We check in to the Principe di Savoia, a palace hotel offering grandeur and glamour for anyone visiting Italy’s fashion capital, Milan
The trend among contemporary hotels to integrate the bar (and sometimes a dance floor) into the main reception lobby area was started by the original boutique hotelier Ian Schrager back in the 1980s. It accelerated with the development and corporatisation of hotels like the W hotel group, in the ’90s and 2000s, and now whether you are in the Alps or LA, you are likely to be greeted by a receptionist standing next to a bartender.
And while this works for a certain category of oriented hotel, where the vibe is more important than the room and everyone is invited, a good hotel bar needs its own space and should be a unique and compelling concept, not a funky alcoholic addendum to a reception desk.
Nowhere makes this more clear than the Principe di Savoia in Milan. We arrived after a delayed flight and a traffic-filled entrance into Italy’s biggest city. It was too late to go for dinner, but we did crave a little atmosphere, rather than just room service. A quick change in the room, and then we went into the Principe Bar, a grand room located in pride of place at the centre of the ground floor at this Milanese palace.
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A luscious sweep of a room, with perfectly dimmed lighting, the whole place is focused on the showpiece bar counter. We were immediately swept into another world, a universe where everyone is glamorous, drinking a Bellini makes you Sophie Loren. Not that you should really drink a Bellini, with a list of decorative gastronomic cocktails at your disposal: a particular favourite was an Indian Summer 22, with Chrysanthemum gin, Monin Paragon White Penja Pepper cordial, homemade cordial, Teapot Bitter, and a garnish of flower powder.
The Savoia is a proper palace, an imposing building right on the edge of the old city centre of Milan. Arriving there, whether it is the cocktail hour or not, is dramatic as you sweep up a flower lined driveway and are whisked into the hotel by a phalanx of door people. And across the big square in front of the hotel is the city’s finest park.
Our suite had rich art deco panelling, high ceilings, dark floral drapes, a marble-clad bathroom and a sense of utter still in the heart of a great city. Walking down into the lobby from your suite, you feel you need to be imperious, as if this hotel expects a certain standard of style – although the attentive and delightful staff (this is a Dorchester Collection hotel) certainly wouldn’t bat an eyelid if you came down in a onesie.
But if you’re that kind of person, maybe you won’t appreciate the classic chic of this true Grande Dame.
Find out more: dorchestercollection