MILAN — After a few years of behind-the-scenes work, a hidden landmark of the city whose first construction harks back to 1564 will soon become a hot-ticket hospitality and retail destination in town, courtesy of the Ferragamo family.
The fashion entrepreneurs, who successfully manage a hospitality business under the Lungarno Collection moniker, have taken their Portrait formula from Rome and Florence to Italy’s fashion capital. Maximilian Davis, creative director of the Ferragamo fashion brand, last month chose to show his first collection in the courtyard of the venue.
In the pipeline since 2013, when Lungarno Collection was established, plans for a revamp of the 30,140-square-foot space, a former archbishop’s seminary until 2002, but also a library, prison and hospital across the centuries, were teased in late 2018, but neared completion only this year.
The complex, located at the heart of Milan’s Golden Triangle luxury shopping district, is due to open on Dec. 1, hosting a luxury Portrait hotel, retail spaces and restaurants overlooking the colonnaded courtyard that connects Corso Venezia with nearby Via Sant’Andrea.
“It’s an ambitious and complex project which we have been working on for several years. I’m extremely proud to be given a chance to add a new important chapter of this 500-year history,” said Lungarno Collection president Leonardo Ferragamo, visibly emotional, during a press conference Wednesday to unveil the space.
“It’s about giving it back to the city of Milan…with the goal and ambition to turn it into an open place, so that everybody, citizens and anyone who loves the city, can enjoy it,” he added.
Ferragamo dodged questions about the investment, saying he has yet to “take stock of expenses” given the last mile until the opening in December will include small but expensive details to adjust.
Valeriano Antonioli, chief executive officer of the Ferragamos’ hospitality business, shared the president’s emotion. “I felt like a kid unwrapping presents on Christmas,” the executive said about first visiting the place, which was unlikely to be sold or leased, not to mention offered for a hospitality and retail project.
After negotiations with Milan’s municipality, the local curia and the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, renovation works were handed to architect Michele De Lucchi, as reported. He was tasked with revamping the storied landmark, preserving its historical beauty.
He described the project as challenging in that it required all architectural layers added over the centuries be preserved and exalted, from the 16th-century colonnade to the Baroque-era portal conceived by architect Francesco Maria Richini to the external facades, whose renovation in the ’70s was reportedly attributed to Piero Portaluppi.
De Lucchi touted the Ferragamos’ ambition to return the space, approximately the same size as neighboring San Babila square, to the city.
“Whenever I sketched this place, I’d always draw groups of people crossing the square to enjoy contemporary life in an ancient place,” De Lucchi said in video broadcast at the press conference.
The luxury Portrait Milano hotel is Lungarno Collection’s jewel in the crown for the project. The three-story hotel will accommodate 73 rooms, including 20 suites. On the first floor, each room opens up on the colonnaded passageway where the hotel will install private outdoor living spaces.
Revamped by the hospitality group’s go-to architect Michele Bonan, the hotel’s interior is inspired by midcentury design, a Millennial favorite, with wainscoting, light-colored walnut wood, rattan panels, larch wood flooring, as well as nods to Italian know-how and style, with leather handles and the color palette of greens and reds, as often seen in Milan apartments.
“Portrait as a brand is characterized by our ambition to deliver and interpret depictions of the cities where we are based and blend it with the portraits of the Italian and international clients enjoying the space,” said CEO Antonioli.
The complex’s ground floor overlooking the courtyard is to welcome retail and dining spaces – including a casual and fine dining restaurant as part of the hotel.
Taking over the courtyard’s entire west wing, hip Milan retailer Antonia is opening its second Milan outpost inside the Portrait complex, with around 8,000 square feet in retail space. This confirms a 2018 report in WWD about the retailer investing in the project.
Founder Antonia Giacinti, who will continue to operate her banner in the arty Brera district, said: “Although everybody else is decamping elsewhere, outside Italy, we’ve always been in the city, Milan is our elsewhere.”
The concept store is set to carry a mix of established designers and new names for men and women, five branded concept corners in rotation and a sneaker space.
“It’s poised to become the quadrilateral of talents, discovery and emotions. It’s a place where we aim to nurture new ideas and projects, where even established [fashion] brands can express nuances they usually are unable to via their flagship stores,” Giacinti said.
The east wing will be dedicated to Beefbar’s fine dining experience, with a restaurant and cocktail bar. The Monte Carlo-based Giraudi Group which operates 20 Beefbar banners across Paris, Tulum, Dubai, Mykonos and Hong Kong, is taking its beef-leaning formula to Milan inside a ’50s-inspired space, with a bespoke menu mindful of the city’s culinary traditions.
“Beefbar is an Italian ‘brand’ that never really set foot in the country,” said Riccardo Giraudi, founder and CEO of the group. “It’s going to be a tailored experience, adapted to the identity of the place…when I first visited it I told myself I just had to open a unit here,” he said.
Ferragamo’s daughter Maria Sole’s jewelry brand, So-le Studio, and biohacking and antiage city clinic The Longevity Suite will complement Portrait’s offering, opening locations in the courtyard and the basement, respectively. The latter is due to open in spring 2023, while the young Ferragamo is debuting her first retail space in December.