Nothing can beat the feeling of staying at an iconic hotel.
There is a certain atmosphere, spread all over the lobby of a classic “Grande Dame”, that can really fascinate any hotel lover like me. This was how I felt the moment I entered Grand Hotel et De Milan on famous Via Manzoni. I was there due to an invitation from Zara to the opening of its new flagship store at the center of Milan. The store was actually a historic cinema of the city, built in 1941, that was fully renovated and transformed into an innovative Zara store.
The concept of the invitation was a journey to Milanese culture; what could fit better than a stay at an iconic hotel like Grand Hotel et De Milan?
The place is full of traces left by the passage of great personalities. Opened in 1863, the Grand Hotel et de Milan preserves all the charm of an ancient Milanese “house”. It is still nowadays the favourite hotel of prominent figures of the world of culture, entertainment, fashion, music, national and international business. Among the many distinguished guests having stayed here in the past, the Maestro Giuseppe Verdi chose the “Milan” for many years: since then, the love for music and the Opera has permeated its rooms as a sublime “leitmotif”.
Interiors at Grand Hotel et de Milan
Interiors of the Grand Hotel et de Milan, discreet and refined, captivate the visitor with the unique atmosphere of its rooms, enriched over the years with exclusive objects and pieces of furniture that are now part of its history. The rooms perfectly preserve the period furniture and details, as well as the parquet floors and the Italian marbles that decorate the spacious bathrooms.
The project is permeated by a great passion for history, shared both by the owners and the management, as well as by Dimore Studio; objects and furniture have maintained the precious patina gained throughout the years and the desire of bringing new life to the endless number of period pieces.
Staying at Grand Hotel et de Milan
On the way to my room, I noticed that some rooms had signs with famous names on, Maria Meneghini Callas, Lucio Dalla, Vittorio de Sica, Rudolf Nureyev. I then realized that I was about to spend my next days at a hotel that had lots of stories to narrate. I was given a tour to its spaces and some of the special rooms and suites that are dedicated to famous persons that have been repeating guests of the hotel. Each of them is characterized by a selection of objects, photos, autographic documents and other memorabilia, belonging to these outstanding visitors or relating to their life.
During the next days, I enjoyed at full all a classic hotel has to offer. A bar rich in atmosphere, a night-in service with a tray with all the necessary things for one’s clothes refreshment, having a bath in a luxurious marble bathroom with custom-made amenities by famous Italian house Etro and beautiful city views. I also enjoyed a superb breakfast with numerous options served at the elegant patio of Caruso restaurant.
Most historic moments of Grand Hotel et de Milan
I remained curious about the past stories of Grand Hotel et De Milan so I asked and asked and searched and here is what I found:
- 1887: Arias were sang in Grand Hotel et de Milan’s balconies! As it was customary use for triumphant theatricals, after the first “Othello” performance, the carriage that was taking Verdi back to the “Milan” (as the Grand Hotel et de Milan was then affectionately called) was unhooked from its horses and drawn by adoring population. Once Verdi got to his Hotel’s room, the citizens gathered under his balcony and started to call out his name. The Maestro was obliged to step out onto the balcony of his apartment with the tenor Tamagno, who, with no accompaniment, began to sing some of the opera’s arias to the delirious crowd.
- 1902: The recording of the first flat LP in the history of music took place in a room of the Grand Hotel et de Milan. In April 1902 the great tenor Enrico Caruso, coming to Milan to perform at La Scala Theatre in a new opera directed by Toscanini called “Germania”, arrived for the first time at the Grand Hotel et de Milan. Fred Gaisberg, pioneer of phonographic recording at the “Gramophone Company”, was enthused by Caruso’s voice but the Gramophone Company, whose intention was to record an album, pulled out after being informed that Caruso requested £100 pounds for agreeing to record. At that point, Gaisberg decided to sponsor him personally. The recording of the first flat LP in the history of music thus took place in a room of the hotel!
- 20s: Love letters to Tamara de Lempicka were written in Grand Hotel et de Milan! One of the most extraordinary guests was Tamara de Lempicka, “femme fatale” and eminent representative of the Art-Deco of the 1920s.
The beautiful Polish painter was invited to the “Milan” by the writer Gabriele D’Annunzio, who fall in love with her and would have liked her to paint his portrait at the Vittoriale. Some letters, which testify the intense correspondence between Tamara and Gabriele, have been conserved in the apartment dedicated to the lady.
- 50s : Maria Callas was a regular guest! Maria Meneghini Callas was a repeater at the Grand Hotel et de Milan between 1950 and 1952, on the occasion of plays such as the Aida, I vespri Siciliani, Il ratto del Seraglio, Norma, Macbeth and Gioconda held at the Teatro Alla Scala. She and Meneghini, her first husband, could argue for hours at the reception in front of their open security box over the choice of the jewels to wear. On February 1953 she moved to her new villa in Milan, but she returned to the Grand Hotel et de Milan to meet Luchino Visconti, another frequent customer of the hotel for the plays of the Traviata in 1955.
- 70s : The first fashion show of Gianfranco Ferre took place here! The beginning of the 1970s witnessed the boom of the Italian “pret à porter”. On this occasion, the Hotel opened officially to the fashion world. Ferré and his producer Mattioli used the Hotel for their first defile.
- 1974: Vittorio De Sica filmed Richard Burton for “Il Viaggio” here! Vittorio De Sica was another regular guest. In 1974, for a shooting of his movie “Il Viaggio” (in which starred Richard Burton and Sophia Loren), used as a setting a bedroom in the living room of what was once Verdi’s Suite. Richard Burton and the young Annabella Incontrera occupied the alcove. The famous American actor became a regular at the bar, where one could often see him sipping a glass of vodka.