< ITALY | VARESE: Palace Grand Hotel Varese
Built by the ‘Societa Grandi Alberghi’ (the Grand Hotels Co. of Varese), The Palace Grand Hotel of Varese opened its doors in 1913. It was designed by the architect Giuseppe
Sommaruga, one of the main representatives of Art Nouveau in Lombardy. The Hotel has kept its commitment in the years and carried on renewing in order to offer the Belle Epoque style with services
and facilities selected for those who travel and work today.
The Palace was built on a little hill, the Colle Campigli, dominating the city, that once was linked by a funicular railway. It has a big park that is still the shelter of squirrels and little birds. It enjoys the sight of the lake of Varese and Lake Maggiore near the mountains. An old-style resort, full of green space and silence, where the guests can find the elegance and splendour of the old days, summing up with the good cooking, technology in discrete, and all that makes life more comfortable and agreeable at the start of the third Millennium.
Among the important people who spent some time at the Palace Grand Hotel were politicians, great composers, high finance managers, poets, artists, names of Italian and foreign Royalty, great sportsmen and so on. Tenor Francesco Tamagno, who dwelled in a villa on his own name, used to organise many a “scopa” – Italian card game – at the Palace Hotel where Mascagni and Puccini took part too, when they were guests here at the beginning of the 20th century.
Prince Umberto of Savoy came with his officers to comfort the soldiers wounded in the second World War when the Palace was turned into a war hospital. Another crowned guest of the Palace was Queen Wilhelmina of Holland, who would spend a month here on holiday. Last but not least King Farouk of Egypt, whose parties are still being reminded of, for dinners, dances and lavishing of champagne, for wonderful women and fortunes more often lost than won.
Passing from the days of monarchy to modern republic, the Palace merely passed to different institutional charges: so, before you saw Benito Mussolini and later there came Giovanni Gronchi, a President of the Italian Republic.
The park of the Palace Hotel has sometimes favoured the pausing of famous sport champions from Alfredo Binda to Jean Bobet and the football teams of Juventus, Milan and Inter. The tradition to welcome great musicians has been continued in the years with Benny Goodman, who loved to play in the park and relax there, and Louis Armstrong too, who came to the Palace Hotel to recover from the labours of the Festival of Sanremo.
Along the ‘50s and ‘60s, the city of Varese organised many happenings, a festival of the movies and the “Noci d’ Oro” (Golden Nuts), an award for the people of the shows. It happened then that there arrived Fellini and his Masina, Gina Lollobrigida and Sofia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Monica Vitti, Claudio Villa, Mike Bongiorno, Enzo Tortora, Tony Renis, only to mention a few. A long list of stars wrote their names and would jot down messages into the hotel recorder book or left some little something at the Palace.
When one see the candle light at a special corner table, then it means that Christian Barnard, the great surgeon, is coming down to dinner. Someone indeed was able to make the magnificent intemperance of the Belle Epoque come true again. That was Rudolf Nureyev: he took his fanciful caprices and coups de théatre there on the time of his starting as a conductor at the Imperial Theatre of Varese, with the staff of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
Dwelling in Varese, Renato Guttuso loved to share in the cultural life staying round the Hotel; Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti, a great critic of art, used to look here for the colours of the Parco delle Cascine of his Florence, and Giovanni Testori, a novelist, reviewer and playwright chose this Hotel to spend his last years of life.
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