< ITALY | VENICE-LIDO: Hotel des Bains
At the end of the nineteenth century, Lido was just a long, narrow sandy strip bordering the Venetian Lagoon to the East, where agriculture was the main activity. This coastal stretch of Venice has been a place of refuge and inspiration for many famous people: Goethe, Byron, George Sand, De Musset... On 16th January 1872 the “Società civile Bagni Lido” was formed by a group of entrepreneurs with an idea to launch the Lido as a seaside resort and in 1881, a tram line was built to take guests in comfort from the Gran Viale to this new resort.
Built by the Raffaello brothers and Francesco Marsich, in a Liberty style, Grand Hotel Des Bains was inaugurated on the evening of 5th July 1900. Launched in style, a hotel which already for
the time possessed all the requirements of the sophisticated international elite clientele; drinking water, grand electric lighting, ice houses, telephones, lifts, heaters and bathrooms. For
the opening night the President and Director of the “Società Civile Bagni”, Musatti and Tommasini, called for a grand opening ball for 100 guests which started at 7pm and lasted until dawn.
On 6th July the “Gazzetta di Venezia” reported that “The tables, garnished with flowers and fruit, were laid with refined crystal ware and china; an impeccable service”. Also among the guests
was Nicolò Spada, the then director of the Società degli Alberghi, who in the years to come was to be a great driving force behind the development of the Lido.
The Hotel initially had only 50 rooms and just before the 1st World War the number of rooms was increased to the present 191. Once a forest, Hotel park is the work of the “gardener“ Pietro Tramontin who succeeded in creating an island within the island, to protect the privacy of guests. The Des Bains was the first great hotel of the Lido to provide an exclusive private beach, defined by two long rows of dressing rooms and rust coloured huts.
On 21st July 1908, Hotel Des Bains' sister-hotel, the Excelsior was inaugurated with grand opening party. Over 3000 invited guests travelled especially for this occasion from all over the world, and over 30.000 venetian citizens reached the Lido to be present to the event. On this date, Giuseppe Volpi, a founding partner of the CIGA ( Compagnia Italiana Grandi Alberghi) took over the Societa Bagni Lido and built a dock behind the Excelsior allowing a direct and fast connection between Venice and these two luxurious buildings.
During the Great War the Lido was spared from enemy attacks but on 12th July 1916 at 3.30 pm a fire broke out inside the Des Bains – which was closed due to the fighting – destroying almost all of the central part and the south wing. A year after the end of the World War, CIGA worked quickly on the reconstruction of the hotel, to enable a great revival of the hotel in time for the summer season. Further works then followed between 1924 -1926 with the addition of new rooms designed by architect De Luigi and the placement of a large clock at the top of the central building. The original Sala Visconti, which is to this day the oldest part of the building, rose again from a project which started in 1905, with its octagonal layout, a balcony and liberty balustrade with a hemisphere made of Murano coloured glass and walls covered with wooden oak boiseries.
The Second World War saw Des Bains emerge in centre stage, assigned after 8th September as a recreational centre for German military officers based in Venice (who laid mines in the whole area to counter potential attacks), the hotel remained a resort for soldiers and American officials after the allies landed. At the end of the conflict, with the entire area cleared of mines, the “Golden Island” faced the world stage once again with the arrival of the Persian Shah, King Faruk of Egypt and other important names of the time.
From 1912 until 1934 Thomas Mann was a regular guest at Des Bains; the perfect setting for the aristocracy of the beginning of the century and the hotel became part of the literary world through his novel “Der Tod in Venedig” (“Death in Venice”). The hotel then passed into legendary status and the 20s and 30s are remembered specifically for themed parties organised by Des Bains and Excelsior; tableaux vivants, balls and parties that would all end with the Foxtrott and the Charleston. Also to be remembered is Pavolvic Diaghilev, choreographer and creator of the Russian ballet, who was a permanent guest of the hotel due to his ill health. In 1930 Henry Ford came to the Lido, a guest of Count Giuseppe di Misurata and, having complained in jest about the lack of golf course, became the main driving force behind the creation of the 18 hole golf course in the southern part of the Lido.
On 6th August 1932 the first International Film Festival took place and due to its extraordinary success the Lido is still today the host of one of the most important cinematic events in the world. Actors and celebrities from around the world –from Liz Taylor to Robert De Niro, have all stayed at Des Bains which throughout the years has also been the setting for well known films. In October 1970 Luchino Visconti filmed “La Morte a Venezia” making everybody, actors and extras, wear clothes fitting of the century “in order to be true to the time of Mann’s novel”. More recently in 1996 Anthony Minghella filmed “The English Patient”, which won nine awards at the Oscars. Following which the hotel (which in the film represented the Hotel Shepheard in Cairo) became a meeting place for diplomats, spies and desert explorers.
In 1995 the Hotel Des Bains entered the Sheraton Group, which in 1998 was acquired by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.
Hotel Des Bains is currently undergoing a complete refurbishment and the historic building will be delivered to the market as a new and luxurious condominium comprising 58 serviced freehold apartments and 4 villas. On the first floor there will be a boutique hotel of 15 suites. Future owners will benefit from services comparable to that of a five star hotel, offered by the hotel operator who will manage the 15 hotel suites along with the splendid palatial reception rooms. The most advanced renovation techniques will bridge the gap between past and present, adding value to the history and maintaining the philology of the restoration.
The objective of this project is to preserve the spirit of an aristocratic residence from the beginning of the twentieth century, with the opportunity to revisit the glamorous atmosphere combining the enchantment of the past with the luxury of the present.
The structure will benefit from a covered swimming pool, fitness centre, recreational arcade, cinema, restaurant and bar. Privacy is guaranteed within the green oasis of a five hectare historic park, which includes an outdoor swimming pool, solarium and tennis courts. Owners will be able to benefit from concierge services ,security, valet parking, to ensure their stay is unique and comfortable at whatever time of year.
Grand Hotel des Bains Residenze is scheduled to open in summer 2013.
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