That of Portrait Milano, today a luxury hotel but also a new place of inclusive and transversal hospitality in the Fashion District, is a story that goes back centuries.
It was one of the first seminaries in the world , but also a library, printing house, school, the Archbishop's palace in Milan in Corso Venezia 11 built in 1565 by Carlo Borromeo.
In the seventeenth century it was enriched by the large square courtyard, the cloister with a double loggia of paired columns and the splendid Baroque portal by Francesco Maria Richini, becoming a model of monumental architecture.
In 1967 it underwent a first restoration by Piero Portaluppi and from 1980 to 1990 it housed the atelier of the architect Mario Bellini, who met also Steve Jobs.
Today, thanks to the renovation project promoted by the Lungarno Collection and signed by the architects Michele de Lucchi and Michele Bönan, the former Seminary becomes a open to the city.
With its 2,800 m2, the large Piazza del Quadrilatero creates a new, prestigious pedestrian promenade from Corso Venezia to Via S. Andrea.
Here the made-to-measure hospitality of the brand Portrait (since 2013) integrates with restaurants, shopping, exclusive events and other partners, returning this place to the city of Milan and to a long history of cultural and artistic dialogue.
We talked about it with Leonardo Ferragamo, Valeriano Antonioli and Cristina Fogliatto, respectively President, CEO and Director of Communication Lungarno Collection.
What was the vision behind the Portrait Milano project?
Leonardo Ferragamo: "The Portrait Milano project was born with the discovery of a monument that had been hidden from the city for years.
The desire to share this secret was immediate…hence the vision of working on an inclusive and open project, giving this place a new chapter in its long history.
An unprecedented chapter, because this place has never experienced a reality that saw the transformation of its internal courtyard into a square (Piazza del Quadrilatero) open and practicable, a meeting point between two streets characterized by different attitudes : Corso Venezia, and its speed and dynamism, a long route that leads from the suburbs to the heart of the city, and via Sant'Andrea, with a more reserved and composed nature, dedicated to shopping.
Two urban souls that meet in the center of this square, now open to all.
Why the choice of Michele De Lucchi and Michele Bönan as interpreters, respectively for architecture and interior design?
Leonardo Ferragamo: "Michele De Lucchi, because he is an Italian with an international spirit. I admire his way of combining architecture with a humanistic approach, inserting figures such as artists, anthropologists, humanists and psychologists based on the concepts of uniqueness and diversity.
The right hand and mind to seal the transition of this place, from its private and closed nature to an open place, making the past coexist with the future perspective.
Michele Bönan, because he has known me and my family for some time and has always shown himself capable of translating our style into the world of interior design and hospitality, without ever giving up the link with the place of choice in which we find ourselves .
In this project he had the ability to recreate a splendid muffled and intimate atmosphere, in contrast with the monumentality of the place".
How do you explain, after Florence and Rome, the choice of Milan?
Leonardo Ferragamo: "Milan certainly represents choosing the right city at the right time.
It has always been a beacon of innovation for our Italy, but in this historical moment - more than ever - it is able to combine its organizational and business efficiency, with a more leisure dimension capable of giving to those who visit it also a cultural, artistic offer dedicated to fun and discovery".
Who does this place speak to?
Valeriano Antonioli, CEO of Lungarno Collection: "This place speaks to the Milanese first of all... this was the most important challenge we undertook. Because speaking to the city that welcomes us is fundamental for every Portrait project that in building the 'portrait' of the place that hosts it, one must integrate with it and become an active part of it.
Here in Milan we succeeded also thanks to this building which lends itself perfectly to the purpose.
It is in the beating heart of one of the most central neighborhoods and at the same time has opened up to it, becoming a new pedestrian walkway. On the ground floor, it offers a wide gastronomic offer with its restaurants 10_11 (Ten Eleven) and Beefbar, as well as wonderful boutiques managed by Antonia Milano and SoleStudio.
This offering certainly makes it a destination for the city itself.
And this beautiful portrait of Milan - and of the Milanese who are invariably part of it - Portrait intends to project and communicate to the international public it meets around the world.
Local and international, near and far…these are the audiences and dynamics within which Portrait operates with the aim of always putting the portrait of its guest in contact with the portrait of the city that surrounds it hosts.
So, in key words, what is the fundamental value of hospitality that the project intends to communicate?
Cristina Fogliatto, communication and branding director: "Inclusivity: this is the supreme value from which this project was born and which we intend to express in all our choices.
Starting from the urban regeneration implemented which led to the creation of an open square in the heart of the historic city and the fashion district, up to the declination of the idea of a transversal luxury that embraces public dimension (on the ground floor, with restaurants and boutiques) and private (mainly hotel, which develops from the first floor upwards).
A beauty from other times that amazes and conquers anyone who enters here.
And then again social and generational inclusiveness which is also reflected in the choice of all our partners: from well-known international companies - such as Beefbar - to solid Italian and Milanese historical companies - represented by Antonia Milano - up to the young and talented creativity of Sole Studio of Maria Sole Ferragamo, or even of a talent of Italian gastronomy – Alberto Quadrio, who at just 32 years old is executive chef of our restaurant reality 10_11 (Ten Eleven) and soon also of our gastronomic restaurant.
This is us and it will be here that we will welcome people, share ideas and promote projects capable of reflecting the sense of our values and the meaning of what we call hospitality".
Is the relationship with the Design Week and the FuoriSalone events part of this hospitality that aspires to promote broader messages?
Cristina Fogliatto: "Surely the Milan Design Week has been characterized over the years by its great spirit of inclusivity: even the most hidden and unexpected places in the city open up during that week and become exclusive brand locations and design signatures, ready to welcome thousands of visitors looking for new inspiration.
This same principle of inclusiveness has become our leit-movit in planning the Piazza del Quadrilatero of Portrait Milano.
This is a place that lends itself well to welcoming projects aimed at promoting powerful and inspirational messages from brands with which we inevitably share values , inspirations and propensities".
In relation to the partners you are already talking to, how many other spaces are left available for renting?
Valeriano Antonioli: "All the available spaces have been allocated at the moment".
What was the total value of the investment?
Valeriano Antonioli: "Our investment of time was nine 'priceless' years".
How is the idea of luxury of the Lungarno Collection expressed in Milan? Would your interpretation have been different if the reference city had been another?
Valeriano Antonioli: "Portrait is the brand we created in 2013 and with which we want to grow.
And each Portrait project cannot but be different from the other precisely because it is placed in a different context, of which it becomes part and interpreter at the same time becoming its portrait.
The Portrait Milano wants to make a new elegant and historic stage available to the Milanese (and not) on which to stage the dynamism and creativity of Milan.
The similarities with the other Portraits are certainly in this same intention and attitude, as well as in the style of hospitality that we bring everywhere, strengthened by a human element, always very present, attentive and prepared. And all around: beauty, breathtaking views and timeless Italian style".
Looking at the Lungarno Collection development plan, how will you intercept other locations?
Valeriano Antonioli: "In the development of our Portrait brand, special and unique destinations cannot be missing, which stand out for their beauty and centrality.
Each Portrait hotel enjoys incredible views over the city.
The Portrait Roma overlooks the Spanish Steps, the Portrait Firenze overlooks the Pontevecchio and the Potrait Milano is located inside a monument ( one of the oldest archiepiscopal seminaries in the world) which houses the only square in the Milan quadrilateral.
Our development for the moment is still anchored to Italian cities and localities, but we also keep an eye on European cities".
From your point of view, can Portrait Milano be assimilated to a phenomenon of custom or trend?
Cristina Fogliatto: "Portrait Milano is a project to be experienced and visited. Certainly – thanks to a reborn need for physicality originating from the pandemic – today the desire to be present, see with one's own eyes, touch with hand, get excited, post, generate hype.
And this is certainly a customary phenomenon that affects both the retail experience, the food experience or the cultural one.
It is by virtue of this that boutiques are now asked to be the driving force behind new initiatives. The store must go beyond the concept of a store, represent a creative hub, a concrete meeting point for a community that can be formed along infinite paths, almost always digital, from social media to the metaverse... this is what which Antonia works here at Portrait Milano.
The importance of the physical place also affects restaurants, perfect places to experience the conviviality dearest to us Italians, the one around the table.
And in this, the format of 10_11 (Ten Eleven), for example, takes its inspiration from family conviviality, made up of sharing and authentic flavours, present in the memory of all of us. Flavors that mix with atmosphere, casual but attentive service, to the inclusive but at the same time unique destination of a square reopened to the city.
Four months after the opening, how are the Milanese (and non-Milanese) experiencing the Portrait Milano destination? What are the most appreciated and sought-after activities?
Valeriano Antonioli: "The Milanese have welcomed Portrait Milano in the best possible way: they are learning to choose it as the place of choice for their moments of life with the variety of its restaurants, bar, garden, as well as its large seventeenth-century portico, which also offers shopping experiences.
Surely the aspect of conviviality at the table with quality meeting points at all times of the day represents a new attraction for this corner of Milan, historically more dedicated to shopping.
The project will see its perfect fit this summer with the arrival of the Longevity Suite, with its universe of well-being that we are confident will conquer everyone".