The Italian Grand Prix is one of the most seductive on the F1 calendar. Whilst the circuit town of Monza might not have the buzz and glitz of Monaco, it’s close enough to Milan and Lake Como to allure the jetset crowd with the promise of high speed thrills, a fashionable social scene and secluded luxury. It’s one of the fastest tracks on the calendar, and always promises a tense race supported by a passionate gathering of spectators.
The best place to stay in Monza is by far Hotel de la Ville, where the senior Ferrari personnel stay and other similarly colorful characters. Its home to the town’s best restaurant, The Derby Grill and a swish cocktail bar with an open garden overlooking the historical Villa Reale that sits prettily on banks of the Lambro river. There are also some fantastic authentic pizzerias in Monza that spill over with hungry drivers post race; Cagida is the favorite for its relaxed atmosphere and rustic, stylish interiors.
Else drive 40 minutes from the circuit to the fashion capital of the world, Milan for a larger selection of first class restaurants, hotels and of course, the shopping. The Four Seasons Hotel is where the VIPs and serious shoppers check in. Located in the middle of the quadrilatero d’oro where the designer brand’s plush boutiques cluster, the hotel is quietly stylish and elegant. The service, as expected of the hotel chain, is impeccable, the spa indulgent, whilst the in-house restaurant is a meeting point for locals. For more people watching, the Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Milan comprises of three chic areas: the bar, an inside lounge and an outdoor courtyard with private alcoves. The hotel itself occupies four beautiful 18th century buildings, just steps away from the famous opera house, La Scala. Or try the Town House 12, complete with its own inbuilt Absolut Icebar, where everything from the sofas to the light fittings is made from Norwegian ice. The hotel exudes relaxation, and what it lacks in terms of dining spaces (there’s only a breakfast room), it more than makes up for with its exclusive terrace-bar, which is half open air during the summer months. There’s nowhere more glorious to enjoy a drink on a balmy evening.
Shopping is the main sport of Milanos and there’s certainly no shortage of big-brands. For something really special, the leather store Giosa sells artisan pieces, whilst Rivolta is the go-to in the city for beautifully crafted shoes. Pick up a pair and hit the bars to celebrate an exhilarating day at the track. H>Club Diana at the Sheraton Hotel sits on the site of Milan’s first public swimming pool and is known for its magical garden, world-class music and extensive cocktail list. Or surround yourself with haute couture at Dolce & Gabbana’s slick Martini Bar before joining the fashion pack at Armani Prive, the nightclub located just below the chic Japanese Armani/Nobu restaurant.
Many Grand Prix VIPs choose to stay even further afield at Lake Como, arriving by helicopter to and from the Monza circuit daily. Grand Hotel Tremezzo is the most spectacular place to check in and a welcome retreat after the chaos of Formula 1. There are tennis courts, an excellent spa, a private Venetian-style boat for tours and fresh, delicious wood-oven pizzas are served under umbrellas on the stone terrace. The pool surrounded by rose gardens makes an elegant setting for intimate drinks parties. The exclusive Amber Lounge Grand Prix party is also worth dressing up for; Champagne is free flowing and the attendants fashionable and famous. It’s here you’ll have the opportunity to get close and personal with the F1 drivers themselves.