When we pulled up to the driveway on a sunny afternoon, we were certainly ready for a treat. The weather was perfect for a walk, but the sleep in our eyes meant that it wasn’t even a passing thought yet. Hotel Duca Di Mantova in Milan was that last stop on our very fun and restless Italian getaway and was meant to be the last highlight before the take-off.
Our one-night stay was to make the drive to the airport at dawn a little shorter, given we had to be on the road at the time the sky had lost all colour. We were headed to London for a concert and our flight was at the break of dawn. My mum had kindly asked our uncle to drive me and my sister to the airport the next morning. The fact that I had been there before made me even keener on the plan designed. Picturing the next set of events wasn’t so hard to do. In my mind, the only thing left to do was sleep, do a bit of shopping and enjoy some pure relaxation.
Now, search for the word ‘relax’, then type in the word ‘opposite’ right to it. Spoiler alert, it didn’t quite go as planned…
The time stamp on the picture I took once I exited the van confirms it was just past 2 pm when we got there. It took about 15 minutes for us to get a room mum helped us book. We were handed a white key card and began the journey upstairs. With every stop during our stay in Italy, we picked up memories and treasures that weighed our luggage down which meant a trolley was a necessity to proceed.
We made our way through the elevator and once the doors opened, we took a right turn leading to our room. The key card opened the door just fine and the prime atmosphere welcomed us in. Taking in the sight of fresh sheets and a warm beaming light forcing its way through the window, we said hello to our temporary haven. O rather, should have been, could have been but wasn’t.
A room for two.
I last visited Hotel Duca Di Mantova in the spring of 2019. The word pandemic had never slipped out of my tongue before and it was set to be a year of significant milestones in my family. Back then, the flowers were in full bloom and preparing for my sister’s wedding and graduation were among the many things on my mind. The hotel was pretty close to the venue where the wedding took place, so we spent a lot of time there. All this to say, I was very familiar with the layout of most rooms in the hotel already. The grey vertical stripes on the white linen were the first thing I noticed when we stepped in. An instant sense of familiarity.
The room was just about spacious enough not to feel cramped in, and I took the left side of the bed.
The interior was as I remembered – down to earth while maintaining a simple classic look. There aren’t many bright colours that try to grab your attention. Just a lot of brown furniture, white walls, and some accents of dark greys or blacks. The bathroom was smaller than I remembered but still managed to fit in a toilet, bidet, sink and bathtub.
The Ant Colony.
Silly me! When I look back now it is true that I saw the signs pretty early on. A little one on the corner of the wooden floor. Another one on the table below the TV. From the corner of my eye, there was another by the bedside table. I brushed it off without a second thought though. The reason was simple, the sleep in my eyes was stronger than my spidey senses warning me to question why there were ants in odd places. I guess I should have been asking myself why there were any ants at all.
Before bouncing on the cosy-looking comfy bed, my sister and I took out the lunch we brought from home and devoured it whole.
Our nap was sweet but not entirely satisfactory. Before closing our eyes, we set an hour timer that would stir us back to the living. You see, we had one last stop on our itinerary and that was the giant mall steps away from the hotel called Centro Commerciale Vulcano. We wanted to get there before closing time so we gave up some sleep instead. Whilst it’s home to many designer brands and stores, we felt more comfortable in the grocery aisles of Conad to stock up on the taste behind our childhood memories.
I got my usual large packs of tea and my sister got herself numerous packs of brioche and biscuits we used to have as children. Our boxes were made up of clothes, souvenirs, and food – lots of food!
When we got back, we resumed from where we left off and slept some more. This time I was super satisfied with my time in dreamland because I awoke when the sun had already set.
That’s when the disastrous evening began and all I could do was wish I was still dreaming.
As luck would have it, the ants that were a little too shy during the daylight were now marking their territory around our room. They were marking their territory all around us and we were – well – outnumbered. Getting invaded by ants is no one’s idea of a chill night in, and looking at the ants on the floor, the tables and the carpets was surely not mine. It seemed the only safe place was the bed. Maybe.
When we called reception and got no answer, my sister went down to ask for some help.
She showed a video we shot of the horrific sight to the man at reception who suggested it might have happened because our room was situated next to some kind of back garden (wasn’t entirely clear what he meant by that though…).
We were told to pack up, and leave the room in the state it was in for the cleaner in the morning. I felt sorry for the cleaner too.
I won’t lie, we rushed out of the room as quickly as possible as we tried to shake off more and more ants from our belongings. I know I could consider getting an ant-free room a win at that point, but things weren’t as simple there either.
The replacement room we were given was in no way up to par with the other despite being directly beneath it.
There were cracks in the walls, and overall, although it mirrored the first in layout and design, it seemed underkept in many ways. I was convinced at that point it would be the last room they’d normally give out.
Complaining was the last thing we intended on doing though because really we just wanted to get eat, watch tv and get some sleep.
Of course, we thought we were clear of the ants by then, but they had other plans. We were grossed out to find they had clung to our bags and all the items we had placed on flat surfaces. When we thought about our nearing departure at 4 am, shaking off tiny moving creatures from the things we cherished was the last thing we really wanted to be doing.
We lost so much valuable time packing and unpacking, cleaning and wiping that we only had enough left to shower before leaving. In the end, our last night in Italy turned into a stressful disaster, one I’d gladly forget.
As I stated earlier, it wasn’t my first visit to Hotel Duca Di Mantova so I wouldn’t say it’s now a no-go zone for me. In the past, I have had a pleasurable time there and good service too so I wouldn’t write it off completely. So, if my feet were to lead me back to the 4-star hotel in the future, although I may not run in there with excitement written all over my face, I also wouldn’t say never either… Just no time soon though!
What do you look forward to the most when you go to a hotel?
Also, if you’ve ever visited Hotel Duca Di Mantova in Milan, share your experience in the comments below!
Your restless romantic roamer