Well-heeled corporate customers flock from all over Europe to Italy's commercial capital. Whether in textiles, engineering or banking, they nearly all have one thing in common: they're not the ones paying for the room.
What does this mean for the visitor who is looking for a place to stay at? For one thing, a preponderance of large establishments in the upper price brackets and a shortage of small, inexpensive options.
On the up side, there's usually plenty of room available on Saturdays and Sundays, often at special rates: you may be surprised by just how special if you ask about weekend rates when you book, or check online. Similarly, around Christmas and during the summer, rates drop like a stone, with the odd five-star room going for a mere €99 in August.
Since Milan models itself as a design and fashion centre, many of its hotels have been developed as chic, minimalist establishments. The rise in recent years of the boutique, boundary-crossing and price-busting hotel has been nothing less than staggering. Some high-end guestrooms look like NASA space pods; others, like contemporary art showrooms.
Milan suffers from a shortage of parking spaces. Few hotels have their own car park, although many have deals with local garages for overnight parking. The price of this service varies considerably, but can be as high as €50 per day. That said, a car is superfluous in compact Milan: there's an efficient public transport system, and your hotel can call you a taxi if you must arrive in style.
Outside the slack summer period, booking in advance is essential. As well as the constant flow of business travellers, thousands from all over Italy and further afield descend on Milan to attend trade fairs, and prices go up during these periods: the key events are the fashion shows, four times a year (in mid-February and late September for the women's collections, and mid-January and late June for the men's); and the annual furniture fair, Salone Internazionale del Mobile (mid-April).
Opting for a three-star hotel or above is likely to reduce the risk of unpleasant surprises – although bear in mind that huge differences exist between the best and worst deals, and higher prices do not guarantee better service. Shop around.
There's more than one way to get the best deal. If you're coming for more than a few days, call and ask about long-term rates. Hotels are very open to this in Milan, especially moderately and lower priced ones. Cheaper hotels often offer discounts for cash.
Most hotels in the city include breakfast in the price. In a country where a caffè e brioche (coffee and a croissant) is the early starter of choice, a hotel breakfast is usually a simple buffet of sliced cheeses, hams and jams. If you're asked to pay extra for breakfast, you may be better off going to a local bar instead.
If you arrive at Malpensa or Linate airports and have nowhere to stay, avoid the travel agency desks. They will book a hotel for you, but the choice is limited to places that pay the agency a commission, and the cost will be passed on to you. The tourist information centre (www.provincia.milano.it/turismo) by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in the piazza del Duomo provides the name, telephone number and latest prices of hotels.
While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.
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