When I learned that my travels would take me to Milan, I knew there was only one place I wanted to stay; in the heart of the old town, close to the city’s iconic sights.
So it had to be The Gray, (a Small Luxury Hotels of the World property). Expect boutique design luxury at this intimate, sophisticated hotel which is located just off the main piazza del Duomo cathedral square, within the very historic heart of this city of cool, with views of the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, writes Andrew Forbes.
This wasn’t my first time in this capital of design, fashion and retail. Yet this recent visit was almost like discovering the city for the first time, as Milan has undergone a transformation. The centre is cleaner and more elegant than ever and the city now offers lots more for the visitor in terms of eating out and entertainment.
Milan has always been a favourite for the movers and shakers of the fashion world, yet in the past sometimes it’s more industrial and commercial feel has made it a less popular city break destination. Thankfully that’s no longer true. There’s plenty more to do in Milan than just shopping , and what’s more the city is looking sensational.
The Gray, (part of the Sina hotels group) is in a superb location. It’s steps away from the Piazza del Duomo, where you can take in the stunning facade of the cathedral. The Gray is close enough to be able to enjoy all the buzz of the city centre, yet tucked down a quiet street, away from the tourist crowds.
The period hotel overlooks the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the city’s historical and stylish shopping arcade built in the 19th century. It is easy to get to the property by taxi from the airport or even by public transport, as the metro stop is a just a minute or two away.
Milan’s location makes it an attractive part of an itinerary enjoying this part of Italy, including the mountains and lakes of the north, which are not far by car; and by train you can travel on to Venice.
The Gray is very much part of the design culture of Milan. In fact, it was the city’s first design hotel, having opened in 2003. The work of Florence designer, Guido Ciompi & Partners, the hotel, with its original art nouveau façade, has an international flavour, yet with just 21 guest suites it has the scale of a private residence.
The lobby is intimate, with a striking, sophisticated design that suggested to be thoughts of Asia. I received a warm and friendly upon arrival; the bellman whisked away my bag; whilst Tomas on Front Desk checked me into a Gallery room, overlooking the Galleria. Tomas was also able to offer recommendations for where to enjoy cocktails nearby and gave useful advice for how to enjoy the best of the city.
I stayed in a Gallery room. There are only three of this type, and they are really special for the view each offers – right onto the Galleria. It’s such a pleasure in the evening to look out onto the illuminated arches of this beautiful building and watch the world pass-by, or open the window in the morning and watch the city awake.
The gallery room was spacious and light filled, with double-glazed windows across one wall, opening out onto the street with views. If you want one of these rooms, then you need to book room 101, 201 or 301.
The design of the gallery room is thoughtful and well executed. The entrance vestibule can be closed off with a sliding door to one side of the bed that protects the sleeping area from any noise in the public corridor. On the other side of the bed is another sliding door which reveals the mini bar and safe etc.
There were lots of thoughtful touches in the room from the hardback art books, signature CD music, and local information guide. Mineral water and fruit plate, with welcome card provided a personalised welcome.
There was cool use of indirect lighting, rich textures and colours as well as good linens and a very comfortable super king-size bed, which was positioned facing the wall of windows, which had electric sheers and curtains for privacy and black out.
The bathroom is cleverly divided from the vestibule dressing area by electric sheer curtains.
The space is imaginatively designed with curved walls, creating a separate shower and W.C. area, a partially enclosed circular jacuzzi bath tub, and the main area with twin wash basins (exotically presented upon arrival with large sub-tropical leaves).
There were fabulous amenities by Blaise Mautin, and all the expected 5 star elements such as excellent towels, generous, thick bath robe, slippers etc.
The large round bath was a pleasure to relax in – thanks to the bath salts provided and a flat screen TV in the wall
The hotel’s 21 guest rooms offer an interesting choice of spaces, from Junior suites to Gallery view rooms. Use of space is ingenuous and the materials used evoke Europe, Asia and Africa. Each of the junior suites has its own identity; for example, room 103 has an intimate and romantic living room; room 203has its own private gym; whilst room 303 is distributed over two floors, as a duplex.
Other guest rooms have specific features too, such a room 302 with its private Turkish steam bath. Whilst another has a four-poster bed hanging from the ceiling; and a Philippe Stark bath tub. All rooms, including the compact city rooms, share the same cool design and decoration, with travertine marble, wooden floors and stylish African and Asian accents.
The hotel’s GBAR is a smart city cocktail bar, with imaginative design; from eyeline mirror inserts in the wall, to extravagant fabrics and rich tones creating a decadent and urban ambiance.
Upstairs is the Le Noir restaurant open for lunch and dinner. It is also where one can enjoy the gourmet breakfast of exquisitely prepared fresh fruit, cold cuts, cheeses and al a carte hot dishes. Attention to detail and personal service was excellent. It really felt like a 5 star start to the day.
As the name implies, the El Noir restaurant space is decorated with dark, bold tones, with creative use of lighting to create points of focus as well as a sophisticated and urban feel. During the day, natural light comes from the large window.
Being in Milan it was a must for me to try one of the city’s signature dishes, the saffron-infused risotto risotto alla Milanese.
The chef of Le Noir restaurant created an outstanding example of the dish, with shavings of courgette and plump capers. Starting the meal with delicate prawns with a spinach puree, and an assortment of bread including tomato, curry and squid ink flavours;
…and ending with a chocolate pudding, the menu was standout quality; with friendly attentive service from the waiter Johnny.
I really recommend as a guest or non-resident to book a table.
Mary, the hotel’s General Manager and her staff make a cohesive, professional and friendly team that really transforms this design hotel into a welcoming and memorable home-from-home.
Book a stay at The Gray with Small Luxury Hotels of the World from €330 per night (two sharing) on a room-only basis
Tel: 0800 0482 314
Address: Sina The Gray, Via San Raffaele, 6 – 20121 Milan, Italy