A reborn cathedral joins fashion-forward galleries and hotels.
Compared with the Italian troika of tourism — Florence, Venice and Rome — Milan is often an afterthought. But with novel, eye-catching design emerging around the city, that should soon change.
For years, unsightly scaffolding obscured the Milan Cathedral; now that most of it has been dismantled, the newly scrubbed Gothic masterpiece, also known as the Duomo, is worth a fresh look. Across the piazza, the city’s collection of 20th-century art is now showcased at the Museo del Novecento, which opened in December in the restored Palazzo dell’Arengario.
Outside the historic center, former factories have been transformed into design studios, old warehouses have been repurposed as unconventional art venues, and galleries are packed with avant-garde works. The eclectic Spazio Rossana Orlandi gallery displays the latest creations from emerging designers, while large-scale art installations from acclaimed international artists like Anselm Kiefer are exhibited at HangarBicocca, a cavernous art space that re-opened last year.
And though fashion followers still flock to the wish-filled windows of Miu Miu and Marni, fashion in Milan now extends beyond retail and runways. Arguably the most fashionable addition is the Hotel Milano Scala, which opened last year in a renovated 19th-century mansion singing the eco-chic promise of “zero-emissions hospitality.” In a country where green directives are not yet widespread, it proves that Milan is, once again, on the cutting edge.
There is never a bad time to go to London. But this year may be better than most: the 2012 Summer Olympic Games has prompted the construction of 12,000 hotel rooms, and several hotels that have been around for a while are burnishing their appeal with notable new restaurants.
Many are opening well in advance of the games. The 192-room Four Seasons London at Park Lane reopens late this month after a two-year-plus gut renovation that added a penthouse spa overlooking Hyde Park and new restaurant seating in a private garden. The new W London Leicester Square arrives in February, conforming to British tastes with a trendy take on high tea. In April the Corinthia Hotel London reinvents a vintage 1855 hotel, and in May the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London makes its debut in a cathedral-like Victorian hotel with a restaurant by the Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing.
Other hotels are adding restaurants from renowned chefs. This spring, the May Fair Hotelwill become home to the chef Silvena Rowe’s Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, Quince.
Expect hotel and restaurant bookings to be tight on and around April 29, date of the royal wedding, for which London tourism officials expect a pre-Olympics wave of visitors.
An industrial city reinvents its famed musical past.
The cold and gritty factory city that famously inspired the post-industrial anguish of bands like Joy Division and the Smiths has transformed into a thriving cultural hub. Several newmusic venues are cashing in on “Madchester” nostalgia, including FAC251, an indie-music club that opened in February in the old Factory Records building. The owners of the popular Trof cafe, which bills itself as a “dandyish den of opulence,” recently opened a new multiplatform cultural venue called the Deaf Institute. For those who want a taste of the city’s favorite depressive sons.