Throughout 2015 we covered all things culinary in Italy, exploring everything from exceptional eateries in Rome, to must-visit wineries dotted throughout Tuscany. Here are some of this year’s highlights.
Mandarin Oriental Milan’s La Scala
When the highly anticipated debut of the Mandarin Oriental Milan finally arrived in July, Mary Winston Nicklin filled us in on what to expect … and with where to eat, at this posh new property.
Now Open: Mandarin Oriental Milan
Situated in four 18th-century buildings not far from La Scala, the famous opera house, the hotel has 104 guestrooms and suites, which are billed as the most spacious accommodations in the city. Enticements also include a six-room spa.
However, foodies visiting the property get an extra treat with the Mandarin Bar, as well as the talked-about restaurant, Seta, overseen by Executive Chef Antonio Guida, formerly of the Tuscan hot spot Il Pellicano, which holds two Michelin stars.
Seta’s menu offers a range of dishes that combine the elements of both French and Tuscan cuisine, along with pastries and exotic deserts created by Chef Nicola Di Lena.
And when it’s time for some bubbly, the wine list includes more than 500 labels of Italian wines and champagnes from historic and niche producers.
Excelsior Hotel Gallia Debuts Rooftop Bar
In August, Sharri Whiting De Masi wrote about the newly reopened Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan and gave us the scoop on where to head for some gastronomic delights.
The hotel, situated in the emerging Ponte Nuova district, was originally built in 1932, just across the Piazza Duca D’Aosta from the Art Deco main train station.
After a total “reincarnation”, the five-star luxury property now has 235 rooms, all decorated with elements of the 1930s combined with cutting edge design.
Besides the architectural changes made to the historic hotel, Excelsior Hotel Gallia debuted its new rooftop restaurant and bar, Terrazza Gallia, in September. Brothers Roberto and Enrico Cerea, owners the three-star Michelin restaurant Da Vittorio near Bergamo, designed the cuisine for the new dining menu.
There is also Gallia Ristorante on the main floor, open to hotel guests and the public, as are the Gallia Lounge and Bar. Whiting De Masi suggests heading to the hotel’s wine cellar for private tastings.
Visitors eager to explore dining outside the property should seek out head concierge Maurizio Busani. He has the scoop on where to wine and dine.
(Hint: Head to Bar Basso and try their trademark drink Negroni Sbagliato, or to Al Matarel for an authentic Milanese culinary experience.)
Fine Vintages in Tuscany
In November, Rick Steves wrote about his experience touring wineries throughout Tuscany and shared some of his favorites.
“This region in the heart of Italy is chock-full of great wineries, but I like to focus on two well-respected red wines, each centered on a specific town: Montepulciano is known for its Vino Nobile, and Montalcino is famous for its Brunello. The key grape in each is the Sangiovese variety,” he said.
Wine enthusiasts visiting the town of Montepulciano will get a taste of the region’s famous high-quality, dry, ruby-red wine, on tours thorough several spots. Expert guides lead aspiring aficionados through cellars as if they were “sacred spaces”.
“At the Contucci cellar, your host is the lively Adamo. For 50 years, Adamo has made sure visitors enjoy a tasty education in the Nobile di Montepulciano. I know: I've been checking in on him for over a decade,” wrote Steves.
Just nearby, Montalcino is another must-see town for enthusiasts, full of wine-loving tourists and dotted with classy shops.
“Everyone touring this area seems to be relaxed and in an easy groove ... as if enjoying a little wine buzz,” Steves mused.
Good to know: We hear that tours through both regions conclude with “generous tastings” of their famous vintages.
Luxury “Sweet” Suites in Rome
Also in November, Sharri Whiting De Masi took us on a “virtual tour” of her favorite luxury hotel suites throughout Rome. Hint: Some have some “sweet” added features for culinary enthusiasts.
Starwood’s The Westin Excelsior is a favorite of those who love Via Veneto and the dream of “La Dolce Vita,” Whiting De Masi wrote.
All of the rooms in the hotel were renovated during 2014-15. The Villa La Cupola Suite has just been upgraded to the tune of 8 million euros, including the highest of technology.
Along with the refreshed look, The Excelsior’s Doney Restaurant, a Rome landmark was completely redone recently and is open for all-day dining. “The sidewalk tables offer people-watching to the "nth" degree,” said Whiting De Masi.
What more could a foodie want then to be dining in style in the heart of Rome?
“When the terrace of your suite has a private entrance to Rome’s only 3-star Michelin restaurant, you know you’ve checked into the two-level Penthouse Suite at the Rome Cavalieri,” wrote De Masi.
Rome is known for having top-rated restaurants in its hotels and the Heinz Beck flagship, La Pergola, is at the top.