< ITALY | GARDONE RIVIERA: Grand Hotel Gardone
Towards the end of the 19th century, Lake Garda became one of the most emblematic destinations of the Belle Époque. Picturesque microcosmos, absolutely unique in its geographical and climatic characteristics. The history of Lake Garda's first grand hotel goes back to 1875, when the Austrian Luigi Wimmer stayed at Gardone Riviera for health treatment. Enchanted by the mildness of the climate, he decided to settle down and have a small hotel built on the lakeside, in order to give others a chance to appreciate the beauty of the Garda riviera.
His brilliant intuition opened the way to the transformation of the rural village of Gardone into the most popular winter health resort in Mitteleurope. The hotel welcomed its first guests
in 1884, but its success became so great that after a few years in 1897, when the first round of refurbishment was undertaken.
In Gardone, the period called "Mitteleuropean" goes from 1885 to 1915. This name comes from the foundation of Kurverein, or Committee of care - more precisely committee on health resort of Gardone Riviera" and it was created in 1886 by two German doctors, Dr. Rohden and Dr. Ludwig. Karl Koeniger. The Grand Hotel housed in winter season a large number of people of culture, industry and the nobility, including, in the spring of 1903, the retinue of King George of Saxony. Special evenings, dances and masked balls held in the great ballroom of the Grand Hotel during the Belle Epoque were memorable.
The historian Giuseppe Solitro wrote that ‘the Hotel Gardone – with no exaggeration – may be regarded as a village: with 300 rooms, all facing south, dining and conversation halls, reading, music and leisure areas; galleries with glass walls, baths, gardens with tropical flora, all illuminated by electric light and kept warm by radiators – the new luxury comfort of this time’. Thanks to these characteristics, the Grand Hotel soon became a popular destination for noblemen and intellectuals from all around Europe.
During time, the Grand Hotel Gardone underwent several refurbishments and redecorations, in accordance with the standards of a modern and very high profile hospitality, though constantly mindful of its historical setting. For this reason, the Hotel keeps being one of the most elegant and prestigious destination of the Garda riviera. The key-feature of the main building is the majestic lakeside façade, giving unique emotions at sunset: a natural spectacle of great fascination, which guests can enjoy from the panoramic terrace that comes with the 167 rooms and junior suites.
The list of famous guests that have stayed at the Grand Hotel is nearly endless: from Sir Winston Churchill to Gabriele D’Annunzio; from King George of Saxony to the novelists William Somerset Maugham and Vladimir Nabokov; down to the great stars of music, theatre and dance, who in the last years have performed at the summer festival hosted by the Vittoriale at Gardone Riviera, and who have chosen the Grand Hotel as a place to stay on the Garda.
Paul Heyse, the German Poet, a Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature 1910, and the Grand Hotel's frequent guest between 1899 and 1909, described the rapture of one of his stays with following words: ‘Outside was the moon, up above in the sky, and the long garden beside the lake resembled silver, with its noble plants, palms, magnolias, agaves and the scent of roses’. He also set his novella "Eine venezianische Nacht" (A night in Venice), from the volume ‘Novellas from Lake Garda’ (1902) at the Grand Hotel.
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