Milan, a metropolis in Italy’s northern Lombardy region, is a global capital of fashion and design. Home to the national stock exchange, it’s a financial hub also known for its high-end restaurants and shops. The Gothic Duomo di Milano cathedral and the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent, housing Leonardo da Vinci’s mural “The Last Supper,” testify to centuries of art and culture.
The Palazzo Cramer, owned by the Cramer family, was destroyed in 1943, leaving nothing but an annex at the far end of the grounds. A bank office building took its place, before being demolished in turn to make way for an imposing edifice in post-neo-something-or-other style, boasting a sort of vast front canopy that would be hard to spot today. In autumn 2013, after five and a half years of work, the Palazzo Parigi opened here, provoking shudders of horror in some circles and applause in others. The super-luxury five-star institution was immediately classified as one of The Leading Hotels of the World. A brave move in this quiet (perhaps too-quiet) quarter of town, and a substantial investment. The fiery woman who made it all happen is Paola Giambelli, head of the select Cosmo Hotels group – the project’s instigator and architect, artistic director, floral designer and chatelaine. Giambelli sought out the talents of Parisian decorator Pierre-Yves Rochon – a given for every large-scale hotel scheme worth its salt these days. He conjured a maelstrom of marble, hardwood marquetry, wrought iron, crystal, antique French chimney pieces, painted urns, Old Master paintings, chandeliers, balustrades and mosaic floors reproducing those of the Villa Reale, bringing in Louis XV, Italian Baroque, Art Deco and Ruhlmann styles to sumptuous effect. In addition, beneath a vast Murano glass chandelier by Barovier & Toso, the lobby with its profusion of over-the-top floral compositions and equally excessive statuary could pass for the plaster cast storage room of some venerable old art museum. As for the monumental black-and-white marble staircase, it makes the Schönbrunn counterpart seem like something salvaged from a bordello in a Guy de Maupassant novel. In studied contrast, the bedrooms above – ranging in size from 35 to 80 square metres are disconcertingly low-key with a chilled, sophisticated colour scheme of matt ivory, lacquered taupe and pale grey.
Sea + ease = Sease. Founded in 1924, the Loro Piana company is now owned by the LVMH Group. The company’s heirs, Franco and Giacomo Loro Piana, are passionate about sailing and skiing, so together they have invented a brand of stylish, high-performance clothes, aimed at sporty types fresh from boating or snowboarding and who want to enjoy après-ski or après-spinnaker time while remaining on-trend. For men only, the clever range of clothes blends merino and cashmere with new high-tech fibres for indoors and out. With just a dozen essential mix-and-match pieces, the collection is available in a limited range of colours. The jackets, sweaters, tracksuits, polo shirts, coats, parkas and windbreakers can all be folded and fitted into a bag made of recycled sailcloth, in which you’ll find, as a charming surprise, the list of regattas in which the sailboat concerned took part. Designed as the perfect after-sport accessory for the man about town, this holdall boasts pure Italian chic and is only available in Milan. Located in the pedestrian area of Brera, the store’s warm, contemporary decor covers two floors and was designed by the interior designer Sebastiano Tosi.
Trattoria Da Pino
Parallel to Via Durini, just a few steps from San Babila, Via Cerva is a narrow street full of pleasant surprises. Since 1968, this trattoria, which is popular yet not overrun by visitors, has served as a hangout for locals, who would like to keep Mauro and Marco Ferri’s attentions for themselves. The two boisterous brothers call the shots here, belting out a thunderous “Silenzio!” when necessary. It’s true that by the end of the evening, you can barely hear your own table banter. Otherwise, it’s the same ritual for everyone: you open the door, stand at the bar and beg for a table – no booking ahead – wait, then head to the back, menu in hand, and sit down in the tawny decor, which is both comforting and invigorating. Orders ring out, the staff is diligent, the food is good, hearty and frankly so inexpensive you may even think there’s an error on the check. While the restaurant is normally closed in the evening, Mauro will be happy to light up his ovens again if one reserves in advance – provided that there are at least twenty dining. And that he himself hasn’t been hired to cater an event or private dinner party.
Considered the most beautiful museum in Milan and unanimously described as a fantastic open-air museum of architecture, sculpture and applied arts, the Monumental Cemetery is indeed an incredible site, designed in the late 19th century by architect Carlo Maciachini, then known for having built the Serbian Eastern Orthodox San Spiridione church in Trieste and various churches in Milan, including Santa Maria del Carmine, and for having worked on the restoration of San Marco. Fronted by a broad plaza, the main building, in the shape of a Greek cross, is an imposing monument whose central pavilion, called a famedio, is an incredible basilica with enormous blue ribs decorated with gold and silver stars. This is where you’ll find the graves of Alessandro Manzoni, designer Bruno Munari and architect Luca Beltrami but not Verdi’s tomb, contrary to what is said: the composer, who died in 1901 in Milan, certainly had the right to a state funeral but is not buried here. Outside of this pantheon, the cemetery itself is a necropolis of vanities. You won’t find a more high-society resting place. It’s fascinating to wander down the paths past outrageous monuments, insane mausoleums, lyrical stelae, dreamlike chapels, esoteric pyramids and gigantic funerary sculptures. Among those enjoying their eternal rest here are Carlo Erba, Davide Campari, Arturo Toscanini and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of Futurism. Above them, in an allegory of grief, are flying eagles, angels and obelisks. You’ll forget the people you came to mourn and instead focus on the works themselves, by the likes of Gio Ponti, Adolfo Wildt, Lucio Fontana, Leonardo Bistolfi, Piero Portaluppi and Gianni Castiglioni, famous sculptor and father of Achille and Livio Castiglioni, sibling architects and designers. End your visit to this monumental enclave, at once sacred and profane, with a peek into the courtyard of the funeral home Rognini & Balbo, where you’ll see two sublime hearses from the 1920s, with more feathers than one of the Marquise de Pompadour’s coaches.
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