A hotel that made history
In 1891 César Ritz, the Swiss visionary hotelier was given the task, by the Italian Premier Rudini, of conceiving a true luxury hotel in Rome, with certain standards set for the aristocracy. Ritz, with his years of experience in the luxurious hospitality was just the man Rome needed, so he immediately traveled to Italy's Capital by train.
As soon as arrived in Rome, Ritz noticed an unfinished building that seemed to be perfect for his purpose. Set just next to the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian, designed by the architect Giulio Podesti, that building would certainly have met the approval of the wealthy set.
On 10 January 1894, the Grand Hotel opened with a bang; more than 1000 people gathered to the eagerly awaited inauguration for a cocktail. The glittering new salons of the Grand hotel were the set of the most important event in the Roman social calendar for the decade.
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 hotel quickly became a sort of extraterritorial territory, a place where kings and queens, princes and princesses could rest and socialize.
For the first time in Italy the Grand Hotel restaurant had the supervision of two famous chefs: Auguste Escoffier and Pierre Louis. On 10 February 1894 the restaurant opened to the public and diners were entertained with a nightly concert performed by the house orchestra for a full immersive experience.
While the Grand Hotel was busy with its illustrious clientele, some financial turmoil affected it. As a result, in 1899, it was incorporated in a new management company. The Savoy Limited was holding fashionable hospitality enterprises in three major European capitals: London, Paris and Rome.
In 1910 aware of the importance of publicity, the Grand Hotel ran a one page advertisement in the New York Times. By 1913, business was prosperous, the Grand was having troubles satisfying the huge demand for its rooms. Rome was overflowing with foreign visitors.
After the problematic period between the World Wars the Grand Hotel has been the stage of a key event that shaped Italy. The Prime Minister Badoglio and the anti-Fascist leaders have discussed the postwar process of economic and administrative reconstruction.
Following the international success of movies shot in Italy, such as La dolce Vita or Roman holidays, Rome became the capital of the young, rich and famous. The prestigious and elegant Grand Hotel became the destination for foreigners who wanted to live La Dolce Vita for themselves, being in Rome at that time was like living a dream.
In 1963 the management of the Grand Hotel decided to give it a face-lifting, installing air conditioning and other contemporary amenities. This was the beginning of a major seven-year modernization agenda that would propel the Grand Hotel into a new epoch.
In 1965 the new hotel restaurant conceived by Natale Rusconi, was opened. Rallye, with its contemporary designs and its memorable menu,quickly conquered the gourmets of Rome. The most beautiful people went to eat at the Grand Hotel and it turned out to be one of the most exclusive Italian places.
The hotel’s hotspot, Rallye bar, sparked new habits in the fashionable circle of Rome; the barman became a discrete and trustworthy institution. The Grand hotel, with its bartending legend Mauro Lotti, became the venue for a variety of “Shaken Not Stirred” Martini cocktails.
In 1969 hotel’s main restaurant was moved to a more intimate area and renamed Le Maschere, redecorated in a theatrical atmosphere. The menu was based on pasta, 38 excellent dishes carefully researched, representative of the Italian regions’ specialty.
In 1970, with 331 rooms, 24 suites and 16 junior suites the 7-year modernization programme was successfully completed. In addition to the first two automatic elevators ever built in Italy, and still working, two more automatic lifts on the other side of the lobby were constructed.
The design specialists behind the rooms and corridors were from Maison Jansen design firm of Paris, headed by Europe’s celebrity society decorator Stéphane Boudin. The old fashioned chandeliers were replaced by modern ones and all the rooms were fully equipped with the best technology available.
The Grand Hotel has for many years produced its own wine. Hidden in an internal courtyard, the ancient grapevine grows on a historical soil and produces enough grape to fill between 300 to 400 bottles each year. The wine is delicate, harmonious, round in taste and has a pretty golden yellow color.
In the mid-80s the Grand Hotel began serving afternoon tea to a sophisticated circle of regulars. The ritual begins with the choice of tea among eight finest varieties. The tea is infused in silver tea pots that date back to the opening of the Grand Hotel, and served in the most elegant china.
In 1999 the holding company of the Grand Hotel, CIGA, was bought by Starwood. The Grand closed for renovation supervised by a young and ambitious man called Stephen Alden. This was the beginning of a complitely new era, fully respectful of its past.
The age of St. Regis Rome.
In December 1999 after almost a year restoration the Grand Hotel in Rome officially became the St. Regis Grand Hotel, Rome. With 161 rooms, including 23 suites, among them the unique Royal Suite and the enchanting Imperial Suite, the historic brand St. Regis formally headed to Europe.
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