Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday in Milan

I am back from my one month magical Sabbatical in Italy but the memories linger on. I have been thinking about the end of my trip and the 5 days I spent in Milan. To start at the beginning of my sojourn in Milan, I checked into a Hotel recommended by Albarosa's niece Valentina (more about Valentina at the end of this post). Albarosa is a native Milanese who now resides in Vancouver and is a reader of my Blog. When she read that I was going to be visiting Italy she offered me travel advice, which I promptly took her up on. The Hotel recommended was appropriately called "Hotel The Gray" and is an ultra stylish Boutique hotel which among other things was very conveniently located between the Duomo and La Scala (one of the world's most famous opera houses). And best of all it is footsteps from the 19th-century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the largest and most famous indoor shopping malls of its kind and literally next door to "Hotel The Gray" was the famous, high end department store La Rinascente. The timing of my trip was fortuitous on three accounts:
1. July is the super sale time in Italy.
2. The Duomo and La Rinascente facades were sparkling clean and new refreshed.
3. All of the city had not yet closed down and retreated for their annual month long hiatus to the seaside which happens in the month of August. I now understand why the Italians exit their cities to find some refreshment because the temperature was hovering in the low 40's with about 60% humidity.

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The Hotel Gray entrance. I liked checking into this \hotel and signing my name on the register. A view from the lobby to the bar (above right)

image The Gray Hotel - Milan - Italy

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My room was beautiful and I loved the touch of the fresh green leaf in the Bathroom sink


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The night of my arrival I dined in the Hotel's restaurant "Le Noir" which is very famous for its style. I had a very elegant meal, accompanied by a very fine wine from the Veneto region, but not an entirely romantic meal because I was dining solo. Oh well, one of the things about dining solo is that I get to fully observe my surroundings and even sketch on my napkin.

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Super lounge chairs on the rooftop lounge of The Hotel Gray

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The roof top lounge at The Hotel Gray

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A view of the facade of La Rinascente department store as seen from the rooftop lounge at The Hotel Gray.

But now back to how I spent my Sunday in Milan. I was recommended to visit 10 Corso Como by Valentina and Albarosa. 10 Corso Como is a very stylish restaurant, boutique and book store. So I set out to get there by the underground. The subways in Milan are equally as forward thinking in design as the Milanese are in fashion and furniture design.

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There was a series of fans blowing cool air that was scented (someone told me that the scent was to counter pollution). And there were big screen video monitors playing music.

By the time I arrived at 10 Corso Como I was ready to have brunch in the courtyard garden.

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Sunday brunch - an omelette served with white rice and drizzled with Italian olive oil, which is simply the best.

After eating I spent some time browsing in the 13,000 square foot boutique and looking through the famous bookstore which has the best selection of Design, Fashion, and Architecture related books. While there I was very excited to see my friend Jackie Von Tobel's book on the shelves. Way to go Jackie!! I couldn't get pictures of the boutique or bookstore, but I would highly recommend a visit.

My next stop was The Bulgari Hotel designed by Italy's famous architect Antonio Citterio. It is the only hotel within the city walls of Milan with a garden. I thought it would be the perfect spot for an afternoon aperitif of Zucca, (my newly acquired passion) a refreshing Italian liqueur. Its base ingredient is Rhubarb combined with zest, cardamom seeds and other curative herbs. It has a delicate and pleasant bittersweet taste and is served mixed with soda water and ice. It became an afternoon ritual during my stay in Milan. To my dismay I cannot find Zucca in North America. If anyone has a source for it please let me know.

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A picture of the Zucca bottle on the bottom right

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The garden at The Bulgari is large, reportedly 4000 sq metres. The furniture is set on pads of pea gravel surrounded by grass. I love the crunchy sound underfoot.

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The seating areas have these interesting twig screens. The top of the coffee tables is black glass which casts nice reflections.

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A nicely detailed steel staircase takes you down to a private area in the rear of the garden along a pea gravel pathway.

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The metal railing detail throughout the garden has an undulating ribbon effect. A view of the main facade of the Hotel in the background.


A view through the restaurant to the garden

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Entering the lobby and adjoining lounge. The decoration of this Hotel has been described as: "a fashionable chocolate box of browns, blacks and whites". The
furnishings have an unmistakable B & B Italia look, which is not surprising as the Designer and Architect Antonio Citterio does all the store design as well as designing furniture for B & B Italia.

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A surprisingly long cantilevered glass shelf runs the length of the lounge. This same meticulous attention to detail was seen throughout the Hotel.


The slipcovered chair in the background, the sofa, and the black leather chairs in the foreground are designed by Citterio for B & B Italia's - Maxalto Collection. There were stacks of books everywhere and comfortable places to sit and beautiful views out the windows.

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A close up of the cantilevered glass shelf shown in the second above picture.

A view of the front lobby seating area with one of my favorite sofas by Citterio, slipercovered in a heavy cream linen.
The sofa as well as the ottoman are from the Maxalto collection.

 Sofas and armchairs: SMDC

The above sofa showing it's delicately curved back

After this refreshing visit I had at the Bulgari Hotel it is time to get back to my Hotel and change for supper. I am being taken out to dine at Dolce and Gabbana's Gold Restaurant by new Milanese friends, Valentina and Davide, who are both Architects and work for the famed Italian Pomellato stores. (Valentina is the niece of my friend Albarosa in Vancouver). Valentina is VP in charge of Marketing and Davide is chief Architect designing their new stores. Currently Davide is overseeing the completion of their new store in London. In true Italian style, Valentino and Davide arrive to the restaurant by motorbike (their car was in the shop for repairs). Valentina is the picture of beauty, fashionably dressed and beautifully shoed in elegant heels. There is something so magical about Italian women. They always look wonderful and feminine even when stepping off of a motorbike. We had a marvelous evening and my only regret (well two regrets) is that I didn't get a picture of us together, and that the evening wasn't long enough. Valentina and Davide were wonderful hosts and gave me a great list of things that I needed to see and do the next day.



The above pictures of the Gold Restaurant are the "Bistro" located on the main level. This is where we dined in one of the circular banquettes. The food is international Italian — simple, seasonal dishes and the wine we had with dinner was superb. The d├ęcor, a kind of midcentury modern with a bling injection. Gold is used everywhere from the golden bamboo bathrooms down to the water-bottle labels.



Upstairs in the Dining Room Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's iconic ‘Brno’ chairs have been customized with metallic fringing. Not for the faint of heart, the decor of this Restaurant "more is more" is typical signature Dolce and Gabbana. I wonder how Mies van der Rohe would feel about the metallic fringing on his chairs as his famous and most quoted saying is "less is more".

Stayed tuned for my "Monday in Milan" coming soon!!

Patricia Gray writes about Interior Design inspirations, emerging trends, and the world of Design.
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