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Apr / May 2014
French Connection

WRITER: Nicolas Shammas

Shopping in Milan usually means a stay at the Four Seasons, Bvlgari or Armani. Now, there’s another option. The Palazzo Parigi may not have a familiar name but it brings international flavour to a fine local product.


France and Italy may be as alike as chalk and cheese but the new Palazzo Parigi, just 500 metres from Milan’s upscale fashion district, aims to combine the best of both.  

Built on the site of the 18th century Palazzo Kramer, which was destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II and demolished in the 1970s to make way for an all-glass office building, the Palazzo Parigi Hotel & Spa is the brainchild of architect, Paola Giambelli. The exceptionally rare chance to build a brand new five-star hotel from scratch, smack in the centre of town was too good an opportunity to miss and undoubtedly, Giambelli foresaw how such a property could add a wonderful glow to her family’s group of four-star offerings just north of the city. With the site secured, Giambelli leveraged the financial clout of her father Valentino’s construction and development firm to secure the services of French superstar designer, Pierre-Yves Rochon.

The 200 million USD result is extraordinary yet very familiar, conjuring the elegance of an aristocratic mansion but with significant volumes that are quite unique in this city.

To say the ornate marble-lined lobby makes a statement is an understatement. With a ceiling height of almost 12 metres, it’s practically an outdoor space, indoors. Embellished with 17th century frescoes – rescued from the Palazzo Kramer and restored to their original splendour – antique Neapolitan mirrors and a magnificent Barovier & Toso Murano glass chandelier, you’ll never think this is a new build.

“We wanted to customise what the French do in places like the George V, Plaza Athénée and the Meurice and write a new chapter of Italian hotels using the best of our traditions,” explains Giambelli. “That’s why the grand staircase evokes that of the Danieli in Venice and that’s why we chose Baveno pink granite for the columns in the entrance.”

Scattered amongst the antique grandeur, you’ll also find beautiful Modernist touches like the concierge desk, which draws on more classical precedents but does so with a geometric purity of line that evokes the work of Giò Ponti. Similarly, the 65 rooms and 33 suites are a far cry from wilful ostentation, veering to a more subtle sophistication.

Alessandro Soldi, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, describes this beautiful fusion of Classicism and Modernism as a marriage of “pure Milanese Minimalism with the most mischievous mannerisms of Paris.”

Partially open since September 2013, the Parigi will get its grand unveiling this summer, when they’ll be opening an incredible 1,200-square-metre spa, gym and indoor pool, surrounded by vast floor-to-ceiling windows on the second and third floors, as well as a roof garden on the tenth floor with a lovely outdoor infinity pool. In the meantime, guests are being graciously welcomed at generously reduced rates.

“Pierre-Yves and I focussed on the details with all our strength and ability,” says Giambelli. “The style may seem quite French from the outset but everything is Italian and a one-off.” We think Milan’s big three ought to be concerned.

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