Join the club at Aethos Milan, a sport-mad stay in Italy’s industrial capital’s Navigli district with the oversize boxing gloves, old tennis rackets and even a pommel horse to prove it. The hotel is close to the city’s canals – and their waterfront bars and restaurants – but tucked away on its own quiet courtyard. It may as well be an antique shop, with Persian rugs, parquet floors, Union Jacks and a charmingly cluttered lounge. There’s no shortage of stylish spaces around here, but if the bar looks especially well-dressed, you can thank Ralph Lauren for that.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £173.75 (€194), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast.
It’s impossible to get bored at Aethos Milan, thanks to its endless curio-packed corners, board games to borrow and old-school arcade machines.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, bicycles to borrow, yoga mats, board games. In rooms: Nespresso coffee machine and kettle, minibar and TV.
Our favourite rooms
Most of the rooms have their own balcony, but for a sofa-enhanced, more spacious one, go for a Balcony Suite – and if size matters, request Mustang or Inning, which have the most sizeable outdoor space. For all-out Americana, Stars and Stripes is the spangled suite for you.
There’s no spa, but in-room massages can be arranged.
Whatever you bring, make sure it’s packed into your sleekest suitcase, so as not to be shown up by the set of vintage Vuitton trunks on display.
One of the guestrooms is accessible for wheelchair users.
Plan your next adventure by settling in beside one of the globes, or get out-peacocked by the actual stuffed peacock, casually standing mid-strut above a glass-encased ship outside.
Minimalism is not your friend.
Aethos Kitchen serves an Italian and international menu, with plenty to keep both vegetarians and vegans happy, too. The pizza dough is left to prove for 90 hours and topped with equally considered ingredients, sourced from sustainable suppliers.
If you’ve always thought a Matryokshka doll would be the perfect drink receptacle, the Doping Bar (and its master mixologists) is the venue for you – cocktails are also served in teapots and Day of the Dead-style ceramic skulls. It’s open for coffee all day, transforming into a cocktail bar between 6pm and 1am.
Breakfast runs from 7am to 11am, lunch service is from noon until 2.30pm and dinner hours are 7pm to 11pm.
The hotel is in a quiet square, close to the canals and colourful buildings along the Darsena Promenade in the Navigli district. It’s a 10-minute walk from Roman ruins, Colonne di San Lorenzo and the Cathedral.
Milan has three airports: Linate is a 20-minute drive, and Milan Bergamo and Malpensa are both just under an hour away. The hotel can arrange transfers from any airport on request.
There are regular trains from Malpensa Airport to Piazzale Cadorna station, a 10-minute taxi ride from the hotel. The hotel is 20 minutes by car from Milano Centrale, where trains arrive from Italy and beyond. The closest metro stop is Port Genova, a 10-minute walk from the hotel.
It’s easier to explore Milan by metro or on foot, than attempting to deal with restricted zones and congestion zones. The hotel has private indoor parking for the brave.
Worth getting out of bed for
Rummage through the hotel’s boutique for vintage sporting goods, or seek antique treasures at the Navigli flea market, held on the last Sunday of each month along the banks of the canal. One of the few Roman ruins in Milan, the Colonne di San Lorenzo, is a 10-minute walk away, close to the Duomo and mediaeval Ticinese Door. Muse on art old and new: San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, a 15-minute walk away, has luminous frescoes by Bernardino Luini; and Museo del Novecento has 20th-century masterpieces by Picasso, Boccioni and Modigliani.
Cacio e Pepe serves excellent Roman fare, including its comforting eponymous pasta. Canalside, Al Coniglio Bianco is a traditional tavern with freshly caught fish on its daily-changing menu, or try Officina 12 for creative yet classic cooking. Pescatarians will love Langosteria, and carnivores should head to the Darsena edition of El Porteno, a Milanese take on an Argentine steakhouse.
Keep your palate primed for wine-tasting sessions at La Vinera on Via Casale. Moodily lit Ugo, a bar with imaginative cocktails on Via Corsico, steals a little of the hotel’s hipster cache.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this hidden hotel in Milan and unpacked their sartorial improvements, a full account of their stylish city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Aethos Milan…
Whatever your weight class, you’ll find a sporting home at Aethos Milan, where all of the suites are styled in honour of recreational activities including fencing, tennis and polo, and bedroom doors are graced by giant boxing gloves. The spaces may be packed to the rafters with antique treasures (Louis Vuitton luggage, Persian rugs, trays of silverware) and tastefully arranged PE paraphernalia (fencing masks, tennis rackets, a pommel horse), but that doesn’t mean it’s a hands-off situation. Instead, guests are encouraged to treat it like their own front room, only one styled with vintage barbershop chairs, colourful velvet sofas and peacocks frozen in time above nautical models. Most of the rooms have a balcony (along with more painstakingly procured antiques), but in this canal-lined corner of Milan there’s much to tempt you out, including waterside restaurants and the Darsena Promenade, with magician-like mixologists waiting for you at the bar when you return. One thing’s for sure: it’s a heavyweight hotel.