Is there something more appropriate for a section called “hidden Italy” than a daytime hotel buried underground in one of Italy’s busiest cities?
Well, I couldn’t have thought of anything more apt for our journey throughout Italy’s secret gems. If in the first post of this series I took you to a secluded spot in the woods, this time we go to Milan and discover the Albergo Diurno Metropolitano, a daytime hotel which has been literally buried for the last years.
Opened to the public in 1924, the Albergo Diurno Metropolitano was a daytime hotel where people could find all the services they need whether they were travelling or not. Located under Piazza Oberdan, it was a huge space open from 7 am and 11 pm. It had two entrances: one for the spa, with both luxurious baths with bathtubs and more simple ones with just a shower, and another one for other facilities like barber shops and ladies hairdresser’s, estheticians, ironing and wardrobe facilities, a variety of shops and even a travel agency and a photography shop.
The ads of the time assured that it was “the most welcoming and modern in Europe”.
The designer of the Albergo Diurno was Paolo Portaluppi, one of the most renowned architects of the time and a master of the Art Nouveau style. As a matter of fact, the Albergo Diurno was a lavish and magnificent place, where people could enjoy some real splendor. It was beautifully decorated – exactly like the bathrooms of the prominent families for whom Portaluppi was used to work and design.
The Albergo Diurno has been a very important place not just for travelers, but also for those people who – up until the mid-Sixties – had no in-house bathroom and could enjoy a proper bath just there. When I visited the place, one of the guides told the story of another visitor who was really moved seeing the place where his father used to bring all the family for a bath on Christmas’ Eve.
This showed what a big role it played in the life of people living in Milan.
Unfortunately, the Albergo Diurno was destined to decay: the spa was the first service to be closed, in 1985, slowly followed by other shops and facilities. A section of the place was destroyed when the metro line was built and little by little the artisans left the place, selling most of the wood furniture they believed it was theirs. The last barber left the Albergo Diurno in 2006, following a dispute with the city council.
Then the place was closed, but not forgotten.
Thanks to the Fai, the Albergo Diurno was cleaned and made available for public viewing. Moreover, there is an agreement between Fai and the city of Milan which will lead to a formal restoration project. Unfortunately, nowadays it can only be visited a few times in the year, but if you happen to be in Milan make sure to check if it is open: it is a step back in time which you will not easily forget.
You can admire the Albergo Diurno in all its charm in the video here below.
You’ll find all information for your visit here or directly contacting Fai at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos and videos have been kindly provided by Fai Milano.
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