How An Abandoned Seminary Became One Of Milan’s Finest Hotels

A singular gem of hospitality, the Portrait Milano Hotel – Lungarno Collection is located in the heart of Milan’s Quadrilatero della Moda neighborhood. This opulent hotel isn’t just another five-star establishment catering to affluent travelers; it’s also a friendly community hub that hosts public events, dining options, and retail stores. The CEO, Mr. Valeriano Antonioli, is the creative force behind this initiative. He found an abandoned treasure in the center of the city.

Mr. Antonioli stated in a previous interview that the concept came to be as a result of a coincidental event when he happened to catch a glimpse of a massive, deserted building that was hiding in plain sight. He asked questions, wondering why, in the middle of a busy area, people were still unaware of this “treasure.” He discovered the structure was an abandoned seminary founded by an ex-archbishop in the sixteenth century, the oldest in Europe and the second worldwide.

Old Seminary (1)

A Journey Through Time: Counter-Reformation, Napoleon Bonaparte And Two World Wars

The seminary was a revolutionary idea in the field of priestly education presented by Charles Borromeo, the Archbishop of Milan, in 1565, amid the intensity of the Counter-Reformation. Founded in 1888, the Archiepiscopal Seminary is the second-oldest in the world. But it wasn’t until 1569 that the Seminary moved into the former Humiliati Monastery, which is tucked away in the center of Corso Venezia in Milan.

The old monastery saw an amazing makeover while Cardinal Federico Borromeo, a powerful member of the Borromeo family, was its patron. Renowned architects Pellegrino Tibaldi, Aurelio Trezzi, and Fabio Mangone created the Seminary’s courtyard, which has become a symbol of wealth. Aurelio Trezzi is most notable for creating the expansive 56-meter-long central court.

The Seminary was notable in the 17th century for its simple, graceful lines that stood out against the normal Baroque ornamental ornamentation, with one exception: a lavish doorway on Corso Venezia that was created by Francesco Maria Richini and finished about 1635. Giambattista Casella sculpted the imposing columns that surround the entryway, signifying the meeting point of philosophy and divinity. The Borromeo family motto, “Humilitas,” is boldly displayed above the doorway on a wrought-iron adornment.

Old Seminary (2) (1)

Over the ages, the Seminary’s illustrious history has taken different forms. Under the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, it changed its purpose from being a divinity school to a boarding school for future priests in 1774. The Seminary was used as an Austrian prison and a hospital for injured troops when Napoleon Bonaparte’s army invaded the city in 1796. During the Napoleonic Cisalpine Republic, the Ministry of War was temporarily located there as too.

There were many uprisings at the Seminary during the turbulent Risorgimento years. During World War I, it first functioned as a safe haven for General Radetzky’s Hapsburg troops before becoming a military hospital. Amazingly, a special track was constructed so that injured soldiers could be transported by Milan’s trams straight from the train station.

The Seminary moved to Venegono Inferiore in Northern Lombardy in 1930, taking with it a structure devastated by World War II bombardment. The initial repair was carried out in 1967 by renowned Italian modernist architect Piero Portaluppi, but the Seminary eventually lost its prominence.

However, there was a brief rebirth in the 1980s when the Seminary was used as Italian architect Mario Bellini’s atelier for ten years. Here, avant-garde design initiatives came to life, drawing notable figures like Steve Jobs, who turned to Bellini’s skills for Apple product ideas.

The Seminary had become obscure by the 1990s and was only occasionally used for special occasions. That is, until Antonioli happened to glance up and see the structure from a window above.


A New Day: Portrait Milano Hotel – Lungarno Collection

Antonioli felt he had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In 2018, following years of talks, the Ferragamo Group was able to secure the required licenses for renovation and restoration.

Under the direction of architect Michele De Lucchi, painstaking restoration work revitalized the abandoned building in 2019. De Lucchi sought to incorporate modern architectural features onto the site while maintaining its historical and monumental value. The interiors were designed to realize this idea by architect Michele Bönan, who skillfully combined contemporary design principles with the rich heritage of Italian workmanship.

Portrait Studio (1)

73 family suites, romantic suites, and roomy bedrooms within the hotel radiate the exquisite design details for which the Ferragamo group is renowned. Rich shades of regal red and gentle cream combined with luxurious materials like velvet and leather produce a dignified atmosphere that is both modern and appropriate for the building’s illustrious background, reminiscent of the mansions of Milan in the past.


Visitors and locals are kept occupied by a number of eateries and pubs. The stylish indoor lounge of the 10 _11 Bar and Garden Restaurant, located off the lobby, opens up into an outdoor courtyard where guests may enjoy informal dining options during the day or breakfast in the garden in the morning.


As the name implies, the restaurant is open for lunch and evening and serves a variety of meals infused with beef as well as an exceptional Italian wine list. The menu features items categorized as “street” and “comfort,” the latter of which features a rich carbonara made with Kobe beef slices rather than pancetta. A robust selection of steaks acquired worldwide is provided by founder Riccardo Giraudi and chief chef Thierry Paludetto. The steaks range from delicate, marbled Wagyu to aged American Angus.

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