The lowdown Milan might not seem as pretty as the other fashion capital, Paris, but one glance around at the stylish Milanese and you’ll soon think “who needs the Eiffel Tower when people dress this well?” One of the jewels in Milan’s crown is the luxe Hotel Principe di Savoia (part of the Dorchester Collection) – the grand hotel that’s been the place to stay since the 1920s. And in recent years, George Clooney, the Beckhams and Madonna have all slid under its crisp sheets, as well as all the top fashion cognoscenti during fashion week. And, erm, me.
The hotel The Principe might seem intimidatingly grand when you enter the lobby (lots of polished marble, gold and some serious chandeliers). Then there are the guests wearing clothes worth more than your annual salary. But the thing that struck me most was how friendly the staff is. There’s no snootiness, stuffiness or over-formality. And my room, a “Principe suite” (one of nine suites recently refurbished by London-based architect Francesca Basu) was the perfect five-star weekend home. It did bring out my inner princess - think burnished gold drapes as thick as duvets, my own living room with sofa, coffee table and antique style armchairs, a bed the size of my flat in London and an immaculate, all-white bathroom I could easily have lived in. I also got to peek inside the Presidential Suite - £18,000 a night worth of awe-inspiring luxury (where George, Madge and the Beckhams have stayed, natch). It’s even got its own pool, spa and sauna and roof terrace.
Eating and drinking The hotel’s restaurant - the swanky yet welcoming Acanto - might serve classic Italian food but don’t think it’s all pasta with pesto. On our first night we dined in the lovely secluded garden area and filled our stomachs to bursting with sea bass tartare, swordfish with couscous and ricotta cheese and iced pineapple soufflé with raspberry sauce. If you want to mix with the locals then book a table at Cantina Piemontese (http://www.cantinapiemontese.it, http://http://www.cantinapiemontese.it/ tel: 0039 2 784618) – it’s a fave of the Principe staff and you can’t get a higher recommendation than that! And of course, don't forget to have a drink in the decadently stylish Principe Bar.
Exploring The hotel offers a complimentary limo service that drops you off at various points in the centre of town - about a ten-minute drive away. So you can explore the beautiful Duomo Cathedral (which took five centuries to build), see the famous opera house, La Scala, or even Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic painting The Last Supper (but book well in advance). And of course there’s the shopping. If your credit card is in meltdown, Corso Vittorio Emanuele is full of high street stores (Sisley, Zara, H&M, Max & Co etc). But if you don’t mind re-mortgaging your house, then the “fashion district” Via Montenapoleone (otherwise known as Montenapo), and the streets around it including Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni and Via Sant’Andrea is where you’ll find the biggest designer names in the world.
Day trip to Lake Como The Principe works with IC Bellagio, an award-winning luxury travel and concierge company which arranged a VIP day trip for us to Lake Como (yes, George C’s Italian hideaway!) Only an hour’s drive away from Milan, Lake Como is take-your-breath-away magnificent. We had a private boat (with our own tour guide, the lovely and knowledgeable local, Rita Annunziata) and embarked on a two-hour cruise around the lake so we could gawp at the lush, mountain scenery, not to mention the huge villas – including George’s enormous lakeside property (alas, he was away). We stopped to visit Lake Como’s famous Villa del Balbianello – which has the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen. For lunch we stopped at private villa Casa Brenna Tosatto (which has an art gallery downstairs and upstairs there’s super chic modern apartments available for holiday lets). So it was all about prosecco on the terrace followed by lunch cooked for us by the owner’s chef. Bellissimo!
The details Hotel Principe di Savoia, Piazza della Repubblica 17, 20124 Milano, tel: 0039 2 62303460. Rates start at 760 Euros for a classic double room. Visit www.hotelprincipedisavoia.com
For information about IC Bellagio visit www.icbellagio.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Danielle Hine