Luxury Hotels

DUCO gathers all Italy’s top luxury hotels in Florence

The St Regis, Florence

Some years ago Carolina Perez, of the enterprising Perez family of Brazilian travel advisors, was instrumental in starting São Paulo Travel Week.  This was sold on to Reed and Carolina, who has always loved Italy, started afresh, with DUCO.  As she explained at the first one, April 2018, Italy is so important it warranted a show all of its own.  This is the event for Italy’s luxury hotels to sell themselves to the world (Paolo Mancuso, Director of Projects & Business Developments at ForteVillage Resort, Sardinia, Italy, one of the properties exhibiting, again, at the second annual DUCO Travel Summit, held April 1-5, 2019, in Florence, said he received a lot of business after the first show).  The gal headed to Florence to coincide with DUCO, which unusually moves venue from day to day.

Some tables were on the balcony looking down into the restaurant

Yesterday was at Four Seasons Milano, today is St Regis – the former Grand Hotel – and tomorrow will be Belmond Villa San Michele.  The 265 exhibiting hotels have to move accordingly, and the 160 invited travel advisors, nearly two-thirds from the USA, are bussed as appropriate.  Today, at St Regis, the elaborate mezzanine meeting rooms and even the open gallery that goes around the main restaurant are taken up by tables.  Hoteliers stay put, and at the gong which sounds every 15 minutes the travel advisors rush from one venue to the next. Lunch today is hosted by the adjacent Westin, in a rooftop space that gives marvellous views over the Arno (I had a jolly good tasting of assorted burrata and mozzarella cheeses, including tiny mozzarella affumicata balls, and balanced all this dairy with a dozen or so cherry tomatoes).

Jack Ezon, Carolina Perez

Carolina  Perez certainly had many of the top advisors: Jack Ezon, for instance, heads the new Embark consortium, and this man who has been known to arrange seven-day weddings in the Italian countryside for household name Americans was just as keen as others to learn what is NEW.  I loved the way that in place of a standard directory there was a really informative and humorous colour sketch book, showing what is where in which province of Italy – helpful to those do not even know where Lombardy IS. The book also lists exhibiting properties in various categories. Interestingly, there are 39 properties of 20 rooms or fewer – the smallest is the two-room Holy Deer San Lorenzo City Lodge, Rome.

DUCO display board

The opening educational included fashion specialist Paolo Zegna, of Ermenegildo Zegna, talking about the link between luxury brands and high-end travel. Last night there was a grand gala, tonight and tomorrow there are evening cocktails. After it is all over participants have a chance to do retail, at The Mall Luxury Outlets. During my short stay I was impressed by this rare opportunity to study one destination in depth.  IF YOU WANT AN IDEA OF THE HUBBUB THAT IS NONSTOP DURING THE WORK SESSIONS OF A SERIOUS BUYING-AND-SELLING LUXURY EVENT LIKE DUCO, SEE THE VIDEO BELOW

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Luxury Hotels

A funny thing happened, not on the way to the forum but at Park Hyatt Milano

Hotel on right, Galleria ahead

Park Hyatt Milano is a luxury hotel right next to great Italian shopping, and that says a lot. Come out of what was built in 1870 as a bank and turn right and you are immediately in Milan’s most famous historic mall, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, built in 1865 by architect Giuseppe Mengoni. The photo on the left shows how this is a Park Hyatt that has a discreet front entrance – as does, admittedly, Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, which the gal has several time walked right past instead of stopping and going in.  But regulars know this entrance of course. Much of the business is from the USA, with UK coming in second.  In summer the 115-room hotel is regular base for Middle Easterners, some of whom take day trips to Lake Como.

Risotto, Milan style

I was there for lunch with two lovely people who make this hotel work. Ilaria Bucci and Nicola Ultimo both seem to know all there is to know about Milan and its social mores, and how to attract yet more people to come, and stay even longer. They filled me in pretty quickly, and they insisted that at least one of us try a local risotto, saffron flavoured and made with Carnaroli rice. Now this, it seems, is very special, certified by the national cooperative for selected seeds, ENSE, and the best Carnaroli is from the small Riserva San Massimo, a mere 100 hectares in all. There are two specialists, Cristiano Guizzardi and Dino Massignani, whose sole job is, it seems, to perfect the growing of this rice.

Ilaria after the iPhone mix-up was unravelled

So lunch was fascinating. I heard how at each Milan Fashion Week Gucci does a complete buy-out of the entire hotel, to put up their special guests and to use, too, for business entertaining.  I heard how, for Italian millennials, there is no such word as No, they want anything and everything, exactly when they want it, and how all ages have switched from traditional martinis to mixologists’ specials.  And then, oh dear, lunch went belly-up.  My iPhone suddenly switched to Italian, and it wanted a six-digit password (mine is four). Ilaria brilliantly got the hotel’s IT specialist in two minutes – always the sign of a really good hotel – but he was flummoxed.  Only when I got up to go did both Ilaria and I realised our stupid mistake.  I had earlier been trying to use HER iPhone. No wonder we both collapsed in gigg

The mystery statue, unveiled

And then I returned to the Galleria.  Before lunch I had been waiting for the unveiling of a shroud-covered statue (see the image above).  I was fascinated by the faces of people around – see the video below. Athough the stated unveiling time of 1 p.m. had come and gone, nothing had happened. After the iPhone mx-up, or unravelling of the mix-up, I went back to the Galleria and there was a splendid lifesize bull. Displayed thanks to the magazine Milanofinanza.it, this was Milano Capitali, by Francesco Messina (he saw it as a positive symbol of financial power).

It is also a reminder that for some tourists it brings good luck to spin round on the Turin bull in the mosaic floor in the centre of the Galleria floor. WATCH A MILANAISE CROWD GATHERING JUST BECAUSE IT IS GATHERING – AND MOST PEOPLE HAVE NO IDEA WHY

 

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Luxury Hotels

Principe di Savoia is a jewel of a luxury hotel

Stefano Ricci table setting

At glorious Principe di Savoia, Milan’s oldest luxury hotel, dating back to 1927, the specialist who runs it, Ezio Indiani, had pulled out all the stops for the gal.  Dinner was in Table au Cristal, a corner of Acanto restaurant: the space was tantallisingly only semi-private, shielded from the gaze of the many by curtains of threads of Swarovski crystals.  The table, as shown here, was set completely with pieces from the Stefano Ricci collection (that maestro has a fashion boutique on the hotel’s ground floor, by the elevators, and a homeware display on the lowest level).  Yes, everything from china to silverware and napkins, and even hold-your-breath cutglass glasses, are all Stefano Ricci: still family-owned, the 47-year old company is now run by Stefano and Claudia Ricci’s elder son Niccolo, whose brother Filippo is creative designer.

Red prawn on cucumber jelly

We both eschewed chef Alessandro Buffolino’s six-course tasting menu.  I started with a red prawn on cucumber jelly, with ginger and mango, and went on – well, when in Rome – to a Milanese.  It must be on the bone here, apparently, which means that the cooked effect matches its nickname, ‘elephant’s ear’. It came with a separate dish of halves of tiny cherry tomatoes and what they called ‘French fries’ but I would name potato puffs. Our delicate Ricci drinking glasses held a Lombardy wine, Neggiola Nino Negri from about 120 km away. Ezio Indiani was filling me in on the European Hotel Managers Association, EHMA, ee-ma, of which he is now President, for a three-year term. His intent is to extend a mentoring programme, whereby some of his 420 members mentor heads of departments in other hotels, and to incorporate diversity.  He also wants to take his GMs into schools to spread the word of the value of hotel life.

Cakes, with appropriate sauces, at breakfast

He wants EHMA to be trusted as the first source for hotel owners and operators, and for media. There is, frankly, nothing elsewhere quite like it, cross-border and representing a variety of cultures (Ezio Indiani says what can be done in Milan cannot be done elsewhere, even in Rome or Venice).  And, after such an informative and pleasant dinner I passed on the elevators to hike yet again up 156 carpeted stairs to the sixth floor, to #637.  This is one of the hotel’s 160 sq m Imperial Suites, decorated by Celeste Dell’Anna, who trained on Italian film sets. This suite is theatre-style, as a video below shows: it has a plethora of lacquered woodwork, some extremely bold artwork, and rich and lavish fabrics, and the bathroom is Hollywood magic.

MPS Puri and Ezio Indiani

And for Acanto, which he also designed, he has put in not only the theatrical Table au Cristal but also a colourful ceiling – see above, at the top of the article – that all can share. I was already feeling in a playful mood as I began to leave.  The outer lobby of this exciting luxury hotel has some whimsical sculptures, just of heads, all one colour – most are nearly Klein blue, some a day-glo tomato (they are all by the Neapolitan artist Antono Nocera). And then, as Ezio Indiani appeared, just in time to say goodbye, who else should turn up but MPS Puri, whom I last saw at some conference or other.  This was a much more exciting venue. SEE THIS SUMPTUOUS HOTEL’S SUITE 936, AND ITS ROOFTOP VIEW

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