Italy’s Ferragamo family launched its first luxury hotel in 1995 in Florence, with the acquisition of the Lungarno Hotel, laying the foundations of what has become the Lungarno Collection. The chain has grown to four luxury hotels in Florence and Rome as well as two four star hotels – all owned & operated by the Ferragamo Group under Lungarno Collection Hotels. The luxury hotel group has remained dormant for almost a decade, the first new hotel, Portrait Milano opening December 2022.
While the involvement of the Ferragamo family had remained extremely discreet, this has changed with the new hotel in Milan, the family taking centre-stage. Leonardo Ferragamo fronted the opening press conference, while all media communications firmly and overtly mentioned the Ferragamo family – the motivation being the complexity of the project and giving back to the Milanese a most iconic complex.
Located between the Corso Venezia and Via Sant’Andrea, in the heart of Milan’s Quadrilatero fashion district, the hotel is part of a building that was one of Europe’s first seminaries. It’s noteworthy on several fronts: the integrity of its Late Renaissance bones; its provenance — commissioned in 1565 by Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan and leading light of the Counter-Reformation, later canonised Saint Charles; and the interventions it underwent at the hands of Piero Portaluppi, the pre-eminent architect of the city’s 20th-century golden age.
But for the past 20 years the most notable thing about this erstwhile treasure of Milan’s built environment was its obscurity: secreted away behind closed gates, unoccupied, it was a place few contemporary Milanese seemed to even know existed, much less had ever visited. That changed on December 14, when Giuseppe Sala, the city’s mayor, officiated at the ribbon-cutting for Portrait Milano, the hotel-restaurant-retail complex which the seminary now houses — the culmination of a decade-long restoration project
The seminary’s vast courtyard has been rechristened Piazza del Quadrilatero and opened to the public for the first time in its history, providing walking access between the neighbourhood’s two main arteries. Besides the hotel, it showcases fashion boutiques and drinking-dining venues and, beginning later this year, will host art exhibitions, performances and other cultural events. The entire premises of Piazza Quadrilatero are open to the public.
Mention must be made that the Ferragamo has not acquired but only leased the part of the complex which is occupied by the hotel and its two restaurants, of which only one is open. The rest of the building features components operated separately and independently from Ferragamo’s Portrait Milan. The Beef Bar Milan restaurant, fashion concept store Antonia and the Spa (The Longevity Suite) are all outsourced – which can be a weakness for Portrait Milano in the long term because of the lack of control.
In spite of the 27 experience and expertise of the Lungarno Collection Group, only the Food & Beverage (all day dining casual restaurant and bar) has achieved a high luxury calibre in 3 months of operation. The accommodations signed by interior designer Michele Bonan, are slightly inferior to what one would expect from the Ferragamo family and it immense heritage in luxury fashion and accessories. Instead, the interiors are actually very similar to other four luxury hotels in Italy which Bonan had designed the past 5 years (all opened in the past 3 years).
Rooms and suites are spacious but do not expect views. As with all Bonan projects, bathrooms are large, yet many only feature a shower – the layout and structure of the building must have been a challenge in also adding a separate bathtub. Nevertheless, you will love the full marble bathroom with underfloor heating and the exquisite bedding. The bathroom menities are Ferragamo (”Tuscan Soul) which come in small sized bottles.
The exact same Ferragamo bathroom amenities can be found in many hotels around the world, including at a chain level, such as Kempinski Hotels. Ferragamo’s hotel amenities are licensed by Lande SA, a Portuguese company which is responsible for both production and distribution of such cosmetics. I am certain that in the very near future Portrait Milan will change the amenities and will even include large dispensers, as part of their sustainability commitment.
Alberto Quadrio, the Executive Chef of the hotel is a very rare find, not only because of the outstanding quality and creativity behind his dishes (Italian cuisine at its finest) but because of his incredible personality, taking time as much as possible to personally interact with each and every guest. Most of all, he perfectly embodies the spirit of an ideal senior executive in a luxury business, boasting humbleness and humility, which are so rare nowadays.
Most probably, if the project would not have been linked so strongly to the Ferragamo house, expectations could have been lower when it comes to aesthetics. Hopefully, the management will understand the critical need to integrate some interior design features which are anchored in the. Ferragamo DNA, obviously in a most subtle and sophisticated manner, without the visual presence of the Ferragamo brand or name. Even the use of more leather, silk or even textile would be more suggestive of Ferragamo
In 3 months from opening, the hotel has achieved relatively high service standards, with an enthusiastic and motivated team, who must have also been drawn by the power of the Ferragamo house and its exceptional history, an uninterrupted business since 1934 when the first Ferragamo stores opened. Staff are eager to exceed expectations and provide a most individualised and personalised service. I have no doubts service will be perfecting further, at a fast pace, in the very near future.
The association with Ferragamo can be extremely beneficial both for the fashion business and for the hospitality unit (Lungarno Collection / Portrait Collection). It is all about reflecting the unique and timeless Ferragamo lifestyle. Hopefully, we shall be able to return in the Fall of 2023 to evaluate the progress and improvements under the helm of highly experienced and talented luxury hoteliers Angelo Vignola & Diego Roggero.
The fine dining restaurant of the hotel (operated by the hotel) and the Spa (outsourced) are expected to open in September 2023
Oliver Petcu in Milan
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