Review: Excelsior Hotel Gallia Milan

As part of my mileage run/weekend dash to Europe, I booked a quick stay in Milan. I chose the Excelsior Hotel Gallia, which is a newly-renovated property in Starwood’s Luxury Collection.

While I have spent quite a bit of time in Sicily, that’s not really the same as Italy, and definitely not the same as Milan. I always feel like a bit of a country bumpkin, as it’s just such a stylish city. Even the dialect is crisper and more polished than the animated flourishes of Sicilian-Italian, and my accent is hopeless in sophisticated Milan.

So I haven’t spent much time in Milan, and don’t have favorite neighborhoods or anything. The Excelsior Gallia is just across from the central train station, which seemed super convenient on a short trip, and I’m always curious about new (or newly redone) hotels.

And wow. Wow, wow, wow. I hardly have words to describe how strikingly beautiful the Excelsior Hotel Gallia is, in such a deliciously unconventional way.

A bit of backstory

The Excelsior Gallia has an interesting history, and was first opened to complement the railway station in 1932. The recent restoration was led by renowned Milanese designer Marco Piva and the attention to detail is incredible. Everything is new, down to the flatware in the restaurants.

This isn’t an easy property to revamp – the exterior is firmly Liberty Style, many of the rooms were historically sized, and so forth. The common approach would probably have been to refresh the wall treatments and seek out period-appropriate furnishings – think the styling at the Westin Palace Madrid, Hotel Des Indes in The Hague, etc.

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Liberty facade of Hotel Gallia

Instead, Pivo took the complete opposite approach, giving the Excelsior Gallia an updated style I can only describe as “mod art deco.”

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Look at the swirls on those pillars!

It embraces the chic aesthetic of the 1960’s (which was just such a great decade for Italian style), gives a nod to history with vintage fonts and luxurious finishes, but pushes the envelope with a dramatic color scheme of champagne and charcoal, accented with mixed metals.

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And the metallic finishes on the railing

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Entrance to Terrace Bar (closed when I was there)

So you have things like copper pineapple-shaped ice buckets on marble bar tops, flanked by champagne saucers. Or the glass and filament chandelier running the full height of a 200-year old staircase.

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Chandelier and stairwell

It totally works. And it’s gorgeous.

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Lobby lounge

Arriving at the Excelsior Gallia

The Malpensa Express took about 45 minutes, and at 18 euros for the roundtrip, that’s definitely the best way to get into the city. And you get to see a pretty incredible train station.

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Milan Centrale train station

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Milan Centrale exterior

The Excelsior Gallia is just across the street from the train station, so couldn’t be more convenient. The crosswalk situation could be a bit improved, but: Italy.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia exterior

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Street between the hotel and train station

The lobby felt both intimate and grand.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia lobby

The front desk associate was friendly and professional, thanked me for being an SPG Platinum, and noted they’d proactively upgraded me to a Signature Suite. Lovely!

With the formalities completed, she then escorted me through the lobby and to my room.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia lobby

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia lobby — those lights!

As a side note, can we talk about how damn impressive it is that Ben takes so many hotel photos without other people (or his reflection) crowding the frame? I felt like I was auditioning for Cirque du Soleil getting pictures of this hotel.

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Two-toned hand-stitched leather elevator paneling, because why not?

Excelsior Gallia Signature Suite

The landings and common areas were stunning, with a fun blend of black and white photographs and super funky light fixtures.

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Very reflective elevator foyer

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Each floor had a landing to the staircase as well

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Mod seating flanked by vintage marble

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Surprisingly, this couch was actually comfortable

I was assigned room 444, a suite on the 4th floor.

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Art deco fonts and metal wall plaques, check and check!

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This hallway was not actually ugly in person

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Massive door at suite entrance

Due to the historic nature of the property, the floor plans are very unique, so this suite was long and skinny.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia floorplan

The walls were a lovely champagne color, accented with darker tones of gold and bronze on the floors and curtains, and pops of bright white. The color scheme managed to be both minimalist and opulent in a space that could have otherwise been wholly unappealing.

To the left of the entrance was a mod sitting area, with funky lounges and a built-in desk.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

There was also a minibar, and a coffee setup.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite minibar

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

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I may or may not have eaten several of those chocolates in the middle of the night

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia minibar prices

The rest of the suite was to the right of the entrance, starting with a sleek guest bath off the hallway.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite half-bath

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite half bath

The bedroom was unconventionally swoon-worthy. The pistachio-green velvet added the perfect contrast to the champagne and white, and softened the look. The linens were silky and crisp – some of the best I’ve experienced.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

I loved the closets, which had great storage and kept the space tidy.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

And the small details, like the funky lamps, the bedside USB port and outlets, and the alarm clock being integrated into the wall panel.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

Beyond the bedroom was the main bathroom, which featured double sinks, a soaking tub, a separate toilet room, and a shower that doubled as a steam room.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite bathroom

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite bathroom

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite bath amenities

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite bath tub

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite toilet and bidet

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite shower

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite toiletries

Swoon.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Signature suite

Visiting the city center

While the Excelsior Gallia is super-convenient to the train, it is just a bit outside of the typical central shopping area. The hotel has a solution, of course, with a complimentary shuttle to the city center.

But this is Milan, so said “shuttle” is a private Maserati to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

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It’s like they planned on keeping the car parked there to glam up the entrance

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia Maserati

I mean…

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Entrance to the Galleria

I spent a few hours walking around the city, though the weather was pretty abysmal, and there were a lot of tourists.

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Milan Cathedral

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Walking away from the main piazza is generally a good way to lose the crowds

Eventually I decided to find some gelato (for which I paid an exorbitant €3, even away from the tourist zone), and called it a day.

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This gelato is actually a little too pretty for my taste, to be honest

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But gelato in Italy is still gelato in Italy

For the return trip, I opted for the decidedly more plebian subway. Uber is an option in Milan as well, and if it hadn’t been raining I might have just walked, but public transportation in Milan is actually easy to use.

It’s only four quick stops on the yellow line from the Duomo back to the Central Station, and a one-way ticket is ~$1.50, so this is a great option.

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Milan subway map

Milan also has a bike-sharing scheme now, and could the bikes themselves be any more Italian?

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I have no idea if they’re good bikes, but they’re so stylish!

Gallia Bar

In the evening I stopped into the ground floor bar to have a snack and work for a bit, and was unsurprised to find another gorgeous space.

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Entrance to Gallia Bar

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Gallia Bar

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Gallia Bar

The hotel has been promoting their signature drink as an “Italian” gin and tonic, which I of course had to try.

The bartender was delighted with my order, and offered me a choice between a spicy or botanical tonic, which, if I wasn’t already in love with this hotel, would have sealed the deal.

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Italian gin and tonic at the Gallia Bar

The gin is distilled in Italy, and apparently the tonic is local as well (though there’s an awful lot of English on that label, so who knows).

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Aperitivo!

In classic Italian tradition, the cocktail was delivered with an assortment of snacks. While I have been known to make a meal out of aperitivo, I eventually ordered a caprese salad as well, which was just perfectly done.

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Caprese salad

(Side note to Ben, my husband, and really anyone who has ever shared a meal with me: Yes, I ordered a caprese salad, and yes, I know that consists mainly of raw tomatoes, and yes, I promise I was traveling by myself. The burratta and sun-dried tomatoes were worth the excavation effort.)

Spa and fitness center

I decided to end my evening by exploring more of the hotel, and checking out the fitness center. This was up a secondary elevator to the 6th floor, and then you walked through the spa and up a third elevator to get to the actual gym level on the 7th floor.

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Excelsior Gallia signage

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Excelsior Gallia spa entrance

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Excelsior Gallia gym elevator (with bonus irony)

Sing along if you know the words, because the space was stunning.

The gym equipment was brand-new, and while it was a small space it wasn’t crowded.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia gym

There was a juice bar as well, though it wasn’t being used either:

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia juice bar

And a full assortment of saunas, steam rooms, a salt wall, and as, the staff member showing me around called them, “emotional showers.”

“Emotional showers?”
“Yes, they have feelings.”

I later discovered that she meant more like “themes” or “sensations”. Each had a different motif, with sounds, lights, and aromatherapy. But I sorta like thinking of the showers as the characters from Mr. Men.

The real show-stopper was the pool, at least in terms of aesthetics:

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia pool and terrace

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia pool

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia pool

In terms of function, however, the pool area was the one thing I didn’t love about this hotel. The pool was a little too warm to swim laps in, while the Jacuzzi was only slightly warmer, and thus too cool to comfortably soak in.

But that’s okay, because I had an emotional shower to make me feel better about the situation.

Gallia Restaurant

I had booked a 7:20AM train ahead of my 10AM flight, which gave me a relatively short window for breakfast. The restaurant opens at 6:30, and I’d considered skipping it, but I am so glad I didn’t.

The breakfast room was (unsurprisingly) breathtakingly gorgeous. It looks a little stark in the photos, because you can’t see the incredible textures and finishes. It felt chic and warm in person.

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Gallia Restaurant

And oh my goodness the breakfast spread.

The selection of preserves says a great deal about the assortment, I think. Of course strawberry jam was offered along with orange marmalade and honey, but those were complimented by peach, blueberry, and cherry preserves.

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Gallia Restaurant breakfast

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Gallia Restaurant breakfast

None of which are my thing, but A++ for selection, which held true across the board (six types of sliced meats, more than a dozen cheeses, three types of smoked fish, innumerable pastries, and so forth).

I’ll let the other pictures speak for themselves:

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Gallia Restaurant breakfast

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Gallia Restaurant breakfast

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Gallia Restaurant breakfast

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Gallia Restaurant breakfast

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Gallia Restaurant breakfast

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Gallia Restaurant breakfast

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Gallia Restaurant breakfast

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Gallia Restaurant breakfast

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Gallia Restaurant breakfast

In terms of quality, this was hands-down the best caliber of food I’ve had at any hotel breakfast, with the possible exception of the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome. But they’re neck and neck, truly. The prosciutto was perfect, the berries were artfully selected, the croissants were flaky while still moist. And the cappuccino was heavenly.

And I don’t even like breakfast!

Overall

I loved everything about this hotel, and would stay again in a heartbeat. It’s one of the few hotels I’ve actively had a desire to return to (generally I just want to return to a city or region), but I’ve spent the past few weeks thinking about how I can manufacture some time in Northern Italy so I have an excuse to go back.

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Excelsior Hotel Gallia exterior

Given the proximity to the train station, I think this is perfect for short stays as well. Many people spend a night or two in Milan before or after a broader trip to Italy, and I think I’d rather be here than in the crush of tourists by the Duomo, personally.

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Milan Centrale train station

Has anyone else been to the Gallia? What were your thoughts?

Comments

  1. Did you use points or cash (or a combination) for this? Great write up! Scrolling through it occurs to me that it’s been such a long time since I’ve stayed in a hotel that took my breath away. Thanks for the motivation! 🙂

  2. A beautiful hotel in an unfortunate location.

    You don’t get any sense of how Milan residents live in that area.

    Heck it doesn’t look like a single soul was staying at the property.

    Revisit Milan – but force yourself out of the chains and upgrades and discover something that will captivate you the way Sicily does, with its lack of chain handcuffs.

  3. @ Greg – Next to Milano Centrale is a great location. Especially for single night stays, you do not want to be hauling luggage back and forth for long distances. As for how the Milanese live, hop on the subway which stops at the train station for a look around the city.

  4. Yes! My girlfriend and I just stayed there a week and a half ago for three nights. (Took advantage of an AA fare sale from this past summer and earned lots of AS miles from the trip.) As you say, Tiffany, it’s a stunning contrast between the exterior and interior. A lovely place, with very high-tech and unusual/interesting lights and shower, and the breakfast was excellent. We enjoyed the location, too— convenient to MXP, a bit separated from the more crowded bits of downtown, a nice walk to Brera and Porta Nuova, and a short metro or Maserati ride to the Duomo and lots of places to eat and explore.

  5. Milan is one of my favorite cities in Italy. While this property looks amazing I still believe its location is only good if you will be using the train station. Milan is great for walking and the Park Hyatt location by the Duomo os way better.

  6. I stayed here in 1994. It was a great property. I remember having a room facing the train station with a little Juliet balcony. Very tall ceilings and tall French doors that opened inward. It was during a summer heatwave, so we were thrilled with the air conditioning. The interior was very heavy and gilded. This renovation looks amazing. I enjoyed it back then, but it was definitely updated and improved upon.

  7. The comments about Cirque de Soleil and about the emotional shower made me lol.

    I would offer to go to Milan with you, but this hotel looks expensive AF.

  8. @ Greg — I think that has much more to do with when I took my pictures. I made an effort to capture the hotel rather than the guests (hence no pictures of the spa, as there were a dozen or so people there at the same time as me).

  9. @ Santastico — I dunno, the location thing might be personal preference. I was down by the Park Hyatt for a few hours, which was plenty to convince me that I wouldn’t find being able to walk out the front door of my hotel into a throng of tour busses compelling. Other people would probably enjoy that though.

  10. @Tiffany – First of all, nice review of a very nice property. What was the paid rate? Not sure why people rave about PH Vendome and its breakfast. I just spent 3 nights there with my family in a suite plus and adjacent room and found the breakfast to be very nice but nothing spectacular. I believe PH Vienna and PH Sydney have better breakfasts thatn PH Vendome. I’d say Vendome and PH Milan are pretty close. Just my $0.02 🙂

  11. @ Angel — Thanks, and great insights!

    I booked the luxury privileges rate, which was ~185 Euro (plus tax), and included an 85 Euro F&B credit. I think I lucked out with my dates though, as a spot check shows much higher rates on average.

  12. @ Ever — Yep! It runs one-way only, pretty much on demand. You could probably negotiate having them pick you up if they happened to be bringing someone else, I’d imagine.

  13. Some little corrections:
    1) the Excelsior-Hotel-Gallia-Milan-Review-002.jpg picture is the “Milan Centrale exterior” and not the “Excelsior Hotel Gallia exterior”
    2) the Excelsior-Hotel-Gallia-Milan-Review-069.jpg picture is for sure the “Entrance to the Galleria” but it’s a side entrance, just few meters from the Milan Park Hyatt
    3) you missed an “i” in “Apertivo” (2x), it’s instead “Aperitivo”
    Yes the area around the Central Station is not the best but perfectly enjoyable if you travel from the subway to the trains or from the train to one of the many hotels. Just try to be the less-tourist possible to be ignored by the bad guys there.
    P.S. Lucky continue to call “BVLGARI” what is “Bulgari” (with an ancient/latin V for U), but you Tiffany can explain this to your colleague after this Milan trip.

  14. Looks fine, but hardly wow, wow, wow. Maybe my standards are different, but those pics look like an ok place to stay–hardly worth getting excited about.

    But Milan is a cool city.

  15. Tiffany, thanks for the review. I’ll be staying there 3 nights in October with my mother at 20K SPG points (vs 400+ euro)/night…and likely get suite upgrades anyway since I’m SPG Plat 100. I considered the PH, but at 30K points/night, the Excelsior seemed the more exciting property and much better deal–plus I arrive by train from Venice (after 4 nights at the Gritti Palace, also on points). Everything you and others have shared about the hotel makes me salivate. I also prefer to be a bit away from the tourist throngs so that’s a plus for me. I love art deco style, so the photos you and others have shared make this property really look amazing. I also have heard tremendous things about the F&B here…so I can’t wait to test that. I can say that the concierge service has already been tremendously responsive and helpful with our reservations and activities planned for our stay.

  16. @Tiffany: Don’t get me wrong. Your reviews are amazing and I wish we had more of those. Your writting style ia just perfect. As for the location, agree that you will have tons of tourists in the Duomo area but that is the main area in Milan. From there you can walk to Via Montenapoleone and all the other streets for window shopping in the most amazing fashion stores you can find. My point is that if you will spend just couple days in Milan that is the area you will probably want to visit.

  17. Tiffany I’m so glad that you enjoyed your (brief) time in Italy!
    I think that we’re sincerely trying to improve our offer of “international” hotel -especially in Milan- but also all around our country…as you know we’ve got so many contradictions but sometimes we make it right 🙂
    ps. just a small request: I’d like to read a new review of an Alitalia flight, as you know they’re changing lots of things since the Etihad affair

  18. The secret to great gelato is to find places where the gelato is not overflowing the bins, that gelato was not freshly made. Fresh gelato tends to be covered with lids to preserve it, and fewer flavors as its not possible for one place to make that many flavors each day!

    The hotel looks great. Milano is an underrated city that I enjoy visiting. Even the Hilton near the Central Station is nice. Though the best hotel in Milano is in the shopping arcade that you visited.

  19. Milan is such an extraordinary city with an equally extraordinary collection of hotels. My personal fave is the Armani with the Palazzo Parigi (especially the bar!) being a close second. I am anxious to try the new Mandarin Oriental, though I have not been impressed with the promo photos; the place too closely resembles the MO in Barcelona.

    I regret to say that I have not experienced the Excelsior Gallia. Actually, I have never given it any consideration. But thanks to Tiffany I am now so very eager to try out the hotel bar. I absolutely love hotel bars and the Excelsior Gallia’s looks stunningly beautiful.

  20. @Dylan

    Oh, I hope you weren’t referring to the “Seven Star” Townhouse Galleria, or whatever the hell it’s now calling itself. To each his own, but I thought it was thoroughly dreadful in terms of decor and service. However, the location is brilliant.

  21. Excellent review. And I’m surprised you didn’t hide the tomatoes in your napkin, LOL! The interior decorator must had fun with this; it’s stunning.

  22. Great review as always Tiffany – I must say I was not totally feeling the decor at the start of this review, but I guess it’s effectively a gesamtkunstwerk (if I can be so pretentious in describing a hotel!) with a total commitment to the design throughout, which itself is quite appealing once you adjust to it.

    I think I need an “emotional shower” after that

  23. @ Dylan — Ugh, I know in re: gelato. This was the best option of the places I walked by (I generally judge by the color of the pistachio). Do you have a suggestion near the city center that we can point people to?

  24. I stayed there about 6 months ago. Great hotel!!! I did notice one very tiny, kind of funny detail: when you go to the gym there is a sign listing all of the services on the floor. 2nd from the top, under an arrow directing you to the right, is “Virtual Golf.” I play golf so I thought Virtual Golf sounded really cool…the problem is that there is no virtual golf: when I asked at reception they explained they intended to add that later. Sure got that signage in place. Virtual, indeed.

    Curious is you noticed if it was up and running when you were there.

    (@thedavidjaffe on insta to see a photo of the virtual golf signage, posted 30 weeks ago.)

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