Welcome to Checking In, a review series in which our editors and contributors rate the best new (and revamped) luxury hotels based on a rigorous—and occasionally tongue in cheek—10-point system: Each question answered “yes” gets one point. Will room service bring you caviar? Does your suite have its own butler? Does the bathroom have a bidet? Find out below.
What’s the deal? Overshadowed by the city’s flashier luxury offerings—the Armani, Bulgari, Mandarin Oriental, and the new Portrait Milano—Casa Baglioni is a very good fit if you want an intimate, discrete place to stay that’s still big on decorative arts.
Design chops: Located on the eastern end of the charming Brera neighborhood, close to the city’s famed fashion quadrilateral, the hotel is tucked away in an early 20th-century palazzo that until recently was the showroom and offices of designer Philipp Plein. It’s the latest addition to the Baglioni hotel chain and a homecoming for architect Francesco Spagnulo, the Milan native who has designed the company’s eight other properties. Spagnulo studded the six-floor hotel with 1960s and ’70s Milan design references, such as Nanda Vigo–inspired rugs, Ugo Mulas photographs and fabrics by revered Italian upholsterers Rubelli and Dedar Milano. Spagnulo also enlisted Gala Rotelli, a young Milanese artist whose ceramic and blown glass vases and objets punctuate the rooms, suites and handsome restaurant, led by Michelin-starred chef Claudio Sadler.
The best room: Even the smallest room category feels gracious (check out the drop down walnut wood luggage racks), but to experience Milan in its full glory, book the Brera Presidential Suite. At 1,216 square feet, the suite includes a 280-square-foot jasmine-festooned private terrace and floor-to-ceiling windows that make the space exceptionally luminous.
Did they greet you by name at check-in? Yes, and in keeping with the “casa” ethos, there is no front desk. You simply sit on the Rubelli-upholstered chairs or the Gio Ponti divan in the lobby, while staff with iPads do a quick and easy check in.
Was a welcome drink ready and waiting when you arrived? (Bonus point if it wasn’t just fruit juice.) Yes. Staff offered coffee, tea or water in the sitting room (salotto) adjacent to the lobby. After a delayed red eye flight, the caffe macchiato tasted like salvation.
Is there a private butler for every room? No butlers, but general manager Lorenzo Soleri and front of house manager Gisella Cirmi are congenial and seemingly ever-present in the lobby, ready to book last minute tickets to La Scala, suggest favorite boutiques and snag coveted restaurant reservations. They also offer exclusive Milanese experiences, from an art historian-led Gio Ponti tour to a partnership with beloved Italian haberdasher Borsalino, which sends a representative to your room so you can custom design a hat.
Is the sheet thread count higher than 300? No. The sheets, by Northern Italian brand Pedersoli Casa, are crisp, cool and exactly 300 thread count. Plush Dedar Milano runners dress the beds.
Is there a heated floor in the bathroom? What about a bidet?Bathroom floors are heated, and a bidet, and toilet, are tucked behind a Spagnulo-designed glass door. My freestanding ovoid bathtub, designed by Zucchetti Kos, flanked the window, providing an exceptional view of terra-cotta rooftops and carefully planted terraces from neighboring upscale apartment buildings.
Are the toiletries full-sized? Yes and no. Casa Baglioni uses Della Luna, a Venetian beauty brand, and the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash come in travel-sized tubes, but the liquid soap and moisturizer sit in full-sized pump bottles on the double sink.
Is there a private pool for the room’s exclusive use? How are the spa and gym? There is no swimming pool, just a small (645 square-foot) gym with Technogym equipment, on the basement level. Suites also include an in-room Technogym Case Kit with an exercise mat, two kinds of resistance bands, a mobility ball and a foam roller. For spa services, the concierge books appointments at the nearby Palazzo Parigi and Armani/SPA.
Do you want to spend Friday night in the lobby bar? The lobby, with original art from Italian artists such as Lucio Fontana, Fausto Melotti, and Agostino Bonalumi, is certainly worth a visit. I wouldn’t want to spend an entire night there, but the adjacent jewel box sitting room would be a lovely place to meet friends for a negroni and maybe some snacks from chef Sadler.
Is there caviar on the room service menu? If so, what kind? No caviar, and the 24-hour room service menu is fairly limited, with just a few choices such as pasta al pomodoro, a caprese salad and a club sandwich. A better bit: Skip room service dinner but use it in the morning for the gorgeous cappuccino, presented on a silver tray and flanked by cookies.
Would you buy the hotel if you could? Probably not, as I’m a swimmer and would only buy a hotel with a pool, but I would certainly count myself fortunate to stay again as a guest.
1-3: Fire your travel agent if they suggest you stay here.
4-6: Solid if you’re in a pinch—but only if you’re in a pinch.
7-8: Very good. We’d stay here again and recommend it without qualms.
9-10: Forget booking a week. When can we move in permanently?