Milan may be Italy's industrial powerhouse, a fashion and business capital that's better known for work than play. Whatever brings you to town, Chateau Monfort will whisk you through the looking glass to a charmed land of Art Nouveau architecture, woodland creatures and pretty pastels.
I checked into Chateau Monfort the day of the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle. Driving into Milan, I was reading stories about Meghan's dress and the feminist statement she made by walking into St George's Chapel solo.
I was imagining what it might be to be a strong and independent modern princess when we pulled up to the valet just off Piazza Tricolore. Truth be told, striding into the lobby at Chateau Monfort was like stepping into my very own fairytale. Milanese architect Paolo Mezzanotte, who also built the historic headquarters of the Milan Stock Exchange, designed the residential building in the early 20th century and a hundred years later it's one of the most intimate luxury hotels in the city.
It's rare to find Relais & Chateaux properties in big cities, as many of the most successful city hotels are grandiose and more corporate than befits the Relais ethos. Here though, it's possible to retreat from the traffic, rain and noise outside, ensconced in your own Neo-Romantic castle.
The decor is dainty and delightful, girly but not gaudy. Floral motifs abound, from the porcelain plates on the dining room wall to whimsical embellishments on my full-length mirror. The 77 guest rooms and suites are all so comfortable, I wouldn't mind pulling a Sleeping Beauty and just staying in bed all day waiting for a kiss from Prince Charming. Five one-of-a-kind suites and five more junior suites are inspired by famous ballets and operas, from Verdi's La Traviata and Puccini's Turandot to Prokofiev's Cinderella.
My “Del Viaggiatore” deluxe room paid homage to the Belle Époque, with a desk built into antique steamer trunks alluding to the thrill of distant travels. Simple wooden floors and relaxing green and grey hues made the room feel clean and cozy. Most of all, I appreciated the complimentary snacks and drinks in the minibar, including chocolate truffles from Eataly and half bottles of Chianti Classico and Alto Adige wines.
I refrained from overindulging though, since I didn't want to spoil my dinner at Rubacuori Restaurant downstairs. Just past the glass dome and white baby grand piano of the lobby lounge bar is a world of plush pastels and heart-shaped chair backs. The maître overheard me recalling a previous trip to Italy, when I had the pleasure of visiting Mazzorbo and Burano in the Venetian Lagoon and trying Venissa, a wine made with grapes from a walled vineyard at a medieval monastery. As if by magic, he unearthed a bottle of the 2011 vintage – a rare find that's not even on the restaurant wine list – so that my friend could taste the Dorona di Venezia grape. Less than 4,000 bottles are produced each year and I was touched that the Rubacuori team was willing to share with us. The lush golden wine's salinity and stonefruit notes plus velvety body made for a remarkable pairing with the poached egg and asparagus over grilled polenta with caviar from Lake Como.