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volante: italy

Studying the classics in ItalyStudying the classics in Italy

Milano, photographed by Stanley Moss
Stanley Moss checks out three of the Baglioni Group’s luxury properties in Italy, discovering the best places to stay in Milano, Venezia and Firenze
photographed by the author

Expanded from issue 22 of Lucire


IN ITALY, hospitality is more than a tradition, it is a fine art. So when a hotel brand effectively expresses that beautiful combination, miracles happen. Every Italian city has its own unique character, thus the challenge is a more daunting one, to be faithful to the place, while you deliver a consistent quality hospitality experience. Baglioni Group has created a sensitive strategy for its properties, where the true essence of each city is encouraged to come forth. It’s a philosophy which strikes an elegant balance between beauty, the joy of living, classicism, heritage, service and the all-important location. Through a mix of method, magic and mystery, the delight follows, as a recent look at three of their signature properties in Italy proved.

The Carlton Baglioni Milano, the group’s 104-room flagship luxury establishment, is located optimally in a heritage building on the via Senato. It is the only hotel in Milan with a private entrance leading directly onto the via della Spiga. That’s a geographical advantage alone whose value cannot be overstated. Milano, a city driven by the fashion business, is known primarily as a couture capital, an assertion which a walk through the surrounding neighborhood immediately validates. If you seek inspiration, an odyssey of window-shopping lies only steps away, delivering an overwhelming feast of style to nourish the heart and mind. Milano also has la Scala (Baglioni is the official hotel of the famed opera house) and Leonardo’s Last Supper (a tough ticket to obtain, but the concierge can score you last-minute admission into the newly-reopened and restored, climate-controlled sanctuary), but you must first pry yourself away from the Carlton, where comforts are legion and distractions are many.

Throughout the hotel fresh white roses are artfully placed, a signature element of décor, which subtly reinforces the brand promise from property to property. Another design signature capitalizes on the Italian flair for lighting: in this and every other property in Baglioni’s portfolio, illumination figures as a soothing and carefully considered part of the environment. Comfort and elegance are hallmarks of the brand. Anyone from the fashion industry will relish suite no. 310, whose quiet situation and canopied terrace overlooks the legendary shopping street, far from the traffic noise. The Carlton’s suites feature pleasing dusky green walls, gold and velvet details, luxurious marble baths, and a complete amenity package.

The Carlton’s bar (hint: quiet on Sundays and Mondays), a sumptuous room with soft couches and low tables, offers signature snacks worth a try (salami, goat cheese, spinach, tomato, smoked salmon)—the difficulty being one could easily make a meal of them. Franco the beverage manager compounds the problem. You will find him a superior and accommodating host, eager to keep you relaxing in his cozy domain. Far too many temptations abound in the bar, among them a crisp chardonnay from Friuli, nine grappas on display (several varieties from Jacopo Poli and the ever-reliable Nonino) or eponymously-named fresh fruit drinks available at €15 a glass: from Mauritius, pineapple, papaya, coconut; Zanzibar, watermelon, peach, grapefruit; Ceylon, pineapple, ginger, lime; Sumatra, kiwifruit, mango, orange; Waikiki, melon, strawberries, blueberries; Giava (Java), pineapple, melon, lime. Gabriel, the barman, discreetly turned his eyes away as I grabbed for a greedy handful from the great heap of milk and dark branded Caffarel chocolates spilling out onto the bar from an elegant glass globe.

It’s also advisable to devote some time and attention to the Baretto Ristorante, a Milano landmark itself, now residing in the corner of the Carlton’s building, with its entry just off the bar. Baretto was an established dining room elsewhere in the neighbourhood, who Baglioni invited to reopen on premises as a joint venture. Politicians, models, international VIPs and local luminaries favour the restaurant, both for its menu and welcome. You might discover meaty cerignola-style olives from Venezia on your table, or request the tuna tartare, which is superb. An artichoke and shrimp salad accompanied by a glass of crisp Pio Cesare chardonnay is another worthy choice to sample at lunch.

From the end of May until early October, on Wednesday nights from 1 to 5 P.M., the Carlton turns its outdoor public terrace into an exclusive aperitivo bar, welcoming only a select number of guests. This would be an ideal location and elegant setting for a chic business rendezvous, a romantic tryst, a high-power reception or glass of Franciacorta taken before your evening’s activity. As a footnote, Milano is deserted from August 12 to 22, which might be an excellent week to drop in when the hustle-bustle is reduced.

For those in search of a luxury spa, look no further than the Carlton’s lobby, where Guerlain recently launched the first of its elegant new centres in Italy. Guerlain custom tailors each programme, personalizing for its guests the ultimate well-being experience.

The Carlton is not flashy or trendy, it is calm, classic and comfortable and in the truest sense of the word cool. It will always be. The Carlton is not about advertising yourself, it is about enjoying yourself. Carpe diem, as they say.


IF MILANO is a city of fashion and business, Venezia is a city of history. Here Luna Hotel Baglioni delivers the essence of the place, 65 rooms in the oldest hotel in Venezia, a palazzo dating back to the 12th century. The entry way, just across the passage from the door to the legendary Harry’s Bar, is gondola-accessible, so your water taxi can bring you swiftly to up a little-travelled canal to Luna’s private front door. A second entrance on the opposite side of the lobby leads to a narrow shopping street and vaporetto stop, where you have the opportunity to ogle the latest from Missoni, or ponder the endless possibilities of elegant made-to-order Italian shirtings in a fine tailor’s window. A half-minute away are the western portals leading to Piazza San Marco. You are no more than a five-minute walk over small, picturesque bridges to La Fenice, the legendary opera house. You can cross the Rialto Bridge on foot in about 15 minutes.

A recent refurbishment means the Luna boasts the ultimate in posh lodgings, with attention to the finest details—one lovely touch are discreet reading lamps nearly invisible on the classical headboards. Luna’s dual-level Presidential Suite is another major plus, a favoured location for private meetings (Nelson Mandela slept here), with a private terrace overlooking the lagoon. This hotel is not young and hip, rather it is classic and timeless. The repeating black motif adds a hint of Venezia’s mystery, and the suggestion of Carnivale masques: black Murano chandeliers, black uniforms, black-wrapped amenities, offset by the ubiquitous white rose signature which I came to recognize and appreciate in all the properties visited. Luna is certainly about taste, texture, colour and ambience. But Luna is also about service.

I am by nature a demanding customer, testing the limits of my hosts wherever I go. I am relentless, probing, and do not take particularly well to the word ‘No’ as an answer. But all requests were possible with Luna’s master concierge Antonio Massari, whose elegance, grace, charm and prodigious knowledge were able to meet my every inquiry. The man is uncanny, a mind-reader, an encyclopedia of Venezia, and a tireless friend at the ready to go the extra distance to make a guest feel informed, prepared and at home. Case in point: five years earlier I had purchased some Italian handkerchiefs (fazzolette) at an obscure store somewhere in the Venetian back streets I could not remember. Antonio knew. Knew the name (Stylmann), knew the owners, knew the tiny neighbourhood where they could be found. I asked for the name of a top-grade Murano glass artisan: Antonio had printouts the next time I passed his desk. I challenge any other concierge in Venezia to demonstrate such laser vision or specialist knowledge, delivered with such aplomb, gentility and humanity. He could be the finest concierge I have ever met in all my travels. Hats off to him.

The Luna is home to the 65-seat Canova restaurant, domain of the celebrated chef Giampaolo Cosimo, whose expert variations on traditional regional fare prove to be another high point of the Luna experience. The menu changes three times a year. To the accompaniment of harp music, under the soft light of an ornate glass chandelier, white rose on the table top, I perused the expanse of fine wines, a list assembled in partnership with Frescobaldi. It was too daunting. The sommelier guided me to an aperitivo of local Prosecco, followed by a bottle of 2003 Russolo Chardonnay, a wine that rivalled its white Burgundian cousins, but with a chalkiness, buttery palate and character of its own. And then began the meal.

Chef Cosimo first sent out an amuse bouche of shrimp and melon, dribbled in balsamic vinegar, adorned with dill sprig. Next he produced an assorted fish appetizer consisting of lobster, schie and polenta (tiny local shrimp from the lagoon, a Venetian standard), a scallop done to the perfect temperature, a dollop of tuna tartar with cream, shrimp in pastry, accompanied by long stem capers and a medley of greens: watercress, parsley, rugola and dill. That would have been enough, but Venezia is opulent by nature, and Cosimo is an artist. For the pasta course he soon delivered a risotto with scampi, prepared in a fish broth, a dish of perfect consistency, superior, so good it could have been a dessert. Cosimo could not restrain himself, next proffering sea bass done to perfection, falling off the skin, accompanied by artichoke, zucchini, carrots, and potato. The dessert course became a test of bravery, for only the heroic could choose from three chocolate mousse flavours, tiramissou, ricotta cheese cake, pear tart or zabaglione. Should you take a sweet, do not ignore the vin santo.

Another piece of good news: the same kitchen supplies Luna’s room service, with some smaller items available, but still an astounding possibility. Mention also needs to be made of breakfast in the Marco Polo room, a theatrical experience in a vaulted space decorated with monumental murals attributed to the school of Tiepolo. It’s impossible to feel anything but privileged when you start your day in such an opulent setting.

The Luna is a top grade luxury property, with every comfort and outstanding service, set in a brilliant location. But it is largely about the ability to time-travel, for Luna’s personality allows you to feel the history and culture of Venezia in an immediate, genuine way. I think the word here is authenticity, the actual, traditional, real Venetian experience, which this unique destination exclusively provides. There is no better way to meet la Serenissima than from this wonderful property as your base of operations.



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Five years earlier I had purchased some Italian handkerchiefs at an obscure store somewhere in the Venetian back streets I could not remember. Antonio knew. Knew the name (Stylmann), knew the owners, knew the tiny neighbourhood where they could be found. I challenge any other concierge in Venezia to demonstrate such laser vision or specialist knowledge



Carlton Hotel Baglioni
Via Senato, 5
20121 Milano
T 39 02 77-077


Luna Hotel Baglioni
San Marco, 1243
30124 Venezia
T 39 041 52-89-840


Hotel Bernini Palace
Piazza San Firenze, 9
50122 Firenze
T 39 055 28-86-21

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