If a chic, European city honeymoon with an abundance of old school charm is on the cards, Hotel Principe di Savoia should be at the very top of your list. Long the haunt of the fashion set during Milan Fashion Week, the hotel’s enviable address means that all the hot ticket visits are either right on its doorstep or just a short vintage tram ride or Metro stop away: from the city’s swishy foodie spots to under-the-radar wine bars and speakeasies. What’s more, few city neighbourhoods can rival Milan’s Quadrilatero d’Oro for upscale couture, which radiates outwards from chichi Via Monte Napoleone.
With Edward VIII, Aristotle Onassis, Eva Peron, Charlie Chaplin, The Aga Khan and Elizabeth Taylor among its guests, Hotel Principe di Savoia’s slick standards of service and lavish rooms have long attracted a glamorous bunch. A grandiose whiff of old-school charm permeates throughout and guests here are au fait with dressing up to the nines for supper (or breakfast for that matter). People watching in the pastel-hued surrounds of Il Salotto and afterwards at the hotel’s recently renovated cocktail bar is akin to watching a bygone, more glamorous era in action.
Set the scene
Whilst externally it has the behemothic feel of an upmarket New York or Chicago hotel, set back and elevated in Piazza della Republicca as it is (and extending across 10 cavernous floors with over 300 rooms and suites), the marvellously monikered Principe di Savoia is the ultimate in discretion. Once you grace through its revolving doors you soon realise it’s not as overbearingly large as it appears from the outside. Subtly dropping into a conversation you’re staying here never fails to impress – it has held court after all as the benchmark for all Milanese hoteliers to aspire to for over a century.
The Principe di Savoia takes its name from the formal way Italians refer to their historic Royal Family, the House of Savoy. The hotel’s unabashed style even extends to its coat of arms, featuring its iconic croix (cross), proudly ever-present and adorning everything from old-school door keys to gold bullion embroidered velvet gondola slippers (available to buy at the in-house shop). Opulently decorated throughout in late-19th-century finery, the hotel is a resplendent riot of damasks, exquisite antiques, fringed by marble and mahogany and the kind of rich colour palette you’d expect to see grace the pages of The World of Interiors. The concierge team will ensure reservations at the above-mentioned addresses are a formality – they are renowned for their ‘your wish is our command’ attitude.
Despite its considerable size, the Principe somewhat surprisingly evinces more of a boutique hotel vibe — intimate, personal and exceptionally peaceful. We stayed in a 46m² Junior Suite which is akin to owning your own Milanese apartment, with views of the Burj Khalifa-esque Unicredit Tower soaring high above the neighbouring Porta Nuova district. There’s a separate sitting room that can be divided off with sliding doors, replete with theatrical nuances, like plush noise-absorbing velvet curtains, a nod to the city’s esteemed Teatro alla Scala, and a cavernous floor-to-ceiling marble bathroom brimming with Aqua di Parma toiletries. I particularly appreciated the gentleman’s bedside antique suit stand – the kind of contraption your stylish Grandfather may have owned back in the day, which doesn’t look out of place in the present, complete with an oyster shell-shaped tray to deposit your wristwatch and loose coppers.
Food & Drink
Anyone that’s anyone has pre-dinner aperitivos at the Principe Bar. Besides spectacular interiors by designer Thierry Despont, cocktails are the main draw. Plump for the one that’s inspired, and is, in itself, a miniature cocktail glass version of the giant Murano chandelier which cascades from the ceiling – the aptly-named Principe Anniversary: a blend of Belvedere Vodka, Di Saronno, Blue Curaçao, with fresh lemon juice and Veuve Clicquot all shaken and served with Northern Italian flair.
Il Salotto, the less formal reception-facing dining offering feels like the beating heart of the hotel: a sage green velvet banquette affair and catwalk-like people-watching vantage point to pause for coffee, aperitivo or a light lunch. It’s rude not to start with a glass of something local – you may have already had an aperitivo at the bar, but cut yourself some slack, you are on honeymoon: in this case a restorative fizzy reviver from Franciacorta, a Cuvée Prestige from Ca’ del Bosco before sampling the divine risotto alla Milanese, pretty much prerequisite if you’re in town. Like most authentic dishes, this saffron-infused delicacy’s beauty lies in the simplicity of its ingredients which combine to create a very refined and velvety texture. Top it off with a leafy side of insalada nizzarda.
Incidentally, there’s a room hidden away at the back for those shy and retiring FRO-shunning types who value discretion. The hotel’s formal dining experience, Acanto, headed up by chef Alessandro Buffolino, blends elegant Milanese design with (more) Murano chandeliers and overlooks a charming Italian garden, choreographed around a fountain. Opt for the six-course tasting menu (the squared spaghettone is divine: accompanied by octopus and chilli cooked in a gold-standard olive oil) with vinous pairings to beautifully complement each dish, courtesy of the hotel’s maître sommelier, Mara Vicelli.
The vast neoclassical edifice that’s the Principe, was designed by prominent Milanese architect Cesare Tenca, and began life as the art-nouveau gem Hotel du Nord. Its location was specifically chosen for its proximity to both Milano Centrale railway station and the city centre. On April 6, 1927, the hotel reopened under the new guise of Principe & Savoia, named after its two owners who were both highly successful local entrepreneurs. The hotel was originally designed to appeal to businessmen and women, but by the 1930s, its sheer grandeur and reputation for exquisite service had made it the go-to address of royalty, celebrities and world-renowned artists performing at La Scala. It proudly joined the Dorchester Collection family of hotels in June 2003 as Principe di Savoia, and in doing so, became the first Italian property in the company’s portfolio.
Children are welcomed with open arms at the Principe, greeted with soft toys, and equally as pampered as their parents in the form of mini bathrobes, slippers and gentle bath products – making them feel very much at home from the outset. There’s even a designated children’s entertainer so you can enjoy Sunday lunch as a couple while your younger ones indulge in games and activities. Children have use of the rooftop pool alongside their parents while private swimming lessons can be arranged if you so wish. There’s also a dedicated babysitting service available on request.
In keeping with the rest of the hotel, space is not at a premium at the Penthouse-styled Club 10 Fitness & Beauty Centre either. The beauty therapy area spreads out across five treatment rooms, with expansive mahogany-clad changing rooms and marble showers. It’s a slice of sky-high peace in which to unwind, and provides the opportunity to reflect on the wonders of your big day which, no doubt, shot by in a flash. The Viso Sensai Anti-Ageing treatment is highly recommended – designed to smooth away the signs of advancing years: so beautifully recuperative in fact that I slept my way through the majority of the fifty euphoric minutes. You are on honeymoon, but if you’re a gym junkie who just can’t keep away then the bounteous, 120m2 floor-to-ceiling glass-windowed gym is equipped with top-of-the-range equipment for muscular and cardiovascular training. There’s a heated swimming pool which has views over the city rooftops, as well as a whirlpool tub, sauna and steam room in addition to a large outdoor terrace with solarium. If money is no object, the Presidential Suite really is the height of glamour, and comes complete with its very own private (and frescoed) indoor heated pool and spa.
The Principe is within walking distance of Milan’s gothic masterpiece of worldwide renown, Il Duomo and the cool neighbourhood of Brera with its clutch of independent boutiques, coffee shops and bars. We recommend combining a stay with a trip to the jaw-droppingly beautiful neighbouring Lake Como. Oenophiles take note: you’re also less than an hour’s drive from the world-renowned wine region of Franciacorta, considered by many to be Italy’s answer to Champagne: Franciacorta is the generic name of a sparkling wine hailing from this eponymous region in the province of Brescia.
From £414 per night based on two people sharing a double room on a B&B basis.
To book, visit: dorchestercollection.com/en/milan/hotel-principe-di-savoia/
Hotel Principe di Savoia, Piazza della Repubblica, 17, 20124 Milan, Italy
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