Exclusive, iconic and traditional. In short: “princely”. The Principe di Savoia is one of the most spectacular sought-after landmark 5-star luxury hotels in Milan: though now a part of the Dorchester Collection, it has nevertheless been a reference point in the city since 1927, when it was built – the first hotel in Milan offering the option of receiving phone calls directly in-room – to satisfy an affluent, demanding clientele, travelling either for cultural or business purposes. From the time of its establishment, it stood out as a signature venue of account its refined air, its discreet atmosphere and the quality of its service. All characteristics that combine to make it a classical, impeccable and timeless location. The surprise factor is that this grand dame hotel is in no way intimidating: its staff greet all those crossing its threshold with a smile, never giving the impression of being obsequious, but only human. A true hallmark feature of luxury!
History, style and efficiency: this is what awaits you in Milan
“The negative aspect of certain hotels is that you could be anywhere”, comments Alessandra Baldeschi, an Italian, raised in the US who has been Communications Manager of the Principe di Savoia, since 2004. “This, instead, is an authentically Milanese hotel, you simply can’t go wrong: everything speaks of the city, from the design of its decor to its coffee. This is the Milanese way of life!”.
It’s an experience appreciated by many: the most demanding Italians (especially those on business trips, about 30% of its clientele) and, to an even greater extent, international travelers. In fact, its guest roster of “international travelers” regularly includes diplomatic delegations and finance magnets, queens of pop and Queens per se.
In fact, the Principe di Savoia is one of a handful of hotels suited to hosting complex formations such as, for example, an imperial entourage. “It’s easy to talk about suites”, quips Alessandra Baldeschi. “An emperor won’t settle for accommodation that is only a little better than that of his assistant. We have 44 suites divided into four glamorous categories. The incredible wealth of our offer affords us solutions that others are hard put to guarantee”. To give you an idea, rates range from 300 to 17,000 euros per night: sufficient to distinguish hierarchical nuances.
This, together with the incomparable professionalism of its staff and an almost reverent approach to discretion explains fairly eloquently why it attracts a who’s who of movers and shakers and an international celebrity clientele including Elizabeth II of England, Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, George Clooney, Maria Callas and Lady Gaga.
“We could say that everything here is measures up to the situation on-hand”, comments Alessandra, “from our bar to our breakfast, right up to our ultra-professional, almost invisible security.” Therefore, if, while in the hall, a gentleman with an impeccable air fixes you an almost unseeingly penetrating gaze, before deciding that, today, you’re looking pretty hot, consider the fact that he could be a security guard. It’s good to be aware of certain things.
The customer is supreme. At times, even literally-speaking
Nicola is a gentleman who during his 37-year career has probably witnessed just about everything under the sun. However, his professionalism is part of his ability to remain totally unperturbed. Therefore, when I ask him for confirmation about a series of anecdotes, the somewhat amused flicker in his blue eyes is almost imperceptible. Nicola is the head concierge of the Principe di Savoia and his last name is Ciccone (no, he’s no relative but yes, obviously, his namesake has stayed here and there’s also an anecdote about her).
From the time that he joined the hotel staff, “starting at the lowest rung as a bell boy”, he fell madly in love with his job. “As a boy, I dreamt about travelling the world”, he says, “and it happened right here: the world has passed through this hotel.” The seamless functioning of hospitality and the fulfillment of “difficult” requests depends on Nicola Ciccone and his team of 18 individuals. Prior to the arrival of a particularly important guest, Nicola and entire team, room service and the reception desk , are briefed about the protocol to be observed. It could be a question of crowned heads or rockstars, politicians or Hollywood stars, oil magnets or Wall Street wolves: each and everyone is guaranteed privacy, comfort and personal attention.
Take, for example, the case of Madonna, who asked that the iconic marble flooring in her suite be temporarily replaced with parquet so that she could practice yoga. That of Michael Jackson, who demanded that every wing of the hotel be emptied when he passed through. The anecdote about the Emperor of Japan, whose appearance deeply touched the heart of several of his subjects who would never have had a chance to encounter him at such close quarters at home. And, then again, George Clooney who, during a rowdy evening, started bowling with some of the marble balls removed from the columns of the presidential suite.
However, there are also some “anonymous” cases (or cases shrouded in secrecy) that, in recent years, have gone down in the annals of history: a rich Brazilian gentleman who insisted on arriving at La Scala in a carriage drawn by six horses; the last of the romantics who asked for a helicopter so that he could watch the sun setting over Mont Blanc in order to return in time for dinner; the woman who asked to find a bath filled with Evian water waiting for her on arrival. And Nicola’s “favourite”, a mysterious man from the East who, on Good Friday, asked for an aeroplane filled with Easter eggs (for the record: mission accomplished).
And, because he’s an Italian male, Mr. Ciccone, laughingly confesses that some of his most thrilling experiences are associated with two revered football players: Pelè (“an idol who remained human”) and Dino Zoff, world champion Italian goal keeper who jokingly called Nicola “my colleague (“you and I have a job in common: it’s all about letting or not letting them through”).
During his many years of honorable service, the world (and not only that of hotels) has changed radically. For example, in this era of perpetual connection, its seems almost prehistoric when someone leaves a message at the reception desk. On the contrary, other things never change. “An hotel is still and always judged by the courtesy and professionalism of its staff”. What do you find unpardonable? “Too much familiarity: professionalism entails warmth but it’s also about keeping your distance. And, in any case, it’s always up to the guest to make the first move”. And although even Milan has changed radically, another thing that has remained unaltered over time is his advice “from the heart”. “If a loyal guests asks me: “but where would you go”?, I answer “to the Navigli district, which, in my opinion, still remains one of the most alluring areas in the city”.
No-one is exempt from the magic. For example: the Last Supper…
The nice thing about a place like the Principe di Savoia is that everyone is made to feel like a VIP. The staff is trained to satisfy all requirements seamlessly, efficiently and with a cosmopolitan approach.
“Our heritage is extremely precious”, comments Francesca Da Sario, Mkt & Communications coordinator, but that doesn’t mean that we’re prepared to rest on our laurels: our service is more than contemporary.” It is not mere chance that the Principe di Savoia was the first hotel in Milan to have an Online Communications manager, Irene Dal Bello, who deals exclusively with making sure that information is regularly updated on social media.
And during your stay?
The concierge at the Principe di Savoia is used to procuring a bespoke tailoring service but also re-arranging, with just a telephone call, appointments with the best hairdressers in town to make sure that they guarantee absolute privacy, or requesting the assistance of only female staff, or anything else that you might need. Simpler requests are effortlessly fulfilled. In fact, Kosher or Halal cuisine or vegetarian or gluten-free menus are available at all times.
Furthermore, if you’re travelling with your children, you’ll find adorable miniature bath robes or slippers in-room. You can count on a regular babysitting service, but also on private swimming lessons for your little ones at the hotel’s swimming pool either while you’re working or relaxing at its spectacular Spa. If you’re so enamoured of Italian cuisine that you can’t wait to learn its secrets, you can take a few personalized cookery classes with the hotel’s chefs.
And, if you’re keen on exploring the city and its surroundings, the hotel staff is not only available to provide information but also to organize truly tailor-made experiences. Mariateresa Cairo, a partner of the hotel, opens unthinkable doors: she can organize a dinner at a museum that’s closed or a visit to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. Even at night, for just you and you alone!
The Acanto restaurant, a chapter apart
The restaurant at the Principe di Savoia is called Acanto: it’s important to take note because it’s one of those cases in which the Acanto has stopped being just “the restaurant at the Principe di Savoia” and has started to be seen, even by the Milanese, as a venue in its own right.
To get an idea of the peerless work performed by Fabrizio Cadei, executive chef of the Principe di Savoia, you can either opt for quantity (3 kitchens, 6 chefs for coordination, 70 seats, 24-hour service 365 days a week and 15 million euro’s worth of food and beverages to be managed) or quality. “I’ll give you two elements”, he says, “The first is that lots of our regular customers are Milanese. The second is that our customers never go out, if anything they prefer to entertain here”. This says it all!Chef philosopher Fabrizio Cadei who proclaims that he is “forty something” and who has been cooking for the past 34 years, boasts a series of important posts abroad (the UK and Australia, Lyon and the Algarve) all of which are reflected in his style.
For this reason, since 2007, he has introduced a few rare, exotic ingredients into the menu at the Principe to complete an offer that remains solidly based on the tradition of Italian, or rather “Milanese” cuisine while, at the same time offering flavours dear to Asian, American and European cuisine. He says that the secret is to “stick to the basics while interpreting new trends”, without, however, adding embellishment just for the sake of embellishment. He is also open to technical innovation which entails healthier, more authentic cuisine featuring a lightness of touch to present dishes that though easier to digest, are also deeply rooted in tradition. He recently awed diners by preparing a menu referred to in Italian as “shakerato” (i.e. one element of each dish presented, featured some form of mousse).
However, service is not only relegated to the dining room. At a hotel like the Principe, all forms of cuisine are designed to satisfy myriad requirements: business travelers who happen to be starving at the “wrong” time, due to jet lag but also VIPs who suddenly decide to hold an impromptu private party, attended by lots of guests, in their spacious suites. Cadei then goes on to add: “And we always make sure that the food and drink provided are tailored to suit all occasions”.
But if, for some reason, this was your only chance of at dining at the Accanto, what would the chef suggest’. “Most definitely, risotto, as a tribute to Milan, followed by some kind of fish dish: light, nourishing and versatile, fish is one of my signature dishes.” Do you have a secret? “It’s all about the marinade: at least two hours in mixture of coarse salt and brown sugar. I’m sorry, but I can’t reveal anything else…” Privacy here is truly a distinctive trait. Even in the kitchen.
Principe di Savoia
Piazza della Repubblica, 17
T: +39 02 62301