Preserved, But Not In Amber
Giuseppe Verdi once said, “To copy the truth can be a good thing, but to invent the truth is better, much better.” Though he was certainly talking about art, the idea of creating something true and authentic could just as easily be applied to Grand Hotel et de Milan, where he lived from 1872 until his death in 1902. Opened in a townhouse in 1863, this elegant grand dame situated on upscale Via Manzoni facing the shopping street Via Montenapoleone is utterly unique. You can feel the glamour as soon as you walk in. Sunlight floods in through the domed skylights, while smartly dressed Milanese people sip coffee (or something stronger) poised on the ochre sofas and chairs in Gerry’s Bar. Antiques and heavy drapes add an air of gravitas. Rooms and suites are outfitted in Liberty, Art Deco, or Neoclassical style, with 19th century antiques, parquet floors, and oriental rugs.
But it’s certainly not a set piece. A refresh by acclaimed design firm Dimore Studio kept the best of the old while infusing the hotel with a bit of the new. Daniela Bertazzoni, the hotel’s third-generation owner, told Italian Vanity Fair that the thing she’s most proud of is having succeeded at transforming a historic, slightly dated hotel into a property that has maintained its heritage without becoming museum-like and succeeding in making it cool, while safeguarding its charm.
A sophisticated blend of historic and modern design elements combine to create a quintessential Milanese atmosphere.
Milanese Cuisine Reinvented
The success of Daniela’s project is most evident in the two restaurants and bar. Locals and visitors alike love to start or end the evening with a Martini or Negroni at Gerry’s Bar, especially after attending an opera at La Scala. With its modern design and excellent cuisine, the Caruso Restaurant serves breakfast for hotel guests and is one of the city’s most sought-after lunch spots. A sophisticated blend of historic and modern design elements combine to create a quintessential Milanese atmosphere. The enclosed jardin d’hiver is especially popular.
The most formal of the hotel’s three restaurants and bars, Ristorante Don Carlos was created in homage to Verdi and named after one of his operas. Unlike Caruso Restaurant, which opens onto the street, the Ristorante Don Carlos is tucked away inside the hotel like a little jewel box filled with paintings, sketches, and scene-paintings from La Scala’s museum. White-naped tables, silver candle-holders, parquet floors, and chairs upholstered with forest green cushions enhance the Old World atmosphere. Chef Mauro Moia serves revisited Milanese classics, including risotto alla Milanese and cotoletta alla Milanese. While fresh local products are the basis of his cooking, he’s not afraid to mix things up with exotic ingredients. Oenophiles should request a tour of the wine cellar, which holds around 200 labels in a space with the remains of an ancient Roman wall built by Emperor Maximilian around 250 A.D.