Open since November last year, this unique luxury hotel is the sixth property launched in Italy by the Ferragamo family from Florence, famed for their fashions and haute-couture shoes.
Portrait Milano brings back to life a splendid 15th-century building as a prestigious address to stay and is already the place to be seen in the fashion and design worlds.
The National checked in to see how it measures up to the hype.
First impressions are very strong as a smart, dark-suited doorman leads me into the hotel’s Piazza del Quadrilatero, an immense colonnaded square that was originally the cloisters of a 15th-century seminary.
The buzz is much more laid back as I walk into the modern reception, with lounge music, designer sofas and low tables covered with sumptuous art books.
There is no classic concierge or receptionist, and instead I am welcomed by one of the lifestyle team, who sit alongside me for the check-in, offering a complimentary tea or coffee, or house beverage.
Perfectly located by Milan’s ultrachic fashion district, where exclusive boutiques line Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga, this is shopping heaven for anyone tempted by Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, Prada and, of course, Dolce & Gabbana. The brand's home interiors showroom, just by the hotel entrance, is to die for.
Milan’s top cultural sights, from the Duomo and La Scala to old masters hanging in Pinocoteca di Brera, are all within walking distance. And don’t miss a cappuccino and chocolate gianduiotti at the venerable Pasticceria Cova, perfect for people-watching.
All the rooms and suites are spacious, and mine is elegantly furnished, giving the feel of staying in a classic Milanese apartment.
Architect Michele Bonan began by designing the Ferragamo family homes, and excels in intimate, homely touches, with each room displaying a pink print of one of Salvatore’s famous shoe designs.
There is also a stunning selection of coffee-table books – about 2,500 are displayed all over the hotel – and a sumptuous marble bathroom where even the toilet paper is discretely hidden from view.
For those used to classic luxury hotels and all-knowing concierges, the Portrait’s concept of a casual lifestyle team can take a bit of getting used to, especially the pre-arrival survey they email out. But at the end of the day, their enthusiasm and friendliness is infectious and the team can still magically procure sought-after seats for La Scala and seemingly impossible restaurant reservations.
Barely a year since opening, the Portrait has already established itself as one of the hot spots of Italy’s fashion capital.
The opening of the Longevity Spa, delayed until the end of 2023, will raise the hotel’s profile with a wellness centre and vaulted pool in the old seminary’s medieval cellar. And then the management will need to decide if they add a gourmet fine-dining option for guests and locals.
The life and soul of the hotel is the vibrant 10_11, an eclectic, electric all-day venue serving food and drinks through breakfast, lunch, aperitivo and dinner, spread over a casual dining room, shady garden and beneath the palm-lined portico.
Although not a fine-dining venue, the chef creates delicious, surprising dishes, including Milanese favourites such as mondeghili veal meatballs topped by creamy mayonnaise, and riso al salto, a crispy risotto smothered with bone marrow ragu.
It is a firm favourite with local movers and shakers to meet, eat and mingle, while on the other side of the piazza lies the luxurious Beefbar Milano, the first Italian outlet of a Monte-Carlo restaurant group (also present in Dubai), famous for its aged Kobe beef, ceviche and tartare, also serving halal options.
Highs and lows
There is a non-stop buzz about the hotel, with its unique Piazza del Quadrilatero hosting exhibitions and fashion events that create a hip melting pot of cosmopolitan guests, Milanese fashionistas and artists.
But loud music is present day and night, so not ideal for a quiet breakfast or romantic dinner.
The insider tip
Hidden away in the portico, check out the minimalist So-Le Studio. Rather than another classic fashion boutique, this one features the refreshing sculptural jewellery and bags created by Maria Sole, granddaughter of Salvatore Ferragamo, using only recycled material, including leather from the family’s shoe production.
Unlike branded hotels such as Armani and Bulgari, the discrete Portrait plays down its link with Ferragamo’s famed celebrity shoes, displaying simply a few stylish photos of the maestro with the likes of Audrey Hepburn.
It is also a luxury hotel that is open rather than exclusive, symbolised by its landmark piazza that has immediately become a favourite Milanese rendezvous.
All in all, it's a welcome, innovative newcomer to the Milan luxury hotel scene.
The bottom line
Room rates begin with a comfortable studio at €1,000 ($1,067) rising to €14,000 for the exclusive Borromio Suite. Breakfast is extra. Check-in from 2pm, check-out at midday; lungarnocollection.com/portrait-milano-hotel
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel and reflects hotel standards during this time. Services may change in the future.