milan to purchase the derelict bricks and mortar. Just before Christmas last year, Portrait Milan opened its illustrious doors and restored a sublime piazza to public use.
The former archbishop’s seminary in corso Venezia is imbued with history and heritage in every colonnade. Set around the vast piazza del Quadrilatero, already a favourite with the fashion set for events, such as Moncler x Pharrell Williams show during Milano Fashion Week, the property was carefully restored by Michele De Lucchi, while the 73 rooms and suites were designed by Michele Bonan in a pinnacle of tailor-made hospitality. From the first to the fourth floor, the private dimension of this project unfolds as guests are welcomed into a discreet oasis of privacy and silence, enveloping them in timeless elegance. While the classic style recalls the tradition of Milanese residences, contemporary details inspired by Tuscan craftsmanship, such as leather handles and Florentine rattan boiserie, pay tribute to the historic places of the Ferragamo family. Countless Tuscan artisans were called upon to contribute to this project, in many ways making Portrait Milano a showcase of the best of Tuscany.
My stay there this September was faultless from start to finish. Retro reigns in the reception lounge with a glam blue and brown geometric carpet with design-led details left, right and centre. The signature Portrait element makes its mark in the quiet lift lobby (and in the elevators themselves) as faces of household celebrities cover the walls. Push the door open into the library, bar and restaurant, and that unique Milan vibe can be felt in full force. From the library lined with fashion-focused coffee table books to the extra-long bar lounge punctuated by Japanese-style low seating, business and ideas permeate the air. 10_11, as the restaurant is called, is a happening place indeed. To the soundtrack of ice tumbling into glasses and slick Milanese tunes, quintessential mondeghili meatballs are served with a modern twist during aperitivo hour. Over on the other side of the bar, the restaurant rocks an outside-inside ambience with floor-to-ceiling windows opening out into the rare jewel of an urban garden in central Milan. Young Italian professionals dine on tables alongside international families, all savouring plates such as the deceptively simple pasta in bianco and a gourmet salad striped with avocado, lobster, bacon, egg yolk and egg white that’s been borrowed from sister hotel Portrait Firenze’s restaurant Caffè dell’Oro. All the while, a portrait of a bishop monitors the proceedings from a prime position above the bar. In all truth, the ex-boss of the place looks like he’s craving one of my mondeghili; he’s not getting one.
Portrait Milano is much more than a hotel. First and foremost, it encapsulates the very best of Italian hospitality, from the little extras that no guest would ever think to expect (like a herbal tea corner and a complimentary bottle of Ferragamo perfume during turndown) to personalized attentive service at the 10_11 and Beefbar restaurants, as well as high-level shopping at the piazza’s resident Antonia Milano concept stores and Maria Sole Ferragamo’s SO-LE STUDIO upcycled jewellery boutique. A spa by The Longevity Suite is set to open for indulgent soaking and top-tier treatments this autumn in the ultimate balance between health, conscious beauty and mental energy. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, TLS is also operational in Florence’s viale Volta.)
“One of our primary goals for the Portrait Milano is to make it a centre for culture, from fashion and design to dining and lifestyle,” says Valeriano Antonioli. “Through our location in the historic seminary, our thoughtful architecture and design, as well as our curated partnerships, we hope to create a vibrant environment that celebrates Milan and Italy, as well as the people who visit from all over the world.”
Hats off to Antonioli and his team for a job exceedingly well done!