Milan’s emerging Ponte Nuova district is celebrating the revival of a queen, the Excelsior Hotel Gallia ( 011-390-267-851; Fax 390-2678-5787), which has just unveiled a total reincarnation. The five-star luxury property has 235 rooms, of which 53 are suites.
When the hotel was built in 1932, it was in the perfect Milanese location — just across the Piazza Duca D’Aosta from the fabulous Art Deco main train station. When air travel eclipsed the train, this Grand Dame hotel faded in looks and popularity.
Today, fast trains from Italy and around Europe are in demand and the Excelsior Hotel Gallia is once again ideally located. The surrounding area is full of new skyscrapers and the shabby piazza has been upgraded with new trees and greenery.
Architect Marco Piva worked with Starwood’s Luxury Collection management and hotel owners Katara Hospitality to retain a vestige of tradition within a contemporary palette. The outside of the existing building retains its original Belle Époque/Art Deco beauty; an adjacent new glass structure reminds us we are in Milan, the land of haute design. Longtime Starwood exec Marco Olivieri (011-390-267-851) is the general manager and Maurizio Busani is the head concierge.
Inside, the public spaces are elegant, combining elements of the 1930s with cutting edge design, showcased by the vast array of custom-designed contemporary chandeliers and light fixtures. The cream-colored travertine marble and lush fabrics add light and air to the space, a welcome change from the setting when we last visited the Gallia.
The wide variety of suites offers layouts that are suitable for business in Milan (whether film, finance or fashion), as well as for leisure or family travel. The largest is the 10,750-square-foot, four-bedroom Katara Suite (including space for staff and a private suite-within-a-suite fit for a princess), which has two terraces on the seventh floor, as well as living/dining space for large groups and a private spa. The décor is mostly in cream colors, which contrast with the view of the landscaped terraces overlooking the city and the huge swirling green chandelier in the living room. There is a private elevator to the suite, as well as a diplomatic entrance to the hotel.
We visited the Atelier Suite (No. 406), which has one bedroom, a living room and a bathroom lined in rich brown South African marble. All suites have separate bathtubs and showers; the showers can become steam rooms. We also viewed Design Suite (No. 417), one of five suites entirely decorated by Italian designers. This one, designed by Luigi Caccia Dominioni, contains a bedroom, living room and bathroom in neutral colors including pearl gray marble and hardwood floors. The two-bedroom Gallia Suite overlooks the piazza and central station.
The other rooms are well-designed and comfortable, with bathtubs and separate glass showers. The thoughtfully placed minibar is at eye level. There is an array of high-tech features in these rooms — panels with chargers for European, British and U.S. devices; complimentary Wi-Fi; and a photo-cellular lighting system that turns on indirect floor lights when your foot touches the floor to get out of bed in the dark. Room No. 118 is an Excelsior level space, the largest double category — its cream and charcoal color scheme adds a relaxing ambiance. Overlooking the piazza, Room No. 510 is smaller with the same amenities.
The rooftop restaurant and bar will open in September. The well-known brothers, Roberto and Enrico Cerea, chefs who own the three-star Michelin restaurant Da Vittorio near Bergamo, have designed the cuisine. Until then, the Gallia Ristorante on the main floor is open to hotel guests and the public, as are the Gallia Lounge and Bar, the Library, and the Cigar Room. There is a wine cellar for private tastings. (The Gallia will be used as a breakfast space in future).
The Excelsior Hotel Gallia is home to the first Shiseido Spa in Europe. Within the 10,750 square feet, there are five treatment rooms, as well as the Himalayan salt room, a confection of pink-lined walls and inviting daybeds. The indoor pool is high above the city and flooded with natural light. Workout equipment overlooks the skyline in the fitness center, and the virtual golf simulator allows guests to practice their swings.
Contact the spa ([email protected]; 011-390-267-853-320) on weekdays between 9 a.m.-9 p.m., or on weekends between 10 a.m.-8 p.m. for appointments. Book a quick tension release back massage with Irene, a treatment which takes only 45 minutes and undoes the dirty work of jet lag or a stressful day.
Excelsior Hotel Gallia is a short hop by taxi or hotel courtesy car from the alluring designer shopping area around Via Montenapoleone and Piazza San Babila. The center of the city (Piazza del Duomo, the Galleria, and Teatro alla Scala) is just a bit further, about 10 minutes from the hotel. The Milano Centrale train station, with connections all over Italy and Europe, is a two-minute walk. The hotel offers packages to the car races at Monza, as well as excursions to Expo 2015, which continues through October.
Where to Wine and Dine
Head Concierge Maurizio Busani offers these tips for enjoying Milan:
Bar Basso (Via Plinio 39; 011-390-229-400-580)
It is a place for connoisseurs who still like to enjoy a flawless drink in style. The trademark drink here is the Negroni Sbagliato, which is made with pro secco.
Dry Cocktails & Pizza (Via Solferino 33; 011-390-263-793-414)
Dry specializes in cocktails and gourmet pizza. Try combos such as a Gin Gin Mule (gin, mint and ginger beer) followed by pizza with pine nuts, raisins, ricotta and chicory.
Rita (via Angelo Fumagalli 1; 011-39-028-372-865)
An American Bar with a great Gin Tonic. A vintage venue where artists, creative people, designers, reporters and harp players hang out.
Al Matarel (Via Laura Solera Mantegazza, 2; 011-390-265-4204)
An authentic Milanese culinary experience.
Ratanà (Via Gaetano de Castillia, 28; 011-390-287-128-855)
Traditional Risotto alla Milanese (with saffron) is a centerpiece of Chef Cesare Battisti’s menu.
Bice (Via Borgospesso, 12; 011-390-276-002-572)
Bice serves traditional Tuscan ribollita, tripe stew and fried brains with pumpkin flowers, as well as Milanese dishes, such as osso buco with risotto, and cassoela with cabbage and polenta.
El Brellin (Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 14; 011-390-258-101-351)
In the beautiful setting of Vicolo dei Lavandai in the heart of Navigli district, El Brellin offers traditional dishes with a creative flair.
Pisacco (Via Solferino, 48; 011-390-291-765-472)
A contemporary bistro featuring modern, unadorned Italian cuisine from chefs such as Andrea Berton.
Giacomo Arengario (Via Guglielmo Marconi, 1; 011-390-272-093-814)
Overlooking the stunning Piazza del Duomo, Giacomo is one of the iconic signature restaurants of the city, offering Milanese classics and fresh fish.
Terrazza Triennale (Viale Alemagna, 6; 011-390-272-4341)
New restaurant Terrazza Triennale is the home to the Michelin-starred Chef Stefano Cerveni, who offers a modern take on traditional Italian dishes.
Langosteria 10 (Via Savona, 10; 011-390-258-111-649)
This is the reference point in Milan for lovers of high-quality fish and a welcoming ambiance.
Filippo La Mantia Oste e Cuoco (Piazza Risorgimento, angolo Via Poerio 2/A; 011-390-270-005-309)
A taste of Sicily in sophisticated Milan, starring the cook and host, Filippo La Mantia.