The neoclassical facade smacks of a bygone – and glamorous – era even before you know that the building housing Milan’s Avani Palazzo Moscova was constructed as the city’s first railway station in 1864. In the intervening years, before opening as an Avani property in June, it was used as brand Moschino’s HQ. Both of these previous incarnations – travel and fashion – are acknowledged in the hotel’s lobby, which uses old suitcases and a dressmaker’s mannequin as decorative props.
Mind you, you have to get past the terrace before being ushered into the Avani – the global brand’s debut in Italy – and this may be a struggle. Seeing the drinks, most of them an enticing shade of orange, that guests are drinking, is like an amber traffic light: they urge you to ‘wait’ and enjoy one of your own.
There’s a lift to the upper floors, where the hotel’s 65 rooms are housed, but it’s worth taking the stairs, a square spiral with elegant pendant lights dangling, at various heights, through the centre. The travel theme is incorporated, again with vintage suitcases, but this time with trailing plants tumbling from within them.
The presence of greenery hints at the Avani’s eco-credentials: not only did the group sign to the UNESCO Sustainable Travel Pledge in 2022, but the property swerves single use plastic and serves up food which is, in the main, locally sourced.
Oh, and what food it is. The hotel’s restaurant, Forte Milano, is as different as imaginable from the rooms, which are comfortable and indulgent, but in a pared-back, contemporary way: this space, on the other hand, pairs deep, luscious reds with distressed leather and maritime motifs. These – model ships, fishing nets, captain’s wheels – are indicative of the seafood-heavy menu, which features ostriche (oysters); gamberi (prawns); risotto seppie e carciofi (risotto with cuttlefish and artichokes); polpo e patate (octopus and potato); spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams); fritto misto (a battered and deep fried medley of seafood and vegetables) – as well as raw fish options such as tartare di spigola, avocado e lime (sea bass tartare with avocado and lime). Fresh caught daily from the Tyrrhenian Sea, every mouthful is lip-smackingly good.
The hotel excels with the included breakfast, too – essential fuel for a day of sightseeing. Prepared fresh daily, guests can choose from a range of juices and pastries, as well as Continental-style cheeses and meats, accompanied by yoghurt, fruit and bread. Freshly cooked options, such as eggs, are available to order – and, this being Italy, the coffee is, unsurprisingly, sublime.
Although many of the temptations of the city – boutique shopping, the Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral) Teatro Alla Scala and the chic Brera quartiere (district) – are within easy reach of Avani Palazzo Moscova, you’d be forgiven for wanting to while away many of your Milanese hours in the hotel itself. Not only is there a well-equipped gym, but also an incredibly indulgent spa, where treatments range from ‘emotional showers’ to quick-fire facials, manicures and pedicures.
If you’re undecided on how to best spend your time in Italy’s fashion capital, the Avani has a number of curated guest experiences, each carefully selected to enhance your connection with the city. Fancy a tour in a beautifully restored 1971 Fiat 500, driven by a local with movie-star looks? A homemade, multi-course dinner in the beautiful apartment of two passionately foodie residents with exquisite taste? A ‘nonna approved’ pasta making class? The hotel can arrange all of these – and all of them are incredibly fun, fruitful and worthwhile.
A dedicated Italiophile, Milan never used to be in the the Top 5 of my favourite Italian cities. After a stay at the Avani Palazzo Moscova, it is.
Avani Double Rooms at Avani Palazzo Moscova Milan start from €233 (approx. £199) per room, per night based on two sharing. Includes breakfast and taxes.