I will admit it. I am a Gatsby, a wide-eyed dreamer with ideas of sky scrapers and all-night parties, luscious marble, loose morals, endless cocktails, and theatrical architecture. Milan is the perfect setting for a Fitzgerald rhapsody, from its art nouveau buildings with gorgeous moldings and sharp art deco palazzi to the shiny new towers. The city has the uncanny ability to transform itself from quiet and reserved to decadent, bombastic and monumental. And lately, I’ve noticed that Milan architecture is living up to the most fundamental of Gatsby creed – if you want to woo a Daisy Buchanan, you have to bring the best to West Egg.
A Luxury Hotel and Monument
For years, I’ve had my eye on the Hotel Gallia, an early landmark just across the street from Milan’s Stazione Centrale (main train station). It’s a beautiful monument of art nouveau ornament and for years, it was closed. I wondered: Would it be left to the vultures of railway hotels? Would it subdivided into offices? Would it become an H&M?
Turns out that the Gallia was not hibernating at all. Instead, architect Marco Piva was gutting the 1932 historic hotel to its marble lobby and columns, and then rebuilding it into a modern Art Nouveau/Art Deco luxury. And it’s not a period piece. Piva worked with Poltrona Frau, Flos, Fendi Casa and Cassina to create Gallia unique pieces that show off the very best of Italian design, meanwhile he had his eye and finger on every color and material (marbles, metal, leather and woods) used throughout the hotel.
The seven-floor hotel is …. lush and luminous. The sprawling ground floor area is a 21st century Gatsby hang out area of high ceilings and marble, with a lounge, well-stocked library, cigar bar, restaurant and cocktail bar accented by light hues, warm fabrics and Poltrona Frau furniture. It’s definitely Piva’s West Egg.
From floors two to seven, its 235 rooms are beautiful and smart – with technology and style. I loved the outlets, nightlights, Trussardi amenities, Marvis mouthwash, Domori chocolate bars, the marble and glass bathroom, and of course the view of Stazione Centrale, my favorite train station in the world. I even loved the “lobbies” on every floor with their fluorescent yellow accents and Barbarella-reminicent sofas. The suites were delicious.
My favorite is in the Art Suite which swims in light and has butter-colored leather quilted accents. Piva’s love for architecture and design is most obvious in the five suites he dedicated to Itlaian architects Gio Ponti, Achille Castiglioni, Vico Magistretti, Luigi Caccia Dominioni and Franco Albini. Yes, he brings in elements from each architect in to each suite, with Piva style.
Hotel Gallia is a lost weekend waiting to happen.
On the seventh floor is Terrazza Gallia, the hotel’s signature rooftop restaurant and bar. Step out onto its panoramic terrace to savor unobstructed views of Piazza Duca D’Aosta and Milano Centrale, the city’s main train terminal and a beautiful example of 1930s architecture.
There is nothing quite like gazing out at Europe’s largest rail station while enjoying clever cocktail concoctions from Gallia’s expert team of mixologists. Seasonal sips — In Black, a blend of Cynar, pumpkin-rhubarb liqueur, vermouth and angostura bitters soothes right now — are paired with delicious amuse-bouches conceived by the talented Lebano brothers, who also oversee the terrace restaurant.
On Sundays, check La Domenica Italiana, Excelsior Hotel Gallia’s version of Sunday brunch. Expect a wide selection of classic dishes that celebrate Milanese tradition, like risotto allo zafferano (saffron rice), milanese mondeghili (a unique-to-Milan meatball dish) and ragù di osso buco (veal meat sauce), alongside an array of omelets, cheeses, charcuterie and salads.
Tipping the scales with more than 10,000 square feet of opulence, this sumptuous space is the biggest and one of the most luxurious suites in Italy. The top-floor annex apartment boasts four bedrooms, two terraces, a private spa and its own conference room.
Lavish decorations include Murano glass chandeliers and custom-designed pieces from architect Marco Piva, but don’t let its good looks fool you — this over-the-top-accommodation is all about privacy for its high-profile guests. The Katara Royal Suite has its own diplomatic entrance, 24-hour butler service and bulletproof windows, just in case.
Double props for the R& R. On the hotel’s sixth and seventh floors is Shiseido Spa Milan, the first facility from the renowned Japanese brand in Italy. It’s that gorgeous mix of traditional and edgy- light woods, mod furniture- that make the vibe. An expansive glass skylight creates a natural atmosphere in the indoor swimming pool and lounge area — bonus points for the Himalayan pink salt room and high-tech gym.
THe big draw are coveted Shiseido treatments. Milan’s fashionable elite knows to book well in advance to indulge in services such as the Ultimate Radiance Facial or the two-hour Kuroho Body Massage Bliss.
Spa not quite your game, take some swings on the Golf Simulator, a virtual-reality experience dedicated to upgrading your skills on the green. Carpet sensors assess power and trajectory, while a high-def screen instantaneously broadcasts results — consider it a techy alternative to lugging around your clubs.