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EXPERT REVIEW This eco-business hotel right by central station is Milan’s greenest four-star.

Eco


Overall eco rating


This green renovation to an old four-star hotel, E.c.h.o. (an acronym for Eco Contemporary Hotel) makes excellent use of recycled and sustainable materials and also features updated water and energy systems.

  • Grey-water recycling and low-flow taps
  • Generates enough electricity from solar panels on the roof to power corridor lighting
  • Wallpaper, furniture, flooring, bedding and stationery all certified as sustainable in one way or another
  • Renovation insulated external walls, floor and roof and advanced new windows have solar films and advanced insulated frames and shut off the heating/cooling if left open
  • New efficient boiler, low energy lights with clever controls, A-rated minibar and efficient air conditioning (with heat recovery from cooling to hot water)
  • Great transport links – you pass an electric car charging point and one of Milan’s bike hire stations as you walk to the train station over the road

  • Aiming for Green Globe certification but no certification as yet
  • Uses a fair amount of disposable (admittedly biodegradable) serve ware and dishes as part of the Milanese tradition of aperitivo

People

The effort put in to choosing green materials brings some benefits to guests in that internal air quality should be improved and the internal environment is certainly light and airy.

The Starhotels group also supports several charities including the Banco Alimentare (a food bank distributing excess food from the hospitality industry to charities working with the needy) and Istituto Degli Innocenti (a children’s art charity in Florence).

  • Support charities, including a food bank and children's art charity

  • They don't seem to do anything above the norm in relation to staffing issues
  • They don't seem to make a concerted effort to use fairly traded products

Animals & nature

The E.c.h.o. has very limited space to have much impact on biodiversity and so the main issues to consider for animals and nature relate to the hotel’s purchasing and operations.

The menus are surprising with lots of organic and veggie friendly dishes (we haven’t seen tofu on many menus in Italy and so to find it in a four-star hotel was unexpected!). 

This Italian city hotel also seeks out green partners – the laundry and cleaning companies have their operations eco-certified (ISO14001 or 9004 registered) and use EU Ecolabelled cleaning products which should substantially reduce the harm from the hotel’s operations.

  • Most Italian menus deliver seasonal and local but E.c.h.o. adds organic, veggie-friendly and diverse flavours into the mix
  • Great care has been taken with managing the hotel’s supply chain to consider environmental impacts

  • Space constraints mean the hotel is severely limited to include much planting and so we'd like to see them make the most of every opportunity.  There is a fantastic mural of a garden in the restaurant but real planting is limited to a few containers. E.c.h.o. has not been as imaginative as some other similar city centre establishments that have managed to lend Mother Nature a hand
  • It’s hard to get free-range eggs and poultry in Italy (although the hotel does use a lot of IGT and DOC certified produce which ensures quality produce)

Environment & buildings

All but the structure of the original building was stripped away during Starhotels' refurbishment of E.c.h.o. and this has allowed real improvements to be made during the construction. 

The building elements have been made much more energy efficient by insulating the new external walls and installing windows that keep the heat in not only through modern glass but also by using specially designed frames

The building services have been substantially upgraded - heating, lighting and ventilation are all low energy (e.g. heat created as a byproduct of cooling is recaptured and used to heat hot water) and there are various clever controls that keep a lid on consumption (many hotels use keycards to shut off power when guests are out and increasingly use pressence detection for lighting but E.c.h.o. also shuts off heating and ventilation in guest rooms if windows are left open).

The interiors makes good use of natural light and the materials used have green credentials ranging from high recycled content to reducing emissions of chemicals that can harm air quality.

  • Deep refurbishment included insulating external walls and advanced glazing
  • Going back to the basic structure also allowed grey water recycling to be included (alongside new water efficient taps, showers and toilets)
  • New energy efficient lighting, cooling, heating and ventilation with clever controls
  • Furnishings have plenty of green credibility - green wallpaper, floor finishes and furniture
  • Solar panels added to the roof

  • Despite improvements to insulation and glazing, our room was cold when we visited (we were in the most exposed room in an unusually cold winter for this part of Italy)
  • The improvements seem to have focussed on the construction, we'd love to know how much energy and water consumption has been reduced by and this will come out as part of the eco-rating process (E.c.h.o is going for Golden Globe rating but has not achieved it yet)
  • There was some wastefulness evident in the restaurant with disposable single serving containers (admittedly some were biodegradable)

 

Reviewed by Tim Starley-Grainger


Luxury


Overall luxury rating*


A handy location and stylish interiors make this hotel a great choice for business travellers or weekend breakers looking for a green hotel in this fashion-focussed city.

The scene

This four-star hotel by Milan’s central station is all business during the week, and family and friends at the weekends. A sea of black – suits, shirts, shoes - greets you in the breakfast room Monday to Friday, while it’s more colourful on Saturdays and Sundays as mums and daughters, teen families and groups of girlfriends get ready for shopping sprees and to soak up the historic sights.

E.c.h.o.’s location is either ideal, or dull, depending on your perspective. It’s literally across the street from central station, meaning you won’t have to haul your bags around the city in search of your hotel. But there’s not much of interest outside the front door, so you’ll have to hop on the bus, metro or tram to get to the best sights, shops, restaurants and bars. Luckily, with the station out front, transportation is easy. Plus, unlike some cities, the area around the station isn’t dodgy, so you can feel safe walking around.

For shopping, walk 10 minutes to Corso Buenos Aires for high-street brands. Take the metro for 5 minutes to Montenapoloene Street for haute couture (incl Valentino, Gucci, Dolce Gabbana, Armani). For nightlife, take the metro 10 minutes to Porto Genoa and go to out there.

  • Right across from Central Station, it’s super convenient for those arriving by plane or train.
  • The city’s main transportation hub is right across the street, so it’s easy to get around.
  • Best for business people

  • The area around the hotel is a bit dull.
  • You’ll need to get on the bus, metro, tram or train to get to the sights, shops, bars and restaurants, but these are all right across the street.
  • Worst for couples

The style

The exterior of this revamped four-star is new, yet office-block dull, making the sleek bedrooms a pleasant surprise. OK, it’s not cutting-edge, but the businessy guestrooms do have a dash of flair that sets them apart from a typical chain hotel - a huge flower motif on one wall, stone floors made to look like dark wood, all decked out in earthy colours – browns, beiges, hints of soft green. Downstairs in the lobby bar, savour aperitivos on enormous sofas against a giant wall photo of a Tuscan garden, or sit outside in warm weather on the small terrace. The bar and restaurant buzz at breakfast and before dinner, but mainly with hotel guests, not locals. Head elsewhere to rub shoulders with Milanese.

  • Business-style rooms with a dash of Milanese flair
  • Warm earthy tones throughout
  • Hints of nature in the common areas – giant garden wall photo, a cluster of plants displayed artistically, ironwork bird silhouettes

  • A bit more business-style than boutique unique
  • Bring a decent guidebook. Concierge service is decidedly lacking

The facilities

All of the 143 rooms, including five suites, are billed as ‘Green Rooms’, meaning they all have the same eco credentials. Even the smallest rooms, at 25 square metres, are decent-sized for this city. The only minor niggles are the in-room coffee facilities: only instant is available - in Italy! It’s just wrong – and no decent herbal teas, which will set you back about €5 in the bar downstairs; the toiletries, branded by Starhotels, are blah; and the edges of some of the furniture is getting a bit bashed. On the plus side, TVs are huge, the cupboards plentiful and the beds fantastically comfortable. There’s a pillow menu, too, although we were sent all the wrong ones. We’re guessing (hoping) it was a one-off mix-up. Pale wood and black stone tiles in the bathroom give it a real Italian edge.

On the ground floor, the bar menu has a decent wine, beer and cocktail list – and don’t miss aperitivos, a Milanese tradition at almost every bar in the city, which sees Italian tapas laid out for bar guests in the early evenings, usually free of charge. The restaurant menu is varied and creative, with a good selection of vegetarian options – surprisingly rare in the north of Italy.

  • 143 ‘Green Rooms’ – all spacious, with the smallest at 25 square metres
  • Food and drink are decidedly decent, and better than you get in many similar business hotels
  • The nature-themed style of the restaurant and bar
  • A tiny gym on the top floor for those desperate to hit the treadmill
  • The terrace is a lovely place for coffee or cocktails on a sunny day or warm night

  • Not only is Wifi not free except in a tiny area in the bar, but you’ll even be charged to use the internet on the two computers in the business centre
  • Needs better coffee and tea in the guestrooms

We love

  • Aperitivos and cocktails in the bar
  • Convenient location across from the (safe) central train station
  • Spacious rooms with a dash of Milanese flair

You might not love

  • The charges for internet access – tethered or Wifi
  • Style is more business than boutique
  • The surrounding area is a bit blah

Reviewed by Jill Starley-Grainger


Starhotels E.c.h.o. Milano

Viale Andrea Doria 4, 20124 Milano

Italy
+39 02 67891

Standard room rates from Doubles from €190

Eco

Luxury*

"Rooms at Starhotels E.c.h.o. have elegant parquet floors and contemporary furnishings. All air-conditioned, they have been designed to use energy and water in a sustainable way." TimeOut