There is just something about the Italian language that is just so endearing ‘ Bella’ ‘Ciao ‘ Buongiorno’ and of course Gucci ,Dolce & Gabana, Versace, Bulgari, Ferrari . The way these words just roll of the tongue so easily so comfortably. In brief what is there no to love about Italy? Great scenery fabulous fashion yummy food and wow design.
Milan is not the prettiest city in Italy but it does have a great Opera House La Scala and of course Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting ‘the Last supper’ and its worth having a private guide for the latter as you get miss all the queues . I personally love Opera but even if you don’t its really worth going at least once to La Scala but make sure you book as tickets are almost impossible to get on the spot. Milan and fashion are inextricably intertwined. Its where all the major Italian fashion houses have Show rooms and where the fashion shows are held .
Even if you buy nothing just walking around looking at the windows is an eye opener. One of my favourite designers is Giambattista Valli worn so well by Amal Alamuddin the well known human rights lawyer married to the rather famous George Clooney. Amal is simply stunningly stylish. She is just one of these women who gets it right every time. But I was not here for shopping but to meet up with Carlo Rampazzi ‘s design team and eat Osteria Francescana in Modena.
First things first. I had fallen in love with Carlo’s work when I came across it the Hotel Bulow Palais in Dresden, Germany and was determined to go and see their work shop. Second but just as important I wanted to eat at Massimo Botarras’ Osteria Francescana which has recently been voted the number one restaurant in the world.
In a perfect world I would have preferred to arrive in my own private Jet to Milan, dripping in Jewellery al la Kim Kardashian, with a waiting Limo. Alas I don’t have a private plane and there was no limo. I had to do with British Airways then a taxi to The Armani Hotel in Milan!
I have to confess I am not an Armani fan fashion wise simply because I don’t have a long lean body that looks great in his designs but but I loved the hotel right in the centre of the city with of all the best designer shopping you can dream or fantasise about at your doorstep.
If you love Armani you will love the rooms as they are very typical of the Armani style pared down neutral colors. Everything is high tech operated by sleek iPads which is fun but again annoying on a repetitive basis particularly if you are tech wimp which I am. I hated all the gadget light switches as I had no clue how to operate them and I was fumbling around at night but if you are a techi I guess this would be wonderland!
One of my absolute musts is a wonderful bathroom and I am a sucker for all the lotions and potions that are provided but with my typical Arab hair which frizzes I need to have a hair conditioner and this was not provided and I didn’t like that they had an all in one shampoo and shower gel but loved their q tips which are on a long black stick. Very cool. One of the things that has always puzzled me in hotels is that they rarely cater for women and their needs. Why is it that they rarely have a dressing table so that you can sit and do your make up? I ended up on the floor in the bedroom where they had this huge mirror drying my hair and putting my make up on. It just annoys me. Anyway enough grumpiness as really everything else was wonderful and the concierge service was spot on save for their restaurant recommendations. A bit too generic.
A quick call to Carlos Rampazzi’s office and they arranged a car to pick us up and take us to their workshop outside Milan. I had dragged my unwilling husband promising him it we would only be an hour to look at things. Ha ha. Several hours later we were still there. Their working is simply amazing. Its unique individual and exquisite. Pieces are made to your liking and I fell in love with their work and their originality in how they approach design. They are truly pieces of art.
They are far too discreet to say who their clients are but its safe to say it’s the mega stylish international set with mega budgets.
My next mission was to go to Modena specifically to eat at the 3 Michelin star restaurant Osteria Francescana. Its hugely popular and virtually impossible to get a table. You have to call at a certain time on certain days but as I am relentless by nature particularly when it comes to food I persevered until one was duly booked.
Sometimes there really are no words that justify an experience and this was one of them. I like my food and sadly it shows. There is always a frantic diet following my trips overseas as we always make a point of dining lunching breakfasting well as I take it that we are on holiday and we should eat. I am lucky in that we travel almost all the time and we go to some amazing restaurants so sometimes it feels as if I am on a constant food deprivation programme. My best friends clothes and foods really don’t like each other. And its an ongoing battle . Food won at Osteria Franescana. It is just one of those places that though fine dining its real food rather than over plated design food. Chef Massimo Bottura is passionate about food and he set up this restaurant with his American wife Laura.
The whole experience is beyond just merely show. Its food that is delicious to eat as well as look at which in some of the Michelin restaurants is not always the case.
We arrived at the restaurant early but we were too shy to walk in which is just so not like me. It has a discreet sign and if you didn’t know about it you wouldn’t think it was a restaurant. The first thing you notice is some edgy contemporary art and a zillion members of staff formally attired, greeting you. We were led into a small cool dinning room which only has 6 tables. A very well chilled glass of champagne duly arrived followed by a divine selection of warm freshly bread. You can order A La Carte which we did or have one of the 2 tasting menus Sensations which is seasonal or Evolution which celebrates the food of the region Emilia-Romagana. The Maitre D took his time to explain everything which to me is part of the experience. We had Razor clams and friends which was pure taste and art. The actual shell of the clam was not real but made from edible material but looked exactly like a real shell. This was deliciously stuffed with shell fish. I also had the Ambrosia of foi gras with berries that was mind blowing. It was drizzled with their own aged balsamic vinegar that was sublime. I can still taste the berries filled with the fois gras. The sensation was cool explosive as well as memorable. This is Italy so I had to have pasta Bolognaise which may seem an odd choice in 3star Michelin restaurant but Massimo has made this dish in a magnificent way using all the freshest ingredients adding a twist.
Massimo ‘s passion about food is adopted by all the staff. They so want you to enjoy both the experience and the food. They want you to relax and savour their ravioli filled with black truffles and linger over the lobster with two different sauces. Massimo himself comes out of the kitchen and checks on you at regular intervals. If I sound over effusive its because there are simply no words in my dictionary that can describe sufficiently the sublimness of this place. His approach is taking the best absolute ingredients re-interpreting them and presenting them in an artistic way that blows your mind away. I have been to so so many of the top restaurant in the world and I am not easily impressed but this a truly exceptional place. Add to this the wonderful work that Massimo does with his non profit organisation Food and Soul to prevent hunger and food wastage and you feel that somehow you are part of his ethos.
We left four hours after we came in considerably poorer but a great deal happier.
We had decided to stay in Modena for the night rather than drive back to Milan . We booked in a tiny little boutique hotel just round the corner in the historic part of Modena called Salloto Del Arti. You either love this type of boutique hotel or not. I just happen to like quirky as long as its good. You enter through these massive doors that take you to a courtyard where there is an apartment building. A lift takes you to the second floor where you are greeted by lit candles and an informal reception area. Its like being in someone’s house rather than a hotel . It suited us perfectly because it was so near the restaurant.
We had what I would designate as a large room but what is referred to as a suite. High ceilings fun bright curtains swirly fabric over the four poster Chic and cheap rather than sumptuous luxury. Very well equipped large bathroom with a great shower. The downside for me is and it really is a petty thing is I like my curtains shutters closed for the night. And you couldn’t do that here. We had breakfast in the dining room which was really pretty and I would stay again but not more than a night and only to dine at Osteria Francescana
I hated to say goodbye to Italy but I am looking forward to my next adventure so Caio till next time!