MILAN, Jan 10 — Milan’s luxury hotels are serious — sprawling, grand venues that can feel a tad stuffy and outdated. But two new hotels are catching up to the city’s fashion-forward status. Fifty House and Hotel Viu are fun, playful, and creatively designed and attract a new generation of posh travellers. Here’s how they compare.
Fifty House: Once a boarding school, the 50-room Fifty House is now a decidedly modern boutique hotel. The lobby is outfitted with jewel-toned Hollywood Regency-style velvet furniture, plus a fireplace — basically your ideal living room. But the modern art is distracting; it’s the work of one artist, Bisha, and includes a painting of a Stormtrooper imagined as Raphael’s La velata and Salvador Dali’s head floating inside a mason jar. It tips an otherwise lovely space into garish territory.
Hotel Viu: This newcomer has some of the obvious, current-day trappings of a hip hotel: Stark, dark wood, mixed metals, mostly gray furniture with the pop of a green couch. It’s the perfect canvas for a minimalist Instagram post, which is exactly the hotel’s intention. It’s located in the up-and-coming Porta Volta neighbourhood, right between Chinatown and funky Isola, and a dramatic vertical garden hangs off the side of the glassy, 124-room structure, while the lobby is filled with tall, dramatic orchids. Viu claims the only rooftop pool in the city — fortunately, it’s more serene than sceney.
Staying the night
Fifty House: The rooms lack both the romance and creativity found in the hotel’s communal spaces, coming off as sterile and half-decorated, like a pre-furnished apartment rental. The bathroom is tiny; there’s no space to unpack toiletries, though there are Malin+Goetz essentials. Wi-fi is free but spotty. It takes significant time and effort to turn on the lights, and even then, the room’s too dark. If you plan to spend time in your room, book the 1,600-square-foot roof garden penthouse, with two bedrooms and plenty of natural light; otherwise, take comfort in the fact that there are elegant business-meeting rooms and plenty of communal spaces to work in, alongside an espresso or negroni.
Hotel Viu: Viu’s ultra-modern rooms are simple but smartly designed. You can control your entire space’s lighting from a bedside switch. Even the smallest rooms offer both a rainfall shower and bathtub, charging outlets are plentiful, and a smart TV connects to the internet. Plus, the bathrobes are exceedingly fluffy, and you’ll find a chocolate chip cookie on your bed after turndown service.
Grabbing a bite
Fifty House: The swanky lounge bar leads into a well-manicured courtyard garden; it’s a beautiful place to have drinks or dine. For breakfast, Fifty House offers a complimentary, if basic, buffet: Scrambled eggs, bacon, cereal. For more involved meals, one of the city’s best restaurants, Giacomo Bistrot, is one block away.
Hotel Viu: Michelin-starred chef Giancarlo Morelli presides over the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, turning out avant garde dishes such as veal tongue carpaccio with pineapple-sage extract, available à la carte and via tasting menus (US$115 to US$169 or RM461 to RM678). Reserve the charming chef’s table, styled after an Italian country kitchen. Morelli also oversees Bulk, a more casual bar serving such classic dishes as spaghetti carbonara and veal Milanese. Breakfast is served on the roof with a quick American buffet option at €30 (RM144) or such made-to-order dishes as scrambled eggs with truffles. If you sleep through that, an impressive all-day pool menu awaits; the salmon tartare is a standout.
Fifty House: The hotel does succeed in functioning like a house. In the small lobby, guests cheerfully gather around the fireplace to read and drink wine. One even felt comfortable enough to order pizza from a nearby restaurant.
Hotel Viu: Viu’s ground-floor bar, Bulk, stays open until 2am on weekends (and 1am on weeknights). While the focus on mixology feels dated (cocktail ingredients include beetroot jam and blueberry ice), it’s nice that there’s a built-in social scene in an otherwise quiet neighbourhood. While the bar usually has a refined, low-key temperament, there’s a DJ set on occasion.
Adding it all up
Fifty House: Customer service is inconsistent; the staff kindly accommodated an early check-in and assisted with reservations, but despite requests, never fixed a sink with a faulty drain. Still, the location is ideal — a quiet, peaceful block that’s a 15-minute walk to the Duomo and luxury shops. Via Benvenuto Cellini, 14, from US$337 nightly.
Hotel Viu: The location is tough — a 30-minute walk from the city’s centre— but Viu is close to a train station and 10 Corso Como. The helpful concierge mitigates this inconvenience, offering hyper-specific recommendations tailored to your needs and coordinating affordable car services. With its rooftop pool, sauna, and ample restaurant options, Viu ends up feeling like a veritable oasis. You’ll have trouble leaving the property. Via Aristotile Fioravanti, 6, from US$252 nightly. — Bloomberg