Checking In and Checking Out

Portrait Milano Is a Picture-Perfect Hotel

by Pavia Rosati
Portrait All photos courtesy of Portrait Milano.

Portrait Milano
Milan, Italy
Chic Comforts, $$$$

It would be hard to overstate how impressed I was with this new Italian hotel in the Ferragamo family's Lungarno Collection. With the attention to detail, from the books in the lobby to the chocolate-covered hazelnuts in the minibar. With the thoughtful transformation of a centuries-old seminary into a future-looking hotel. With drop-dead chic, fashion-y touches like enormous closets and a leather-encased, four-piece shoe care kit. With the pasta at the in-house restaurant. 

I could end this review with an easy summary: Portrait Milano is the stunning newcomer in a fashion-obsessed town in a fashion district that was already well served by Armani and Bulgari fashion hotels.

So stop reading if you're already convinced, but I have more to say because over the two sunny days I spent here, I had a so much fun exploring and learning about the hotel.

Let's start with its history, because it's rich. The hotel is located within Piazza del Quadrilatero, a 30,000-square-foot, 17th-century colonnade that had been all but forgotten for the two decades that the buildings within lay dormant. Over the last five centuries, the piazza has been home to the Archbishop's seminary, a hospital, a school, and — less nobly — a prison during the World Wars and a parking lot in the 1970s. Among the most recent inhabitants were illustrious Italian designers Ettore Sottsass, Mario Bellini of Olivetti fame (I'm told Steve Jobs visited three times asking him to work for Apple, and was refused three times), and architect Michele di Lucchi, who, rather pleasingly, was the architect behind Lungarno's restoration. Sadly, nothing remains of the original medieval structure — you'll have to look elsewhere for peeling frescoes, not that you'll have a hard time finding them everywhere in Italy — but the columns are evocative enough of long gone grandeur.

The reception lounge.

Besides, the hotel brims with more than enough contemporary grandeur, starting in the reception lounge, an expansive living room filled with coffee table books, midcentury modern furniture, and geometric sculptures on the walls. More books await in the library attached to 10_11, the hotel's all-day bar and restaurant, and in the rooms upstairs. Books are a key design motif — architect Michele Bonan (who also did the interiors at the other Lungarno properties) filled Portrait Milano with more than 2,000 rotating tomes dedicated to art, fashion, travel, pop culture, photography, and design, his own monograph among them.

Another charming theme is fashion and, more specifically, shoes, which is not at all surprising given that Salvatore Ferragamo shot to fame for his Midas touch in footwear. Hanging in every room is a sketch of a Ferragamo shoe design from the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, its characteristics echoed in art objects in the room: thin straps on a wedge sandal recall the coil of a nearby lamp. High concept, and fun to spot once you know what you're looking for.

Another IYKYK detail is the interplay between Milan and Florence, the seat of the Ferragamo family and city where they launched the Lungarno Collection. The main colors in the rooms — the carpets, headboards, pillows, and accents — are either red or green, the colors of Milan in the 1950s. But details like leather-wrapped closet door handles and the ocean of Carrara marble in the bathroom quietly scream Tuscan pride.

The rooms and suites occupy the second, third, and fourth floors. The colonnaded landing overlooking the piazza on the second floor is glass-enclosed. Sofas, chairs, and plants placed outside every room make the space feel like an expansive wraparound terrace. (I spent a nice morning working out here.) I mentioned the closets before, but they really are among the largest I've ever seen in a hotel room. (I left a pair of sneakers behind in a closet I forgot I had even opened.) The mini bar was stocked with jars of taralli, truffled almonds, hazelnut dragĂ©es, pata negra potato chips, a bottle each of Glenfiddich and Castiglion del Bosco Rosso di Montalcino wine (from Tuscany, natch). Breakfast in the glass-enclosed atrium at 10_11 was a feast — platters of pastries, breads, yogurts, cheese, eggs — but dinner was even better, especially my pasta in bianco (as delicious as I had been promised) and my husband's vitello tonnato (among the best of the hundreds he's eaten).

Restaurant 10_11.
The greenhouse at 10_11.

In addition to the lobby and 10_11, the piazza is home to Antonia, a fab concept shop filled with established and emerging fashion designers, and SO-LE STUDIO, Maria Sole Ferragamo's shop of sculptural and sustainable jewelry made from leftover materials, like leather and brass from Tuscan (there it is again...) ateliers. The seminary's former chapel is now Beefbar Milano, an outpost of the ridiculously named restaurant chain that serves ridiculously delicious steak. A wellness center will be completed at the end of the year, including a pool in the seminary's former cafeteria. The hotel brings the piazza to life with plants and greenery and temporary cultural activations, ensuring that locals who cut through on their way between Corso Venezia and Via Sant'Andrea will always find something new and delightful.

Book It

Not surprisingly, all of this excellence doesn't come cheap. Rooms here can easily go into the four figures. Click here for reservations, and don't forget to check for any special offers. Pro tip: For the best treatment and care, cut out the middle man and book directly with the hotel.

At a Glance

The Vibe: So chic it hurts.

Standout Detail: The colonnaded piazza is not a feature many hotels can claim.

This Place Is Perfect For: Stylish, well-heeled (pun intended) travelers who want to be impressed at their refined taste in excellent hotels.

Rooms: 72 rooms and suites come in various configurations — studios, suites, and two-bedroom family suites. The largest, Borromeo Suite, is named for St. Carlo Borromeo, patron saint of Milan and founder of the seminary.

On Site: You could go shopping in your slippers at Antonia and SO-LE Studio. The Longevity Suite, a high-tech wellness center with biohacking and anti-aging treatments, will open in autumn 2023 and has a column-adorned pool. A rooftop lounge is in the works for 2024.

Food + Drink: 10_11, named for the restaurant's two addresses, Corso Venezia 11 and 10 via Sant'Andrea, is the all-day restaurant that serves an excellent buffet breakfast in the atrium and a lunch and dinner menu marked by Northern Italian dishes. Order White Pasta, chef Alberto Quadrio's signature dish: You'll thank me. Beefbar Milano, with its cute tableware decorated with Milanese illustrations (the Duomo, a handbag), is already one of the hardest reservations in town.

Feel-Good Factor: There are no plastic bottles in the restaurants, which I love. The bathroom amenities are in single-use containers, which I don't love, but I was happy to see the comb, toothbrush, and razor were made of wheat starch. Instead of cut flowers, rooms have plants watered with rainwater that has been collected. Any greenery only used temporarily (for example, in installations) is replanted in nature.

What to Do Nearby

Portrait Milano is located in the heart of the fashion district, so consider yourself warned if you have any kind of a shopping problem because the windows alone could bankrupt you. Cultural sites within a few minutes include glorious Villa Necchi Campiglio (Tilda Swinton's home in the movie I Am Love). If you go, peek into the gardens at nearby via Cappuccini, 7, to see flamingoes flapping about (really!). Fondazione Luigi Rovati is up the road on Corso Venezia. La Scala opera house, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and the Duomo are a five-minute walk away.

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