Lodging Review: AC Hotel Milano
It's always a challenge finding accommodations during Milan Design Week. Hotels either have jacked up rates, or are completely booked. Last year, I met a girl in Milan on company business, who was staying across the border in SWITZERLAND and commuted in every day! Who would have thought that Switzerland was the low-cost alternative to Italy?
Last year I redeemed Marriott Rewards points for the Marriott Milan (see review here). While the stay was good, with plenty of perks, the location wasn't the best. It wasn't near the main districts with design exhibitions, and it wasn't near a metro station either. Plus the decor was quite old-fashioned, shall we say!
This year, I saw that the AC Hotel Milano was available for Marriott Rewards redemption. The room rate was a whopping US$670 during Design Week, but I could redeem 30,000 points (for an excellent 2.23 cents/point ratio), or US$85 + 17,500 points (for an even better 3.34 cents/point ration). I went with the cash+points option.
I went in with low expectations, having read many reviews of AC Hotels being "basic" and located in "rough" neighborhoods. But this stay exceeded all expectations!
The AC Hotel Milano is located right behind the Porta Garibaldi Station. Basically, I just walked out the main exit, and made a U-turn right back towards the tracks and could see the hotel since it's much taller than neighboring buildings.
The Garibaldi station is great for getting to/from the Malpensa airport (MXP). There is one train every 30 minutes, takes approximately 43 minutes travel time, and costs 13€ one way or 20€ round trip (I purchased online to skip the long lines at the airport).
The station is also great, because it puts 2 or Milan's 4 Metro lines within easy reach. In fact, I found out that there is a tunnel that ends up right at the hotel's entrance; no crossing streets necessary. Just look for the "Via Ferrari - Via Farini - Via Tazzoli Monumentale" exit (the hotel is in a little triangle in between these streets). From this tunnel, I accessed the tracks for the regional train back to Malpensa directly, and with a few more stairs and tunnels, I reached the Metro station. Unfortunately, I couldn't find this exit when I came back from the Metro station!
Service started out shaky, but ended up great. I approached the front desk to check in, but the clerk, seeing a couple she recognized as wanting to check out, asked politely if I could wait for her to check them out first. I suppose she thought that checking out would be faster than checking in. Instead, there were a lot of discrepancies and discussions about the bill, and while she did apologize to me during this long wait, I did start to get annoyed because I was first, and wanted to get on with my day.
I saw another clerk finish with other guests, and so I asked him if he was available. He indeed was, and started to turn the experience around. My room was already ready for check-in at 11am, the room was an upgraded room, on account of Design Week, the manager offered free breakfast to all Gold and Platinum members (AC Hotels usually doesn't give free breakfast to elites), and my request for 4pm late check-out was granted. Not only was he the bearer of one great news after another, he was super friendly, and also apologized for the long wait to check in.
My upgraded room was indeed larger than a normal hotel room, with a desk, eating table with a couple of chairs, a day bed for lounging, and a cushioned surface for luggage.
Plus there were 3 windows with views towards the station, and the cool Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) buildings! These are the two towers with lots of plants growing out of the balconies.
The bathroom was also very large, but strangely the tub is situated in the shower enclosure. And in the great tradition of Spanish hotels (AC Hotels was originally a Spanish chain, later bought by Marriott), the bathroom door was frosted glass. Thankfully I was staying by myself, because otherwise I would have been uncomfortable with the lack of privacy and sound isolation. At least the walls were not glass (like some Spanish hotels), and at least there WAS a door (unlike other Spanish hotels).
AC Hotels are said to be pretty basic, but I suppose with my upgraded room, there were some nice bonuses. One was the pair of slippers and robe that the provided. Another was this capsule coffee maker, with even tea capsules.
The welcome amenity was a bottle of water and two blood oranges, certified from Sicily. I loved this welcome gift! When traveling, I often crave fresh fruit, and these Sicilian blood oranges felt very special to Italy.
I was surprised that at night, my remaining orange was taken away. Hey, I was planning to eat that! But, it was replaced with two boxes of chocolate and two bottles of prosecco. The packaging is different, but the chocolates look identical to the ones last year at the Marriott Milan!
The special Design Week free breakfast for Golds and Platinums was served in the ground floor lounge area.
It wasn't a vast selection, but what I saw was high quality. I really enjoyed the fresh fruit, the chocolate pear cake, and the crushed tomatoes. I saw a guy sprinkling oregano on top, and so I did the same, along with a drizzle of garlic-infused olive oil. It was like typical Spanish pan con tomate, but with an Italian twist!
While eating, I saw an Italian lady order a coffee from the waitress. I thought that was odd, because there was one of those coffee machines. But I think the waitress then brought out a specially pulled cup for her. So maybe that's something I'll try next time, I've noticed that the large international chain hotels always have the coffee machines that make somewhat watery drinks, while the small family-run hotels I've stayed at in Italy actually have baristas pulling real espressos for breakfast.
I really maximized my stay, by returning to my room at around 3:30pm to freshen up and finish packing, and then jumped on the next train to the airport for my flight back to Spain. I was so happy with all aspects of the stay, from the location to the service to the extra amenities to the room itself, that I've already made points reservations for next year's Milan Design Week!