Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele on May 18, 2020

MILANIn the same week Europe opens up its borders to 15 international countries, gradually lifting the travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rocco Forte Hotels revealed plans to open a new five-star hotel on Milan’s tony thoroughfare Via della Spiga under The Carlton Milano banner. This is the first hotel in the city for the luxury operator and is a sign of hope for Milan, whose tourism has been severely impacted by the health emergency.

Rocco Forte Hotels, which operates 13 units in key tourist destinations including Rome and Florence in Italy, as well as London, Berlin and St. Petersburg, among others, has struck a deal with Reale Immobili SpA, which owns the building housing the Baglioni Hotel Carlton. The latter is best known for its Baretto restaurant, a draw for fashion insiders and Milan’s financial honchos.

After a renovation, which is slated to start next year and is being spearheaded by interior designers Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeylen, the unit will include around 70 rooms and suites, a restaurant and a lounge bar, in addition to a wellness center and a rooftop bar. The two companies said the ground floor would house a shopping arcade with a number of stores from still undisclosed Made in Italy brands.

The opening of The Carlton Milano is scheduled for the beginning of 2023.

“Milan is a destination allowing ambitious exchanges with a range of different clients. The business and leisure segments are very promising, both with the locals and foreigners. We’re excited to bring our vision of luxury and quality here,” said Sir Rocco Forte, founder and chairman of the company he established with his sister Olga Polizzi in 1996.

Through the opening of the Milan unit, the company — which will also add two hotels in Shanghai and Palermo, Italy, next spring — will up its hotel count to 16.

“Our mission is to value and preserve the real estate of Reale Group, made of iconic and prestigious buildings,” noted Alberto Ramella, general manager of Reale Immobili SpA. “This intervention will offer to Milan the opportunity to increase its lodging count also in view of the 2026 Winter Olympics and the number of international events that animate the city each year and increasingly more frequently.”

Coinciding with the 2015 Universal Exposition, or “Expo,” Milan started enjoying a renaissance, becoming one of the key European destinations, drawing international tourists and teeming with events. The COVID-19 outbreak and the following travel bans and restrictions stalled the arrival of tourists, which, according to Italy’s National Institute for Statistics ISTAT, were expected to total 81 million in the March to May period prior to the pandemic.