FIRST IMPRESSIONS Like many Milan residents of a certain age, the Principe has been having a bit of work done. Formerly a Starwood property, the city's most famous hotel became part of the Dorchester Collection in 2003, and the new owners promptly embarked on a two and a half year renovation to update the rather heavy, formal décor. Almost all the rooms and public spaces have had or are due for refurbishment, and the result is a brighter, cleaner look which harks back to the Principe's art deco origins.
WHERE IS IT? On the north side of Piazza della Repubblica, which is a short metro ride or a 20-minute walk from the city centre – or a five-minute drive in the Principe's new limo shuttle service.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 401, comprising 72 Classic rooms, 149 Deluxe rooms, 48 Deluxe Mosaic rooms, 68 Junior suites, 39 Elegant suites, 19 Executive suites, four Deluxe suites, one Royal suite and one Presidential suite.
ROOM FACILITIES As the above suggests, navigating the Principe's room classification system can be a challenge, particularly with the ongoing refurb. On the plus side, there should be something to suit most tastes. The older décor, still on show in the Deluxe rooms and some of the suites, runs to rich velvets, scarlet walls and Dolce Vita elegance, while in the revamped areas (which include the standard Classic and 40 sqm Deluxe Mosaic rooms) the mood is lighter and brighter, with pale murals, muted silk brocades and plump duvets in luxurious white linen. The bathrooms are a particular treat – all have separate bath and shower (in the case of my Deluxe Mosaic room, a deep bath and rain shower), as well as Acqua di Parma toiletries (in a 100ml size, perfect for hand luggage...). Nothing comes cheap – ironing equipment isn't available in the rooms and having a couple of pieces pressed can set you back €25 – but turn-down treats include chilled limoncello, trays of fruit preserves and lavish boxes of chocs. All rooms are equipped with blackout curtains and flatscreen TVs, and wifi is available throughout the hotel at €27 for 24 hours.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS Opened in May 2006, the Acanto restaurant on the ground floor (pictured) is typical of the new-generation Principe. It has a modern feel, with huge windows looking out on to a garden area and an open-plan kitchen where chef Fabrizio Cadei can be seen in action, but on the plates the focus is on traditional Italian fine dining (which provides a welcome relief from the sub-standard fusion on offer in so many of Milan's trendier eateries). Acanto is also the venue for breakfast, which is served until 11am every day (Euros 35 continental, Euros 45 buffet). Next up for renovation is the Winter Garden bar, which is due to be given a "summery" makeover, although the famous Tiffany glass ceiling will remain.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES As you'd expect from "Milan's first business hotel", the Principe is well-equipped with meeting rooms (16 in all). The most impressive is the Galilei on the ground floor (450 theatre-style), a vast ballroom with huge windows down the length of one wall which can be divided into three, or combined with the Marco Polo room and the veranda to provide space for up to 1,000 guests. A small business centre in the basement has three computers (internet access €0.35 per minute).
LEISURE FACILITIES Club 10 shares the tenth floor with the presidential suite, which means the gym offers spectacular views across the Milan rooftops from nearly all the cardiovascular machines. The pool is a slightly disappointing 10.5 metres but comes complete with hydro-massage tub, sauna and Turkish bath, while the "beauty treatment area" offers every health and grooming procedure known to man.
VERDICT If you're looking for minimalist chic or cutting-edge design then the Principe isn't for you, but for traditional five-star luxury, flawless service and old-world charm it's hard to beat.
PRICES Fully flexible rates for a mid-week stay in mid-September started from €375 for a Classic room.
CONTACT Principe di Savoia, Piazza della Repubblica 17, 20124 Milan; tel +39 02 62301; hotelprincipedisavoia.com.