It’s not often that hundreds of fans start chanting when I pull up outside a hotel. But the crowd of screaming teens is so dense outside the Principe di Savoia in Milan, it’s almost impossible to check in. When a smartly dressed porter informs me (discreetly) that One Direction are staying at the hotel, it all makes sense. ‘Which one is it that likes older women again?’ I ask.
Harry Styles or no Harry Styles, Principe di Savoia is exactly what you’d expect from the Dorchester’s Italian big sister: she’s confident, striking and ornately decorated. Her neo-classical façade dominates the Piazza della Repubblica casting a superior eye over the rest of Milan’s hotel landscape, and to be fair, it’s hard to compete. Providing safe harbour for the international fash pack since the 1920s, the hotel’s interiors are beautifully appointed with hand-painted frescoes, antique Italian furniture and the sort of priceless modern art usually reserved for the walls of galleries.
Thanks to a revamp by interior designer-to-the-stars Celeste dell’ Anna, four of the hotels ‘Imperial’ suites are now the most coveted rooms in Milan, but if you haven’t got that kind of money to blow, make sure you ask for a room at the front of the hotel – for the striking view if nothing else. My digs for the weekend was an Ambassador suite on the fifth floor (two storeys above Mr Styles). With proportions that could easily match those of a London flat, it was more pied à terre than suite. Particularly amazing were the wide entrance hall, the panelled walk-in wardrobe and the vast canopied four-poster bed. Best of all, every time I twitched the curtains, a great roar surfaced from the crowd below. My very own Madonna moment.
Those poor Directioners. Camped directly outside Acanto, Principe di Savoia’s gourmet restaurant, they must have been frothing at the mouth as smells from the kitchen wafted over them. With a spread of organic salads, burrata, assorted pasta dishes and finely-sliced Parma ham catering to a mix of smart suits and caramel cashmere, it’s Europe’s smartest buffet – yet no one batted an eyelid when I went back for seconds, and thirds.
At dinner time, the restaurant transformed. Lights were dimmed, surfaces glinted and the room took on a stylish 1970s look. Gone were the boardroom paunches and pen-poised dealmakers, with stylistas, racing drivers and rockstars all vying for the sommelier’s attention. I didn’t think things could get any better after a lovingly crafted artichoke flan and glistening bowl of Tagliolini with langoustine ragout were delivered to my table. But when a waiter in a three-piece suit wheeled over a dessert trolley stacked high with sugary treats, it literally was the icing on the cake.
Just as Acanto is well-heeled, well-established and excellent in every way, so too is the rest of Principe di Savoia. Having had the privilege of overnighting at the Dorchester in London, I can say with authority that the two hotels are on a par with one another. With one exception: the Principe di Savoia’s top-floor spa. Limited space means there’s no official relaxation room, just a few loungers scattered around the pool. But rest assured these limitations do not extend to the treatments – I had a fantastic massage.
For all its glitzy flourishes, pops of fashion and giant vases of hyacinths, deep down, I suspect that Principe di Savoia is really a man’s hotel. Which only begs one question: what on earth were One Direction doing there?
IN THE AREA…
Flexing the credit card is obligatory in Milan. The city’s fashion district encompassing Via Sant’Andrea, Via della Spiga, Via Gesù and Via Montenapoleone are home to some of the world’s chicest clothes stores, jewellers and interior design showrooms. There’s also the Duomo, the third largest church in the world, and Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper on display at the Santa Maria delle Grazie church.