It's not often in Europe that you encounter an ultra-modern, high-rise (well, sort of) hotel that could easily be straight out of the skyscraper districts of Sydney or Seattle. By night, the 13-storey, 140-rooms LaGare Hotel Milano Centrale is all the more distinctive with each of its windows strikingly illuminated with a different primary colour, making it not only a distinctive facade but also a rather easy-to-find local landmark for the guest approaching by foot from the nearby railway station.
As its name indicates, LaGare Hotel Milan Centrale is situated close to the Italian city's grandiose, early 20th century Centrale Station, a project of Benito Mussolini, Italy's infamous World War II fascist leader. It's a convenient five-minute or so walk away from station with your reviewer having arrived from Venice en route to France for a brief overnight stop in Milan.
On arrival LaGare Hotel Milano Centrale, a member of the Accor group's MGallery collection of characterful stays, makes an immediate positive impression. It's all the more enhanced by the warm and professional welcome from the smartly-suited (as you might fairly expect in Italy) male reception staff in the compact lobby. The hotel's modernity and minimalism is a pleasant change from the inevitably more opulent, older-style hotels that a traveller tends to experience on any trip around the continent.
I've scored a 33-square-metre junior suite, encased in dark timber walls and matching floorboards. The room includes a quasi-separate bedroom with a king-sized bed, a small sitting room and a spacious bathroom with a large shower recess. There's a balcony, delivering views of the city skyline, but, it being winter, it's a little too cold to linger too long outside. Although the hotel is rated as four stars there are most of the accoutrements of a five-star, what with bathrobes and slippers, minibar, and happily, complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. The only notable omission from my room is an espresso machine though, this being Italy, good coffee flows freely elsewhere in the hotel.
The hotel features three dining venues, namely The Bistrot on the fourth floor, replete with a large terrace, LaGare Cafe, located in the small lobby, and Rooftop Bar, opened at night only in the warmer months between May and October, on the 13th floor which includes views of the city's old and new skyline. But as my stay is so short, and my arrival fairly late with an early departure the next morning, I decide to head out for an all-too-brief look at the city and a quick meal.
Milan boasts an impressively modern and efficient metro system with stops close to the hotel. With my time in Milan so regrettably limited, the underground whisks me quickly to two of the city's most obvious, though no less appealing, attractions: its historic cathedral and adjacent shopping centre. The glorious Duomo di Milano, is the city's most famous landmark. Construction on the cathedral was commenced in the 14th century and it took an extraordinary six centuries for it to be fully completed. Just across the square from Duomo is Milan's retail temple, the gorgeous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world's oldest shopping arcades. A four-storey arcade within an arcade, it's named after Victor Emmanuel II, Italy's first king. It includes a collection of slightly touristy but nonetheless good trattorias on the centre's ground floor. Back at the hotel, if you're in the party mood and are staying a little longer, there's a notable nightlife area in nearby Corso Como and Corso Garibaldi.
LaGare Hotel Milano Centrale is a stylish, contemporary and immensely comfortable choice for any traveller passing through Milan by train, or, for that matter, by any other means. And, even with the unfavourable exchange rate between the Australian dollar and the euro, its entry-point tariff won't bust the budget.
LaGare Hotel Milano Centrale, Via Giovanni Battista Pirelli, Milan, Italy. Phone: +39 02 872 5241. Doubles from €102. See accorhotels.com
The appealing modern design of the hotel, both externally and internally, is a welcome change from more typical European lodgings housed in aged premises.
First world whinge, to be sure, but in the homeland of espresso, a coffee machine, now mandatory in this style of hotel, would have been appreciated.