Hmm – should I take a picture of Jack napping in our comfortable room at Il Girasole in Milan? Nah, that would be nasty – and you my readers know that I am never nasty. Besides, surrounded by the warmth and love that emanates from every inch of Il Girasole it would be impossible to think a nasty thought. In the city of Milan, the Negruzzi family has created and warm and winsome atmosphere . The three star hotel is a short subway ride to the historic and arts filled center of the city. What I appreciate is that it is in a neighborhood where we felt like cittadini di Milano – not tourists.
When our taxi pulled up to the industrial looking portone of the exterior, Jack and I looked at each other. My cousin Rich and his wife Lynn had recommended the place so we knew it had to be OK – but the big metal gate??? We rang the bell and all of our concerns were swept away by the effusive smiles, laughter and bubbling personalities of Matteo and Nicola – the two brothers who manage the family business. Nicola schlepped our 4 huge suitcases up to our room while we enjoyed a prosecco and conversation with Matteo. (Yes you read that right – 4 large suitcases – we are here for 7 months. Most of the stuff was Jack’s.) Matteo whipped out maps for us, and in perfect English gave us restaurant hints and immediately made us feel comfortable with where we were.
Matteo threatened to put Jack to work!
Our room was large – by European urban standards – and had a desk, couch, armoire and large bathroom. It costs us €303 for three nights and included a continental breakfast. I loved the smiley faces on the cappuccino. The hotel has free wi-fi that worked quickly everywhere – including outside in the small garden. There is parking and a meeting room.
The first night we took Matteo’s advice on a restaurant, Vineria San Giovanni, and came back to peels of laughter bursting up from the breakfast room. Never one to miss a party, I dragged Jack down the steps and discovered three men and Nicola swapping tales. (He speaks English, Spanish, Italian and is studying Chinese.) Nicola promptly poured us each a beer and we joined the party. The three guests were regulars. They worked for an international company – one was from Taiwan, another Hong Kong and the third a Chinese American. We prattled on about politics, food, fun and I felt like I had known them forever. That is what Il Girasole does to you!
One morning I asked Matteo to tell me how the hotel came to be. The building was originally a bicycle factory. His mother, Bianca, and brother Nicola started the business in 1998 as a B&B. The original space only had 3 rooms. As they continued the renovations, they opened for guests . Their first international guests were from the USA and stayed for three months. The family relocated for the dad’s business – he worked in radio and actually got the B&B a month of free spots! They are all still friends. The hotel now has 16 rooms and three star hotel status! Bravo.
The brothers grew up in a “culture of responsibility.” Bianca was a community organizer who – through a not for profit agency – spear headed local projects. The family feels that their home is the entire city and that means they have a responsibility to help solve the city’s issues. Nicola is currently president of the parent organization of the public school and organizes fund raising events.
It was joyous to hear Matteo tell me about his city, his family and the passion they all have for the hotel. Even their website is steeped in sunflower good cheer.
Il Girasole – Via Doberdò, 19, 20126 Milano, firstname.lastname@example.org
A sunny spot of home in a big city.