< ITALY | ROME: St. Regis Rome
Located between two fountains, the “Moses” fountain - better known as the “Display of happy water” and the “Najada” fountain in Piazza della Repubblica, the St. Regis Rome is one of the world’s most luxurious properties today. Its history starts in London, at a reception given by the well-known hotelier Cesar Ritz in his celebrated hotel. Among the guests was The Italian President, the marquis of Rudini, who expressed his desire to have such a modern hotel in Italy too. A few years later Rome met the end of the century splendour of the hotel business thanks to a considerable investment of 3.5 million Italian lira provided by Cesar Ritz (at that time such an amount would have been enough to buy a whole district of Rome).
Cesar Ritz, whose reputation was associated to the Savoy and the Carlton in London, with Le Grand Hotel - as it was originally named, changed completely Rome’s way of living. At that
time, there was less than half a million inhabitants in a city tormented by malaria, and social life took place only in the private palazzos. The Roman upper class was neither used to
hold parties in public places nor to provide their distinguished guests with hotel accommodation.
However, Ritz built a hotel that, for the first time in Italy, had huge entertainment lounges where professional and smiling staff took care of its guests. Le Grand Hotel, with its atmosphere of aristocratic residence, seduced not only the high society of the capital but also the literary and political elite.
The hotel was inaugurated on January 11th, 1894, a memorable day in Rome also because of an unexpected fall of heavy snow. Ladies in veils, tiaras and pearl necklaces, accompanied by gentlemen in white tie and tails encountered difficulties in reaching Le Grand Hotel by horse and carriage. That night the cold was so biting that the coachmen waiting were wearing bear’s skin coats. His Holiness Pope Leo XIII, King Umberto I and Wilhelm II of Germany were among the guests who were served an exquisite 16-course banquet. “The royal palace” was the name Queen Margaret (King Umberto’s wife) gave to Le Grand Hotel after her first visit.
Designed by the architect Giulio Podesti, hotel had all the latest technology of the time: electric lighting throughout (whereas the others had oil or gas lamps), all rooms equipped with private bathrooms; it had a lift (the original one is still in service), and a heating system to service all the rooms. On the ground floor there was the first ballroom opened in Rome (decorated by Mario Spinetti, well known artist and portrait painter). All the rooms - as a journalist described the day after the inauguration – are furnished to satisfy the different clientele; from the severe elegance suitable for magistrates and politicians to the romantic blue finishings suitable for newly weds, that “come from the fog of the North to become intoxicated with the beautiful sun in Italy...”
Le Grand Hotel has accommodated kings, heads of State and celebrities from all over the world: King Hassan II of Morocco, King Umberto and Queen Margherita, the Sultan of Sumatra; Bao Dao, emperor of Vietnam; emir Feisal; king of Saudi Arabia, Sendle Feisal Bin Abdel-Aziz; Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia; the Romanian president Ceausescu; prince Rainier and princess Grace of Monaco; Queen Elizabeth; King Juan Carlos while King Alfonso XIII of Spain was hotel's permanent guest from 1934 to 1941.
Clients were rich aristocrats, Lord and Lady Essex for example, tycoons such as the banker Morgan, shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, president of Fiat Gianni Agnelli, eminent writers like Emile Zola and Leo Tolstoy, budding fashion designers like the Fontana sisters and many others. The hotel has always been a worthy setting for memorable celebrations: such as the wedding reception for princess Beatrice of Borbone and prince Torlonia, 76 royal highnesses attended this unforgettable lunch.
Numerous personalities from the world of entertainment: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Toto, Maria Callas, Sofia Loren, Richard Gere, Sharon Stone, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, Madonna, Kirk and Michael Douglas, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Nicholas Cage together and many others. Amongst the regular guests there were also many film directors Federico Fellini and Franco Zeffirelli.
In 1999, the holding company of the Grand Hotel, CIGA - Compagnia Italiana Grandi Alberghi, was bought by Starwood. The Grand closed for renovation supervised by Stephen Alden, and on the same day of the original opening - 106 years before, the St. Regis Grand reopened on January 11th 2000. For more than a century, the St. Regis Rome has been the crossroad of international high society, and meeting point of the Italian and international political, diplomatic, economic and cultural élite.
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