x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A most fashionable address

A smart, stylish and design-focussed hotel in the heart of Milan.

A junior suite at the Boscolo Exedra Milan decorated with eye-catching modern furniture.
A junior suite at the Boscolo Exedra Milan decorated with eye-catching modern furniture.

We landed shortly after dawn, squeezed in with commuters taking the Malpensa Express into Cadorna station, then took a taxi whose driver was keen to show us all of Milan's great buildings en route to the hotel - whether we wanted to or not. So, as we finally arrived and leant wearily against the shiny black reception desk, it was joyous to hear that our room was ready (several hours before scheduled check-in). As Milan went to work and the church-bells rang out across the rooftops, we sipped coffee in bed and planned our long weekend.

Fashion fabulous. The hotel is two streets away from Via Montenapoleone which houses Dior, Versace, Alberta Ferretti, Prada, Bottega Veneta and many more, all rubbing shoulder pads with each other in a non-stop fashion cat-fight. Around the corner in Via S. Andrea, there are more: Miu Miu, Hermès, Missoni ... and the chic boutique list goes on. It's Milan darling, get your game on. Also nearby is La Scala, the world-famous opera house, to which my wife and I were blown by a spring breeze one evening for a welcome dose of Verdi.

The overall accent is unmistakably cutting-edge Euro-design, with modernist furniture, irregular, coloured panels embedded in white resin pillars, and a sofa in the lobby called La Fiorita (by the renowned architect and designer Gaetano Pesce) which appears to have grown in a wood just outside Milan and been picked and put here. Its moss-like texture and oversized flowers look real and offer an organic contrast to the white walls. All this is fitting as Milan is home to the annual Salone de Mobile, one of the world's biggest furniture fairs. When you descend to the basement spa, suddenly you're in a futuristic subterranean wonderland with organic tubers emerging from the pool like stalagmites and holding up the roof which is covered in reflective steel balls.

It's design central in the rooms too. The wallpaper reminded me of an Etro pocket square I bought in Dubai Mall recently, the light above the bed appeared to have been sculpted from the shell of a gigantic deep-sea mollusc, while the oversized lime-green chair (Meritalia Shadow, also by Pesce) resembles an oversized hot-water bottle. If you have even a passing interest in modern design, the Boscolo will thrill you but design addicts will be tempted to spend their entire stay in the hotel marvelling at the different objects. The element I loved the most was the in-room cosmetic accessory kit: each room has a "chemistry set" of numbered test tubes, each one holding a different shampoo, conditioner or body wash, and all of them neatly sitting in a white tray.

I tend to have little patience with hotel concierges. I expect them to have excellent if not encyclopaedic knowledge of their city. Daria, one of the Boscolo's concierges, hit the spot. I was searching for an obscure family-run umbrella shop but I had no address and had forgotten the name. By the time it took me to run down the spiral staircase to the restaurant, wolf down some mozzarella, tomatoes, lemon cake (several portions) and a double espresso, she had found it and booked me an appointment with the owner. Her finest hour came on check-out morning. Iceland's volcanic ash had closed Milan's airport; what should have been pandemonium as more than 50 guests clamoured to renegotiate rates and change flights was instead a model of calm, diplomatic efficiency thanks to the unflappable Daria.

We fuelled up at breakfast with the lightest and most delicate of cold meats, freshly baked bread, delicious cheeses from the Italian alps, and far too many mouth-watering biscotti softened in perfect coffee. The Boscolo's two main restaurants - Oltremare and Meet & Meat - have got the food and service right but above all it's the quality and the freshness of the produce that really scores the points. At Oltremare, a starter of mozzarella torte, costs ?24 (Dh111); main courses such as grilled seabass cost ?34 (Dh158).

The futuristic spa, Pesce's "mossy" reception sofa, the "chemistry set" in-room cosmetics and getting access to our room before we hit the streets.

The wooden floors are part of the design aesthetic but they are seriously noisy and make even polite, tip-toeing opera-lovers coming home from a night at La Scala sound like a herd of buffalo thundering past.

A smart, stylish and design-focussed hotel in the heart of Milan. It's tempting to spend most of your stay in the hotel, checking out its interesting nooks, crannies and design elements and eating your way through the menus but force yourself to go out and explore because Milan is full of charm and history.

A double room costs from ?300 (Dh1,390) per night, including taxes, but not breakfast (?35; Dh162 ). The Boscolo Exedra Milano, Corso Giacomo Matteotti, Milan (www.boscolohotels.com ; 0039 049 828 7755).