This weekend we had a whistle-stop trip to Milan, and searching the myriad of hotels available in the city, we settled on the Milano Scala, Milan's first zero emission hotel.
Situated in the heart of the fashion capital, the hotel is in the Brera district a stone's throw from the high-end shopping street Via Montenapoleone; the stunning glass domed shopping arcade and the famous Duomo cathedral.
Originally a historical Milanese palazzo built around 1800, the eco-friendly renovations saw the green hotel open in 2010.
The architect used heat and sound insulation technology making it a comfortable and relaxing environment for guests and it uses underground water pumps for the heating, hot water and air conditioning making it carbon neutral. Water consumption is also reduced and controlled through filters.
Among the maze of exterior staircases you'll find a rooftop vegetable garden which supplies fresh herbs and vegetables for the kitchen.
The hotel boasts it's own eco-friendly electric car which you'll often spot parked outside ready to run errands.
In addition to it's green credentials, the hotel also supports Project A Drop Of Life, a charity initiative to construct a giant well in Kenya and bring them safe and clean drinking water.
If you decide to stay here based on it's ecological initiatives, you may like me find certain practises frustrating. They seem to have the big issues such as energy production and insulation covered but there are many more smaller actions which seem to have been overlooked. Yes, the flow of the water is reduced in the bathrooms through filters, but having sinks with plugs which could be used would mean you can wash without having to keep the water running. The gigantic deep jacuzzi bath in the en suite, while a welcome luxury isn't exactly eco-friendly. The complimentary toiletries are all paraben free and vegetable based, but I can't help feeling it would be better to use refillable pumps than provide lots of disposable mini bottles and plastic wrapped toothbrushes and shower caps. Some of the herbs in your cocktails may have been grown spitting distance from where you sit to drink them, but the positives are undone when your waiter hands you huge wodges of paper napkins with every drink. Maybe I'm being picky, but just a few changes in attitude would go a long way to making this experience feel more 'green'. Being sustainable is about more than just good design, it's about attitudes and actions.
As far as our guest experience was concerned, we had a wonderful stay here. The location is just perfect, right in the heart of the city yet remarkably peaceful. It's a 15 minute walk from Cadorna station, from where you can get the Malpensa Express train from the airport.
The staff were all absolutely wonderful and couldn't have been more friendly and helpful. As well as the usual concierge advice at the reception desk, the hotel also has a designated tourist desk open each morning except Saturdays. Charming Riva will happily advise you on sights to see, book tickets, make dinner reservations, help with car hire or public transport and share her local knowledge. She was a huge help to us and ensured we visited some places off the beaten track.
We booked a queen-sized room which was spacious and airy. The bed was incredibly comfortable and a bedside welcome of a half bottle of Chianti and a miniature of Campari was defiantly a nice touch! They offered an alternative pillow service if you prefer a firmer or softer pillow, although oddly the note said this was only available between 9am-9pm which is probably the time you're least likely to need a pillow!
The windows opened up wide allowing us to people watch down on the streets below (I'd forgotten how much I miss this, so many hotels now have limiters on their windows and you can't throw them wide open to let in the air.)
Inside the room there was a huge triple sliding door wardrobe and it was a luxury to be able to hang up all our clothes for our stay rather than just finding space for one or two items. There's plenty of room to hide away your luggage too keeping the room tidy and clutter free. Here you'll also find the mini safe.
There's a large wall-mounted remote controlled TV, a well stocked mini bar and a coffee capsule machine - again not very eco-friendly and strangely you are only provided with 3 coffee pods which I found a bit odd since that's not divisible by the two guests in the room. There's no milk in the room as they tend to take their coffee strong and black, so if you want milk you'd need to call down to reception.
The en suite was enormous with double sinks, a WC, bidet and a gigantic whirlpool bath with shower over. All clad in black marble it felt very opulent. There was a sachet of decadent bath salts and a candle if you want to indulge in a romantic bath - there's certainly room for 2!
I recommend checking out the roof terrace bar which is open every evening from 6pm. It's the perfect place for a pre-dinner cocktail and to enjoy the breath-taking views of the city. The Sky Terrace is popular with locals and party bookings so if you want a relaxing drink go earlier in the evening. A cocktail will cost you €15 but if my mojito is anything to go by it will have a very large measure of alcohol in and is accompanied by a generous selection of complimentary finger food.
From this elevated position you can see the interconnected courtyards and terraces of the hotel. There's sweet jasmine, gardenias and camellia trees fragrancing the air and it certainly feels green and fresh up here. Looking out from the terrace there's spectacular views of the city beyond and it was pretty thrilling sitting up here in a thunderstorm, protected by the canopies and glass sides.
Downstairs you'll find the Prima Donna lounge bar serving evening drinks and light meals. Many locals seem to come here for the huge fresh salad bar at lunchtime. There's also La Traviata restaurant where breakfast is served accompanied by live music. We had the soothing sounds of the hand pans playing over our breakfast, but various artists play here. The buffet breakfast was extensive with a wide array of fresh fruit, cold meats, cooked bacon and eggs, cereals, pastries and even it's own allergy-free section. I truly wanted to take photos of the breakfasts but after eating out for a few days and noticing how it only seemed to be the Brits who constantly take photos and instagram their food I felt a bit self-conscious. I did take a sneaky pic of the mini tiramisu that I had for breakfast though because that was really special.
There is a very strong musical theme running throughout the hotel, with displays of classical music scores, musical notes decorating the main restaurant walls, and suites named after famous composers, opera singers and characters in keeping with the proximity of the famous Scala theatre nearby. Bold art works, chic floral displays and modern lighting bring a contemporary vibrant feel to the rooms and lobby area too.
My overall impression is of a stylish hotel who are using clever design and technology to limit their impact on the environment. The staff are incredibly helpful, nothing is too much trouble, like storing your luggage if you arrive before check-in, providing umbrellas for the torrential rain we had one day, ironing clothing that had got creased in our case and booking tickets to tourist sights. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and felt completely refreshed and energised.
How to get there:
We flew Easyjet from Luton to Malpensa (flight time around 1hr45).
Take the train to either Garibaldi, Centrale station or the Malpensa Express to Cadorna which runs half-hourly and takes around 40 minutes.
Hotel Milano Scala,
Via Dell Orso,
Linking up with Time Traveller.