What you most need before booking at Milan’s newest luxury hotel is a schedule of fixtures for the Uefa Champions League.
European football’s premier competition has matches on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. If either Milan team hosts opponents whose fans can be boisterous – anyone from the British Isles, for example – do not stay at the Town House Galleria on game night, or one or two nights before the match. This rule will save you raising the volume of your polite conversation to be heard over the chanting outside the hotel, and you will not be woken up at 4am by a lone, atonal Glasgow Celtic supporter.
What a pity. The Town House, which took in its first guests last month, is a splendid place in a magnificent location, right inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a beautiful covered shopping arcade finished in the 1870s. The entrance to the hotel is outside the Galleria but many of its windows face the arcade’s well-maintained and intricate interior.
The Galleria runs from Milan’s cathedral to the square with La Scala, the opera house. The street is busy, and sounds echo. During the day this hardly matters, and Milan’s centre at night is normally quiet.
When the arcade is noisy, however, it makes it difficult to maintain the appropriate tone for a boutique hotel with just 24 rooms and suites, costing between €800 and €4,000 a night. The hotel is also advertising itself as having seven stars and it is working with SGS, a Swiss certification agency, to gain outside approval of this appellation. SGS is fashioning criteria applicable to other hotels which may later want to boast their hyperbolic seven stars. For example, they must be in a soaring architectural setting, provide high-class service specific to each client and excel at event planning. SGS will be sending in undercover guests.
So, what can the Town House’s guests expect for their seven stars? Some of the extras were unnecessary. There is a bespoke shoe service. On the desk in the bedroom was a small stack of printed business cards saying “Adrian Michaels in Residence at Galleria”. It seems unlikely that the cards would be anything other than a waste since the management admits it is mostly targeting people on short stays.
The service also started from before check-in with a “reservation profile” to fax back, indicating what sort of sheets my family wished to lie in, which of eight pillows would best suit us, and what sort of music should swell the room. When we arrived, we turned the music off.
Mostly though, the set-up does feel rather special. A racing green Bentley is on permanent call. The hotel offers to find a table at the best restaurants, no matter how full they claim to be. There can be tickets for La Scala too. Each room has a butler in tails on call day and night.
The hotel will also do your shopping. Why waste hours picking out the perfect item for your partner or offspring when a professional butler can do it? That leaves time to shop for the most important person in town: you.
The confines of the Galleria meant that adding a swimming pool or health club was impractical. The Bentley can instead whisk you off to a gym nearby, such as Downtown, where the Milanese populate the treadmills dressed in Prada from head to toe. Personal trainers can also come to give you a work-out in your suite.
Each room or suite is fitted with high-end furniture, one-off pieces from top designers. The room we stayed in had sumptuous orange silk curtains edged with black lace. The numerous light fixtures were essential since another drawback of the location is a lack of light from the covered Galleria outside.
The room was on two levels. The lower featured a king-size bed and a desk. The fitted wardrobes, mini-bar and wine fridge were so well hidden that I tried for a while to prise open the walls. At the top of the stairs is a gallery with a couple of armchairs, a coffee machine and more alcohol, charged by the bottle. A sip of that cognac will set you back over €300.
We were difficult guests. Forget the incessant demands of the idle rich – my wife and I brought our two-year-old daughter who, the staff confessed, was the first baby to stay in the place. It is amazing how many hotels lend guests just a basic travel cot. The Town House’s baby gear was truly irreproachable, including a white designer cot with teddy bear shapes on the side, two large bears inside and very fluffy linen.
The bathroom contained an array of baby emollients, a non-slip step for the child to climb in and out of the bath, and a changing mat. There were small hangers in the wardrobe and a portable milk warmer. All the electrical outlets had been fitted with child-proof covers. They were adult-proof too.
Dinner was served to our daughter in the room by a number of men dressed in tails, all of whom did an excellent job of complimenting the parents on how perfect she was. She is, of course.
The hotel also supplied us with a baby-sitter so we could have dinner in the restaurant in peace. Eating well in Milan is not difficult but respect is due an excellent meal. The tiramisu alone could make a whole night’s entertainment.
There were teething problems. The milk jug with morning tea was empty. A laptop in the room was pre-configured with my user sign-in, but the keyboard was set up incorrectly so that the underscore, for example, typed a different character. That meant I could not check e-mails without asking for assistance. Also, with all the lotions and potions, towels and gowns in the bathroom, guests will need some space to deposit their own stuff. And given how much equipment there was, it was quite bizarre to be missing a waste basket in there. They had correctly anticipated, however, that I would forget my razor.
Our butler asked unnecessarily if we would need a wake-up call. Aside from the Celtic supporter, we had brought our own, reclining in the cot.
Adrian Michaels is the FT’s Milan correspondent. He was a guest of the Town House Galleria for one night
www.townhouse.it tel: +39 02-8905 8297