Hotel Excelsior Gallia review: A well deserved five stars!

excelsior-hotel-gallia-maserati-car-serviceI often find the hotel rating system is a little too generous in giving out stars, but in the case of the Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan 5 stars simply is not enough.  From the ambiance, to the rooms, to the car service, to the bar, my experience at this hotel was bar none my favorite.  Located directly across from the central train station in Milan the hotel was a welcome change from the days of movement from my cruise.  From its original construction in 1932 the hotel brings sophistication and luxury and once you step in the doors the recent renovation brings a sleek futuristic appeal to the hotel.

gallia-front-entrance rooftop-bar1  I frequent nice hotels often so despite the beautiful aesthetics of the exterior the hotel did not truly have me hooked until I stepped in the door. The beautiful scent of linen struck me as I walked in to be greeted by welcoming faces and from there I was in love.  The hallways and staircase carry the balance of old and new luxury all throughout the hotel.  With luxurious beds and posh bathrooms if you just stayed tucked away in your room chances are you would be a happy camper.

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hotel-excelsior-gallia-bartenders hotel-excelsior-gallia-bar-snacks-2 hotel-excelsior-gallia-bar-bites excelsior-hotel-gallia-whiskey-tastingIf being on the move is more your speed the hotel again has just what you need both inside the hotel and around Milan. As always, on the move is my first choice so we ran down to a very helpful concierge who also clued me into one of the best hotel perks I’ve ever had… local car service in a Maserati.  This alone made my daughters trip as well cruised down the Milan streets heading to Duomo.  Even better you can also get them to pick you up before 8 pm so our rides were set.  As we ended our day on the streets of Milan we found the surprises for the hotel did not stop there.  With a beautiful pool and gym to greet us through the spa the kids had a chance to relax and enjoy as well.  My night continued on at their bar.  Located on the top of the hotel I met people from Milan, London and even the US who came to enjoy the libations, incredible view, great music and hot bartenders!  As I speak bartender fluently my night ended with a steady stream of complimentary snacks, a small whiskey challenge and joining in on a bachelorette party’s request to hear “It’s Raining Men”.  All and all and extraordinary stay at an extraordinary hotel.

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Making the most of Milan

duomo-1After a week at sea, there is nothing like coming back to land again, and if that land is Milan you are especially lucky. After a wonderful seven day cruise, a train ride back from Genova, and dizzying direction to our hotel we wind up in Milan and quickly recover to hit the streets.  After all the work to research my cruise destinations I was on the short end side of knowledge when it came to what to do in Milan.  Luckily my hotel was extraordinary and I was able to quickly learn that Duomo was the place to visit when in Milan.  With that the hotel car whisked us away to the Duomo area, where I quickly could see I would be in trouble if I did not keep myself busy with all of the shopping options that surrounded me at every corner.

galleria-vittorio-emanuele-7galleria-vittorio-emanuele-1The Duomo pavilion is a huge concourse of shopping, churches, restaurants and museums that attract thousands of international tourist each year. The first stop for us was the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.  While the beautiful open air pavilion was full of stores I had to swear off due to a week of too much fun on vacation, the plaza easily lured us to some great eats as the smell of genuine Italian cuisine whiffed passed our noses.  We grabbed a seat in the covered patio that allowed me to do two of my favorite things, eat and people watch.  With pizza, pasta, fresh bread and wine on deck I was in heaven as I watched the hustle and bustle of the stylish visitors on deck.

 

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da-vinci-museum da-vinci-museum-2As I was still trying to get my footing on the city map after lunch I wandered in the opposite direction of Duomo and right into a surprise highlight for my trip… the Leonardo Da Vinci museum. While he may be renowned as an artist, Da Vinci was a true renaissance man, conquering everything from flying machines to the Last Supper.  The museum is a great fit for the family as many of his drawings have been mocked up so you can see what the machine designs would be.  From submarines to war machines this museum had it all.  On top of that given the painting the Last Supper is a hard ticket to get your hands on, you can check out a 3D replica of the painting at the museum and hear the interesting backstory behind the masterpiece.  This museum was so amazing I actually spent a little too long and had to hurry out to catch the real purpose of my outing…Duomo Cathedral.

duomo-front duomo-side duomo-square duomo-catacombs duomo-cathedralThe majestic exterior of the church wets your palette to the treasures that lie within, under and even on top of the church.  I wanted a taste of it all so I brought a full tour ticket with elevator access for the Duomo rooftop.  After a quick tour of the church that still has mass throughout the day and different access for church goers, we headed down to the catacombs.  This excavated part of the church guides you through the burial area for many thousands of years ago.  With a mix of eerily creepy and unarguably interesting information it is a great place for your horror and history buff alike.

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Next up was the Duomo rooftops. Upon approach with our lift tickets we were informed that the stroller was not allowed.  After some convincing I got a pass but please note if walking is an issue the rooftops are a hard place to navigate.  The walkway takes you around the Duomo rooftop and even allows you to walk on the granite of the rooftop in some places.  The scene is awe inspiring.  It is truly a 360 degree view of the city and I great opportunity to appreciate craftsmanship and architecture from hundreds of years before.  That being said climbing up and down all of that area with a heavy baby and a car seat is beyond a challenge.  In an attempt to ease the pain in my arms we bolted for the stairs before making it back to the elevator. Unfortunately that only ended my day with both my arms and legs in agony, but my heart and mind were all in on this amazing peak into Milan.