Paris and Milan draw 1-1
Text Angelica Carrara
Plenty of international luxury hotel chains have opened outposts in Milan, but when it comes to privately-owned five-star luxury hotels, there’s only one – and it’s thoroughly Italian, despite its name: Palazzo Parigi.
While its grand architecture does have a French feel about it, the palazzo, with its garden of tall trees, stands in the heart of the Brera district just 400 yards from the boutiques of Via Montenapoleone, where Corso di Porta Nuova meets Via Fatebenefratelli. It replaced an old 1950s block that housed banking offices, which in turn had been built on the site of the nineteenth-century Palazzo Kramer, destroyed by bombing in World War II. Palazzo Parigi was inaugurated in 2013 and is now part of the Leading Hotels of the World collection of independent, first-rate luxury hotels. It took five years to complete, investments in excess of 200 million euros, and the experience and passion of the Giambelli studio, with top interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon (the man behind the Savoy in London and the George V in Paris) and a woman: architect, owner and founder of Palazzo Parigi, Paola Giambelli – because a true hotel needs a lady of the house.
Upon entering the vast lobby area, which seems to be carved out of marble, one is immediately struck by three things. First, the sumptuous Murano glass chandelier, by master glassblowers Barovier&Toso. Second, the iridescent quality of the marble – Calacatta for the Venetian-style floor, which is rosier than the Baveno marble used for the columns in the garden, while the staircase leading up to the Canova foyer (and a 4004 sq. ft ballroom, Sala dei Giardini) is a Fior di Pesco variety. And third, the energy of Giambelli herself. The blonde architect, clad in a white shirt, is holding an enormous vase of flowers and striding towards the bar, called Caffé Parigi, to the right. This space is a visual blend of Milan and Paris. The bronze counter, and the translucent golden onyx panel behind the bottle shelves. The parquet floor, set with eight different types of wood, echoes that at Villa Reale, in Via Palestro. Light filters through the wrought-iron window features in the Winter Garden, overlooking the hotel’s leafy green oasis. Construction would have been much easier without the roots of those two gigantic trees, but the architect Giambelli was adamant they should be kept.
A corridor called the Galerie d’étapes perdues connects Caffè Parigi with the Gourmet Restaurant, which seats fifty. Two still lifes hang above the seventeenth-century Lombard fireplace, while some eighteenth-century paintings were plucked from the walls of the architect’s own home. The waiters’ footsteps are noiseless on the plush carpeting. The restaurant has a theatrical feel to it. Its tables are arranged obliquely so that one has a view similar to that in a box at the opera. A runway show, prét-à-manger. In the middle of the dining room, a glass tunnel and a lit catwalk link the kitchen to the restaurant’s “altar”: a black marble induction hob on which the Chef can put the finishing touches to his dishes. The team is led by the Chef Ferdinando Martinotti and twenty-seven-year-old Stefano Pizzasegale.
Every floor enjoys natural light and terraces on all sides. Nothing is underground. To get to the spa, instead of heading down to the basement, one goes up to the third floor. Entering the Grand Spa is like being swept away to Morocco – which is where the swimming pool tiles were sourced. It vaunts a Royal Hammam Privé with day passes available, and a further six “worlds” grouped within the over 18,000 square feet, with themed rooms for Bali, India, China, Sweden, Morocco and Polynesia. North African crafts and Berber curtains abound. The walls are decorated with the Zellige technique, using geometric-patterned enameled terracotta tiles. The appropriately-named “L’Oasi” is the spa’s restaurant and health bar, with controlled-calorie menus put together by Professor Nicola Sorrentino. The 3229 square foot parquet-floored fitness area is kitted out with Artis machinery by Technogym, arranged among the palm trees.
When it comes to the interior design in the sixty-five rooms and thirty-three suites, Paris and Milan draw 1-1. Half are appointed in Milanese style, with contemporary Italian design, while the other half feature Parisian décor. The signature suites include the Royal Suite, affording views over the skyline of “new” Milan and as far as Monte Rosa in the Alps, complete with its own private kitchen and the option of a personal butler; and the Presidential Suite, which has a 1180 square foot terrace overlooking the Duomo – sleeping within sight of the golden Madonnina statue on the cathedral’s spire is said to bring good luck.
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