Here are three things you don't usually associate with a Tuesday in Milan:
1. The scent of lavender
2. Lounging by a quiet pool.
3. It being totally acceptable to wear flipflops
Luckily, all these things are actively encouraged at Bulgari's recently renovated spa in Milan.
At first, it seems peculiar to have such a decadent spa in the heart of the frenetic Brera district; however it seems the (literally) well-heeled Milanese are more than in need of a post-spree pedicure when sashaying from Gucci to Prada to the Armani Café gets all too much.
Days after Milan fashion week, the chaotic, hyperactive city and glaring camera flashes still etched on my brain, I tottered into the health suit, weary, bleary and in dire need of some rejuvenation. Greeted by the charming spa manager Alexandra, I was shown around the spacious treatment centre.
Once inside the extensive black and green-onyx spa you are surrounded by luxury, even the walls and pool have received the Midas touch. Aquamarine tiles flecked with gold leaves twinkle under smart, subtle lighting. After a pre-treatment shower and steam, I dipped my toes into the glittering, Grecian pool. No need to go to Rome, these baths are where it's at.
The newly renovated spa now includes a couple's suite, marbled steam room and a Swedish sauna, as well as an extensive list of treatments and services. Bulgari know their clientele well: many guests are on fleeting business trips to Milan, jet-lagged and frazzled or on weekend shopping breaks with friends, all however are in need of quick relaxation and revival.
My five-minute consultation is an important part of creating the bespoke Bulgari treatment. My therapist, Daniele, asked my medical history, diet and current lifestyle habits (stress levels, sleep patterns and so on). Having worked with Bulgari for years, he is so well versed in the products and therapies that he creates a personalised treatment for each client based on their time and needs.
I am asked to recline, face down, on a sumptuous massage table, dimly lit with candles and tea-lights for my full-body 'Amala' massage. According to Daniele, all the products he uses are 100% natural, vegetarian and plant based. He begins by asking me to inhale the orange-scented oils deeply, before performing a relaxing deep tissue massage that lasts around 90 minutes.
No tickling the surfaces here, the tailored massage is designed to give you a deep sense of calm but also to purify and rejuvenate your liver, bloodstream and muscles. The Bulgari staff uses a combination of oils and different techniques: therapists are trained in Swedish, Thai and Indian massages to name a few, and these were all combined into the treatment. The technique feels similar to Swedish massage, the movements long and graceful but also the muscles in my back pummelled vigorously, I feel all the tension ebbing away.
After this lengthy relaxation period, we begin the signature facial. My clogged, congested skin is promised to be instantly brighter and soon, blemish free. Daniele begins with a deep cleanse using both oils and hot towels. He then asks me to inhale a different mix of oils again before he massages a rosy, honey scented one across my face and neck for a mini-facial massage, any slight headache, crick, or ruffle is washed away as the oils unwind and further relax you. Daniele chats to me about diet and skin health, giving me tips and hints for better skin, digestion and general well being as well as recommending certain supplements.
Finally a rich moisturising mask is applied, something my 'teenage-like' skin usually hates, but Daniele promises results with even the oiliest of temperaments: mine. I am asked to inhale more oils, three times deeply and then he treats my lips and eyes to some attention: Crème de la Mer, is a Bulgari favourite and the majority of facials here use them, especially for eye treatments.
I am revived, finally.
After my treatment I pad back out into the pool, wrapped in a luxurious purple robe, herbal tea in hand to relax some more. When I examine my skin after the facial, it seems the intense massage and oils have worked wonders: glowy, soft and refreshed. Even without any sleep the shadows had lightened and my eyes were whiter. Other treatments I'm tempted to try include the Amala exfoliation experience and the hot stone massage, used to aid lymphatic drainage and promote a more restful sleep.
But it's the atmosphere that makes Bulgari Spa such a magical experience; the hum of city life outside actually aids your relaxation in supremely calm spa and garden. The design is pure luxury; they even pump the Bulgari scent through the lounge and entrance halls to create the right energy for guests.
A quick look around the hotel and rooms afterwards, demonstrates Bulgari's dedication to its clientele and location. One of the only places that gets some green in central Milan, the trees and garden can be seen from the front rooms, and huge, decadent black bathtubs look out over the tree and rooftops of the most exclusive neighbourhoods.
Newly renovated also, the rooms feature artwork from Bulgari, floor-to-ceiling windows, and enormous bathrooms as well as butler and concierge services. If you ever spend time in the world's most fashionable city, this is the place to stay.