MILAN, Italy ( MainStreet) -- In a crowded marketplace of international hotel chains it can often be little more than a name -- a fashion name -- that might oust even the most famous brands from the top slot. That's the case in Milan, which had no shortage of luxury hotels such as Four Seasons, Park Hyatt ( H) and Baglioni but now have to compete also with such virtual synonyms for fashion and glamour as Armani and Bulgari. Bulgari Hotel was one of the first designer hotels in Milan, and it was a wow of one at that: an 18th century palazzo floating in a dreamy garden of rolling, including nearly neon-green lawns and an elevated outdoor lounge with sexy decor and fichus trees as manicured as the patrons. Interiors live up to even the loftiest of architectural expectations with Zimbabwe black marble and zen undertones. But more interesting than the full-size Bulgari bath toiletries in guest rooms and Espa Spa is that that Bulgari is a joint venture between Bulgari S.p.A. and Marriott International ( MAR), which also manages the Ritz-Carlton portfolio. (The collection also operates the revered Bulgari Bali Hotel in Indonesia and Bulgari Hotel London opening this spring, which could be a competition killer in the lead-up to the Olympics.)
Maison Martin Margiela brought its usual elegance to designing the interiors at La Maison Champs Elysees.
Newcomer Armani Hotel debuted last year, adding to the hipness quotient of Milano hospitality. Armani Hotel makes its home in a more urban location along via Manzoni, under a modern rooftop atrium that puts a fashionable hat on the building's historic masonry facade. Inside, Armani uses muted colors and signature furnishings, many available for purchase through his Armani Casa line. An Armani-branded eatery features a bold design statement of black-and-white marble floors under windows illuminated by the Milanese skyline. The first Armani Hotel is in Dubai; Armani Hotels & Resorts is actually a partnership between Armani and Dubai-based Emaar, which also developed the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. Those who prefer a little less corporate supervision can book into the Hotel Moschino Milan, which was born out of the Italian fashion house Moschino and the work of its lead designer, Rossella Jardini. Occupying a former 19th century rail station, the neoclassical structure feels as though it fell down one glamorous rabbit hole for its four floors and 65 guest rooms -- some of the most whimsically designed spaces you'll experience. Inspired by fairy tales and dreams, the hotel (managed by Italy's Hotelphilosophy Collection) has rooms mixing the occasional hanging poodle lamp with dress-shaped headboards and poster beds made of tree trunks. It is also home to an ever-changing eatery led by Michelin-star chef Moreno Cedroni and ART Spa that mixes modern art into an ethereal theme.