Thu - November 17, 2016
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By Lauren Sheffield
Just Back From…Northern Italy
Trip Duration: 4 days
Flight Plan: I took a late night flight out of New York that had me stopping over in Frankfurt on my way to Bologna, a short car ride away from my first stop: Modena. I spent one night in Modena, one night in Trivero and my last two nights in Milan.
Where I Stayed: I spent my first night at the Hotel Canalgrande in Modena. Situated right in the heart of the quaint Italian city, the elevated decor made up of marble, ancient murals and gilded chandeliers transported me back in time and made me feel like I was staying in my own private art museum. One walk outside to the courtyard has you surrounded by orange hued walls and fruit trees where you can enjoy either a cappuccino or an aperitivo as you bask in the sun.
Courtesy Hotel Canalgrande
Courtesy Hotel Canalgrande
Night two was spent at Hotel Bucaneve Bielmonte in Trivero. A mountainside escape with views straight out of a fairytale, this lodge-like hotel is the perfect place to cozy up and remove yourself from the speed of a fast-paced city. Complete with crackling fires, a wrap-around patio to enjoy a post-dinner grappa and a buffet style breakfast where only the freshest of jams, croissants and hazelnut honey yogurts were on display, cabin living has never felt so chic.
Finally, I spent my last two nights at the Excelsior Hotel Gallia, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Milan. A posh hotel right next to Milano Centrale station, this was the ideal location to stay for sightseeing and experiencing the city for the first time–it's walking distance from some of the best downtown hotspots, fantastic trattorias and shopping excursions. The hotel bar on the top floor was also a great way to spend some downtime; it was beyond inspiring to watch all the well-heeled people of Milano spill out of the train station and out into the twinkling lights of a fashionable city.
Courtesy Excelsior Hotel Gallia
Best Thing I Ate: Being a superstar chef in Modena is no small feat; it's home to the top rated restaurant in the world, Osteria Francescana, and has been credited as a hub for Italian cuisine in both its traditional and updated interpretations. Luca Marchini stands as one of the most well revered chefs in the region, whose work epitomizes the cuisine of Modena's past and reinterprets it for the present and future. During my visit, we went to his Michelin-starred Ristorante Erba del Re, where we took a cooking class at the school he's opened next to the restaurant for everyone from aspiring chefs to the person attempting to gain a larger understanding of Modena's historic cuisine. While slow-roasted chicken and decadent mushroom risotto were all standouts on the menu, my favorite dish was by far the simplest: local Parmigiano Reggiano that melted in your mouth and went perfectly with a little Prosecco before our meal.
Best Hang Out Spot: During my day sightseeing in Milan, I spent a couple of hours walking around Sempione Park. Made up of sprawling greens situated against Castello Sforzesco, a stunning medieval castle, I felt like I was in the Central Park of Italy's fashion capital, watching the bikers, runners and picnic-goers enjoy the fall colors and brisk Italian air. For a leisurely daytime activity and the perfect place to people watch, a bench and a book within the sights of Sempione is all you need.
Best Daytime Activity: On my morning spent up in the mountains of Trivero, I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous landscape that has yet to be hit with snow and hike. Known for its ski runs and sweeping views, the peak at the top of Oasi Zegna truly took my breath away as I sat amongst the expansive Italian mountains. It was such a treat to take in these views with the fall foliage as their backdrop–in autumn, the winding mountain roads and trails are stunningly saturated with color rather than with the crisp whites and blues of the winter season.
Best Night Out: Dinner at Ristorante Ceresio 7 in Milan. Started by the DSquared2 duo, this uber-chic restaurant boasts craft cocktails and a modern take on quintessential Italian cuisine. Think mushrooms and Parmigiano with raspberries and almond purée and their version of spaghetti 'carbonara' with turmeric and scallop ragoût. Dimly lit wood tables are surrounded by walls of Basquiat and other ecclectic pieces of art for a setting the fashion crowd flocks to. After dinner drinks outside by the pool are a must where you can take in picturesque views of downtown Milan.
Courtesy Ceresio 7
Trip Highlight: Upon our arrival in Trivero, we visited Casa Zegna, which houses the offices and silk production factories for Ermenegildo Zegna and (exclusively) for other brands like Tom Ford and Maserati. Watching the entire process of silk making from rough wool being spun into luxurious fabrics was absolutely fascinating and I never expected it to be such a timely process–apparently, it takes months at a time to create a single piece of silk. It was also interesting to see two industries like fashion and luxury cars come together, all paying homage to their Italian heritage and striving for the most elevated form of product they can create.
Could not Leave Home Without: A great pair of walking boots for cobblestone streets, a sleek jumpsuit that can seamlessly take you from day to night, a roomy cross-body bag for toting around travel essentials and super hydrating lip balm for a smooth pout in-flight and beyond.
From top, clockwise: Diane von Furstenberg jumpsuit, $836, matchesfashion.com; Frends headphones, $170, net-a-porter.com; Jack Black lip balm, $8, sephora.com; Hillier Bartley bag, $1,432, matachesfashion.com; Acne Studios boots, $560, net-a-porter.com;
Most Inspiring Aspect: There is something about the charming Italian streets that you can't help but feel inspired by. From peach-toned walls covered in sprawling ivy to astounding churches that give an ode to another age, meandering your way around each corner and taking in all of the intricate moldings and details of the architecture breathes a certain life into you that one simply can't find elsewhere.
Why Northern Italy? With picturesque cities boasting the best of Italian food and fashion and mountain escapes beckoning on the outskirts, Northern Italy is a splendid region just calling to be explored. Try something unexpected when your initial thought was to go back to the romantic Amalfi Coast or spend the weekend lounging on Lake Como. If you're looking for something equally as enchanting yet unexpected, Northern Italy is for you. From Modena to Milan, this is truly the land of fast cars and slow food.