The Italians love being helpful. Even if you are only asking for street directions, you’ll end up listening to all possible options, which one the locals would take and precisely why. In the end, one thing is for sure, you’ll be changing your initial destination as their suggestion will always be better than yours! Well, what can you do… passionate, strong-minded and original, Italians are like this! After all that’s why they’re so much fun. But be careful! There are certain things you’d better be conscious about when visiting Italy!
Here’s a list of DON’Ts that’ll guarantee you a great holiday in Italy this year.
In this weekly series, we scour the world in search of the most weird and wonderful hotels. From cave hotels to converted prisons, capsule pods to underwater guestrooms, you can expect only the unexpected.
What’s the gimmick? Maison Moschino is the converted terminus building of a neoclassical railway station opened in central Milan in 1840. Its exterior façade, the original Viale Monte Grappa 12, retains the station’s original grandeur. But inside, the bustling commuters and handkerchief-waving lovers have vanished and a new world has been created. Adding 65 contemporary hotel rooms and suites across four floors, the building has been completely reinterpreted in a quirky, yet elegant style that extends the Moschino brand. Inspired by a visionary and contemporary fairy tale theme, the rooms are sensuous visions of surreal diversity. Akin to falling down a rabbit hole or opening a wardrobe into another world, entering the Maison Moschino is an unforgettable experience.
Why stay? If you’ve ever wanted to live inside a fairytale then this is the hotel for you. Maison Moschino offers an alternative to the mundanities of real life, creating a world built by imagination and surrealism. From the lamp in the shape of one of Moschino’s dresses, to ivy covered wallpaper and bedspreads made from red petals, Moschino has applied its fashion flair to the hotel industry, and pioneered a new era in hospitality. While mass-tourism destinations promote only quantity and mediocrity, Maison Moschino has built a space where fairy tales, come to three-dimensional life.
The Wow Factor: Alice’s Room, Life Is a Bed of Roses, Little Red Riding Hood, The Forest and Gold are just some of the names of Maison Moschino’s impressive rooms. Arranged in 16 different designs, one room sees rose petals dripping down from the lights to cover the bed, while in another, guests sleep upon an enormous ballgown that flows down from the bed board. In The Forest room, even the bed posts are made from mystical looking trees, echoing the enchanted forests of fairytales. The hotel also features an ART SPA with beauty and wellness treatments from PEVONIA and a gym with equipment by Technogym.
The Maison Moschino is located in a vibrant district in central Milan close to Corso Como and Corso Garibaldi. The hotel is within easy reach of Milan’s most famous landmarks including the Santa Maria Delle Grazie, the Pinacoteca di Brera and Pinacoteca Ambrosina art galleries and the Royal Palace. The hotel is a five minute walk by foot to the Garibaldi train station and underground. Prices start at £141 per room a night.
It takes a special kind of tourist, one with a keen eye, a patient disposition and a thorough approach to research (not to mention an iPhone…), to visit a city and discover the gems that even its locals have no idea about. Anyone can stumble out of the tube at Knightsbridge and find themselves in Harrods and even my grandmother wouldn’t be too hard-pressed to locate one of the better boutiques on the Champs Elysees, but the real challenge, the one that may ultimately reward months of MI6-style investigations with a pair of one-off Chanel sandals, requires a far keener tourist.
Before you read on, be warned. This blog post is not for the faint-hearted, the sun-seeker or the “let’s just have a MacDonalds”-er, this is for the shopper – the real shopper. While the list may be subject to add-ons or removals and is far from a comprehensive European shopping guide, I believe it contains some of the best-kept secrets of my own European travel experiences. Consider it a work in progress and feel free to reveal your own hidden treasure coves. Enjoy…
As Scandinavia is fast becoming the centre of cool, it is no surprise that first on the list is the Acne Archive store in Copenhagen. Archive is an Acne outlet store, selling a collection of classics by the offbeat Swedish foursome, as well as some recycled pieces from catwalks and samples. With 50% off all year round and new stock coming every week, it’s actually cheaper for Acne-lovers to fly over to Denmark for their new season wardrobes than it is to purchase the collections full price in their own country.
Following the philosophy, ‘one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure’, Bohbo, a contemporary second-hand store in Athens, is an Aladdin’s cave of pristine Chanel, rare Marc Jacobs and well-selected vintage pieces. New items arrive daily, mostly donated from the wealthy, well-heeled women of the nearby Kolonaki neighbourhood, so the choice is continually diverse and fresh, with something on offer for everybody. Expect to find a wide range of unusual pieces alongside fashion classics such as Balenciaga motorcycle handbags and unworn Louboutins. On a recent excavation, I picked up a pair of cork-heeled Chanel Mary-Janes for just €120.
A renowned spot for stylists seeking retro designer looks, Bang Bang Clothing Exchange offers a dream mix of impeccably kept ‘I want you’ labels, excellent quality vintage and rare pieces from local designers. A little like New York’s Buffalo Exchange, Bang Bang also allows you to take your own unwanted clothing (as long as it reaches the standard of their stock) and exchange it for others within their store. However, unlike Buffalo, Bang Bang is extremely selective in its stock, meaning only the most pristine and fabulous clothing will be accepted.
With so many interesting and unique stores flooding through Berlin at present, it’s impossible to choose just one. However, Darklands, situated in the arty area around Heidestrasse, north of Berlin’s main station, has really thrown itself to the forefront. Currently offering an impressive selection of avant-garde menswear, the shop is nomadic, moving every 15 months or so to a new location in a new area in order to shake off those shoppers whose noses are perpetually stuck into the air (buyers, stylists, anyone who works at Net-a-Porter – this means you). For this reason, the interior of their third instalment (Darklands 3.0) is the antithesis of a high-fashion world; expect life-sized dolls hanging from the ceiling, unsurprisingly dark clobber embellishing the walls, including coveted designer brands such as Damir Doma and Christian Poell and exposed lighting fixtures, all housed within what used to be non-descript, rough warehouse.
Stepping into Milan’s Cavalli e Nastri is like walking into some wealthy, old lady’s very well-organized designer closet. The petite shop, situated close to Moschino and Armani houses some of the most pristine vintage finery you’ll ever be so lucky to lay eyes upon. Pieces can date back to the late 1800s, but equally may include a 1950s organza prom dress or a pristine beaded flapper, hanging neatly beside a quality ’70s Pucci print. There is row upon row of glass drawers containing colourful stone brooches, earrings, and costume jewellery and a serious handbag collection (think Hermès, Dior, Chanel) in the rear room.