|Where's Mike? Milan, Italy|
Just a few miles south of the Italian Alps
exists a city known for its exquisite style, fashion and sophistication. The city is Milan, a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis that sets today’s fashion trends. With its famous shopping boulevards, stylish boutiques and celebrated designers, Milan is recognized throughout the world as the international leader in today’s fashion design.
In a town where style is a requisite, the latest rave and talk is the ultra-chic and imaginative Nhow Milan hotel (pronounced nou), which is conveniently located in the city’s new hotspot the Tortona and Navigli district. I recently had the privilege of making a two-day visit to Milan and check out this new fashionably conscious hotel and see some other popular attractions that make the city of Milan, Italy a must-see destination.
Upon arrival at Malpensa International airport, passengers will have a small number of options to get into the city center. Private cars and taxis are the most convenient, but expensive, methods of reaching the city center with costs estimated at €97 euros ($125.78 USD) for a private car and approximately €75 euros ($96.75 USD) for a taxi. An attractive alternative that I opted for is the well-located and economical Malpensa Express, which provides rail service directly from Malpensa to Cadorna station in Milan. The train runs every half hour from 5:50 am to 8:20 pm. The trip takes roughly one hour of travel time and costs a reasonable €11 euros ($14.19 USD). Before getting on the train, remember to stamp your ticket by using the machines provided. From Cadorna station, I was mere two kilometers away from my destination, the highly praised Nhow Milan hotel.
The Nhow Milan (nhow-hotels.com) is a distinctive, four-star gem located on Via Tortona 35 in the happening Tortona and Navigli district. The area is filled with delightful restaurants, bars, showrooms and studios. Renowned fashion designer Armani has placed his corporate headquarters here and well-known designer Zegna has plans to relocate to the trendy district. Some other distinguished fashion firms found in this chic neighborhood are Diesel, La Perla, and Tod´s.
The bold and innovative design of the Nhow Milan will hold mass appeal to those who are fashionably inclined. Architect Daniele Beretta and designer Matteo Thun have uniquely transformed a former General Electric factory into an energetic, spacious and well designed space. The hotel lobby, accented with contemporary furnishings and vibrant colors, is accessible by way of an indoor parking garage whose walls have projected video images on them. Adjacent to the lobby elevators is an illuminated section of a transparent glass floor that allows guests to view an artist’s interpretation of fashion.
The creative design is everywhere. By using a well-placed inline shower, located above the lobby windows, guests can hear and see water cascading from the ceiling, creating an atmosphere that is both warm and soothing. Every three months, the hotel alters its appearance by changing the various art works situated throughout the hotel. The displayed art is available for sale to individuals that may be interested in making a purchase.
The decor throughout the hotel is both daring and unconventional. Wrought iron columns line partially illuminated corridors and graffiti by local artists decorate the exterior of guest room doors. The rooms are decently sized and comfortable and the showers have a cool effect where the water descends from the ceiling light creating interesting visual designs on the floor. Rooms located on the fourth floor offer panoramic views of the snow-capped Italian Alps in the not- too-distant background. Single room daily rates start at an eye-catching €187 euros ($245) and doubles at €230 euros ($300).
The hotel has hosted fashion shows and photo shoots attracting fashion aficionados worldwide. Celebrities ranging from renowned European soccer players to well-known recording artists are some of the acclaimed guests reported to have stayed at this trendy hotel. And scheduled for spring 2007, Nhow Milan has plans to open a wellness center and an outdoor beach terrace.
Looking for a wonderful dinning experience, the Nhow restaurant will delight its guests with its highly praised Risotto a la Milanese. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and specializes in Mediterranean Italian cuisine.
After witnessing and exploring this architecturally unique hotel, it was time to hit the streets and discover Milan. A short walk from the hotel and just south from Porta Genova station is where you will find Naviglio Grande, Milan’s largest canal. Unbeknownst to many, Milan at one time had a comprehensive canal system that circumnavigated the city center. Unfortunately, today all that remains of these once memorable canals are the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglo Pavese that connects Milan with Pavia. During his tenure in Milan, Leonardo da Vinci was instrumental in the design of the canal system. Walk the banks of the canal during the day to enjoy a relaxing stroll or use the occasion to shop in one of the variety of boutiques. At night the area transforms itself with hundreds of people descending on the scene to enjoy its many restaurants and nightclubs. Be sure to catch the antique market on the last Sunday of the month from September to June.
A short tram ride from the Navilgi district is Milan’s historical center point, Il Duomo. A trip to Milan wouldn’t be complete unless you made a visit to this captivating and awe-inspiring church, considered to be the true center of this illustrious city. Il Duomo, a massive Gothic cathedral, is the largest Gothic church in the world and the third largest church in Europe. Built in the shape of a Latin cross, the cathedral dates from the year 1386 AD and due to its enormous size is constantly under renovation and improvements. 135 spires beautify Il Duomo with the main spire towering to a height of 350 feet. With its magnificently designed stained glass windows and no less than 2000 decorated statues, this truly glorious church can hold 40,000 people. Open to tourists, a trip to the roof will offer stupendous panoramic views of Milan. Entrance times to the roof are from 9:00 am – 5:45 pm and tickets cost €6 euros by elevator and €4 euros if you opt to take the stairs.
Adjacent to the church you’ll find the impressive Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Built in 1867, the Galleria is a cross-shaped building with a roof made from iron and glass. The interior, lined with expensive shops, bars, and restaurants also serves as a link between Piazza Duomo with Piazza della Scala. The floor is decorated with mosaic symbols of major Italian cities, the most notable the bull of Turin. According to legend, revolving three times with your foot strategically placed on the bulls’ genitals will bring good luck. Spin baby, spin!
Another true Milanese inspiration is located in the Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie, the home of the Dominican cloister that houses the world famous Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci and is without a doubt a must-see. Due to its immense popularity, tourist visits to the church are by reservation only and in some cases require up to three months advance notice. Fortunately, our tour guide had a few connections which allowed us to witness Leonardo’s masterpiece up close and in person. Make advance ticket reservations by logging onto SelectItaly.com/museums or TickItaly.com to view one of the most famous works of art ever painted.
A short walk from Santa Maria delle Grazie is one of Milan's major landmarks, the much-loved Castello Sforzesco an ancient fortress rebuilt by and named after Francesco Sforza. With its origins dating back to the second half of the 14th century during the time of Galeazzo II Visconti, the castle is a true symbol of the Renaissance in Milan. In 1483 Francesco Sforza appointed Leonardo da Vinci as engineer and painter to the Sforza Court where he contributed in the design of the castle's defenses. In the 19th century it became a museum hosting numerous art collections including Michelangelo’s unfinished Pieta Rondanini. The castle is open daily from 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (winter) 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (summer) and admission is free. Admission to the castle museums is €3 euros.
If music is what your heart desires, then Teatro alla Scala Opera is definitely next on your list. Built in 1778, the neoclassical opera house has hosted some of the greatest names in opera. Be aware that tickets are hard to come by and at times sold out weeks in advance. To make advance ticket reservations, log onto SelectItaly.com.
After a satisfied day of exploring and taking in the sights of this impressive city the time had come to savor a little of "La Dolce Vita" at Milan’s new and much talked about Gold restaurant (DolceGabbanaGold.it). Located on Via Poerio, this new, all-the-rage establishment is the talk of the Milanese. Fashion designers Dolce and Gabbana have created a stylish golden atmosphere where patrons can have drinks, meet friends and enjoy a fine meal. Downstairs is a bar and bistro open for both lunch and dinner. Although prohibited by law, smoking is allowed downstairs. Upstairs is where you’ll find the more formal restaurant. Focusing on Italian Mediterranean cuisine, the fashionably priced dishes ($200 dinner for two) are imaginative and the presentation is inspired. Vegetarian dishes are available on their healthy menu and their wine menu is definitely worth noting.
Leaving this memorable romantic country has always been a difficult task. I regard Italy as my second home and have traveled there extensively over the years. With its ancient ruins, charming medieval towns, glorious churches, majestic mountains and splendid beaches, Italy is truly a land with countless treasures and numerous natural wonders that will captivate the soul. I hope you enjoyed your abbreviated tour of the remarkable city of Milan, Italy. Until next time -- Boun Voyage.
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