Palermo Grande: Stunning Hotel Revival Reveals Sicily’s Hidden Gems

Seaside Home in Sicily: It’s the Real Estate Ambition of the Ages For thousands of years, from all over Mare Nostrum, they conquered – the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans – and were occupied, forming colonies and building temples along the stretch of coast. Centuries later, artists and Grand Tourists fell in love with Sicily’s peaceful bays and coves. Like a strange history Classify rule over governance with exquisite cultural collages. but no one lives by the sea like the Sicilians themselves. saw the suburbs of Palermo, the capital city, where the suburbs had now sown some seeds. But in the 18th century, the utopia of orange groves and spectacular aristocratic estates fell to the Tyrrhenian with its splendid délabré. The villa retains the beauty of the landscape.

A century later, the Florio family moved to a higher level. which owns problems in transportation, fisheries and packaging factories. (We owe the existence of canned tuna to its enterprising vision) and masala winemakers, most likely to know their names. The house on the northern promontory of the Palermo harbour, shaded by Monte Pellegrino Ignazio Florio Sr, was named Villa Florio, which strengthened the family’s social life. A few decades later, his son Ignacio Jr. decided to take advantage of his potential as a destination. A socialite and beauty salon, whom Kaiser Wilhelm II called the “Star of Italy”, he enlisted the famous Palermitan architect Filippo Ernesto Basile to expand the villa into a luxury hotel that provide full service

Over the next two decades, the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea (renovated after Florios’ daughter) made history. Palermo became a place; Florios is known. It felt like a widespread dependence on their famous friends. The hotel instantly became crowded. Those from royalty, industry and international renown were Nicholas II of Russia, Edward VII and George V of Great Britain, Chulalongkorn of Siam and the Duc d’Orléans as one of their patrons. In the early days, Baron Rothschild and John Pierpont Morgan were the first people on their yacht. Some people visit the church at Monreale or the Palazzo dei Normanni with its 900-year-old mosaics; Some were made for the nearby Bagni della Regina caves to swim and disperse in privacy. But most prefer to relax in a hotel that is the center of European society.

1950s frescoes in a bar by Sicilian artist Eugenio Morici © Lea Anouchinsky

Exterior of Villa Igiea

Exterior of Villa Igiea © Lea Anouchinsky

Fate changed as they did. Villa Igiea left Florios’ hands before World War II. By the late 20th century it was slowly deteriorating. for many years While the grandeur of Basile’s scenes and buildings has never diminished. But its seal seems to be firmly anchored in the past. and it can be said that this city which fell at the same time Lack of truly great hotels since then.

Enter Rocco Forte, president of Europe’s most innovative hospitality business group, Forte and his sister. Vice chair and design director Olga Polizzi took aim at Villa Igiea after opening their resort, Verdura, on Sicily’s southwest coast ten years ago. It has enormous potential But it’s not devoid of complexity. In addition to the obstacles of acquisition and renovation (All hotels are pretty heavily listed.) There’s a problem with Palermo’s own desirability: there are those people – firmly your writers – city lovers and all-around scruffy – glorious edges. Shades of Buenos Aires and Marrakech Amidst the baroque bubble and Norman austerity But many Brits miss it completely. They substitute Taormina or the chic Val di Noto every year below Syracuse. Palermo never stops loving Villa Igiea – will the reborn Villa Igiea love it back?

Baroque ceiling in Palermo's Santa Caterina Church
Baroque ceiling in Palermo’s Santa Caterina Church | © Lea Anouchinsky

Villa Igiea's 1912 postcard.

Villa Igiea’s 1912 postcard © Archivio GBB/Alamy Stock Photo

Guests during Igiea's Belle Epoque were Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, seen here (front row, second and third from left) in 1907.

Guests during Igiea’s Belle Epoque were Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, seen here (front row, second and third from left) in 1907.

Years and 30 million euros later, Forte is about to get the answer. The hotel will reopen this month. After a head-to-toe renovation overseen by Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeylen, co-owner/creative director of London-based Nicholas Haslam, along with the famous blush-colored Polizzi Castle; A lozenge-shaped pool, flanked by the “ruins” of an ancient temple. (Florio’s stupidity); A garden planted with palm trees, hibiscus and cacti All have been embellished and trimmed, but most remain the same.

Inside is where meticulous conservation efforts meet creative reinvention. “Hardly anyone knew Basile in England,” Polizzi said, “his love of the Middle Ages and his freedom. [Italian art nouveau]” – both themes are evident in Villa Igiea – “a strange combination. But he is very valuable in Palermo.” The double-tall Sala Basile with frescoes by Ettore de Maria Bergler and a large glass-flowered centerpiece was the architect’s example. “Fortunately, it is well preserved. And we just have to gently restore it,” Polizzi said. The end of the event happened when I arrived. Graduates from the local Belle Arti academy tattoo and dreadlocks in overalls. with diffused color standing on the stairs Meticulously clean up the last part of the gorgeous scene: the exhausted maid dressed in translucent white and gold. Field of irises and poppies Peacock spreads a large number of teal and sapphire tail feathers.

There is a large walnut staircase. An intricately designed railing camouflages the intertwined B and E (Basile is known for his ingenious signature), and Polizzi notes that Many pieces of furniture designed by the architects for this hotel. It has been restored and inhabited throughout. Traditional guest bench Grand Budapest air columns were removed, cleaned and reinstalled. (Plus Grand Budapest: a huge room key with festoons, not cards, not digital fobs, real keys – hanging in a neat cube behind them.)

Bar at Villa Igiea

Bar at Villa Igiea © Lea Anouchinsky

Detail from the murals in the Basili pavilion

Details from the mural in the Sala Basile © Lea Anouchinsky

The renovation lasted two years, one of which was when the epidemic was closed. (“It should be the coolest job in beautiful Palermo. (But sometimes it’s just a nightmare,” Polizzi admits.) Every last detail had to be approved – sometimes via Zoom – by the local cultural oversight ministry. “Even the color scheme,” Vergeylen says, an easier process. “By applying all the images to the Sala Basile frescoes, no one can say that it is inaccurate.”

The entire floor of the room was demolished and rebuilt. By reducing the number from 120 plus to 100. Old bathrooms are sometimes small. Connecting suites are not the only theme these days. “We had to completely rethink the layout for modern comfort,” Vergeylen told me, “but also remember that when people who knew Villa Igiea came back” – and there he said, a small, cunning army caught on. Too much at the hotel – “The response we wanted was not ‘Oh, it doesn’t feel the same’; It was, ‘Oh, you brought it back to life.’”

“The way to do that is to respect how it is viewed as a private residence,” Moschino added. “Ultimately, before it was a hotel, it was Villa Florio. We kept a small library and a living room.” which may merge into a larger area (And make better money) “Buildings have characters. they have evolved I don’t believe in scraping it all off.”

Palermo Botanical Garden
Palermo Botanical Garden | © Lea Anouchinsky

Gala at the Villa in 1910 - Franca Florio was one of the guests.

Gala at the Villa in 1910 – Franca Florio was one of the guests.

Villa's Folly

Villa’s Folly

That said, Vergeylen noted that Forte was partly a reminder to the design team that “Villa Igiea” still precedes the word “Grand Hotel.” “The perfect place for a big weekend in the big house” is the goal, Vergeylen says. Even the smallest rooms (about 35 square meters, not small) have high ceilings, carpeted beds. and walls decorated with blue, gold, and Hessian or other wallpaper produced by the Design Lab in San Patrignano. The rehabilitation community recently made its mark on the Netflix documentary series SanPa: Sins of the Savior. (Annals of controversial founders The series doesn’t delve into the extraordinary artisan workshops that flourished here after his death in 1995, fostered by Renzo Mongiardino, who inherited designs from the archives. many, which Moschino and Moschino and Vergeylen have deployed in hotels)

Every last piece of myolica tile in the unrestored location was designed by Scianna Ceramiche, the oldest artisan maker in Bagheria, east of Palermo. “You wouldn’t think of aerospace material from Mexico. or Japan to do this kind of work,” Vergeylen says. “It demands sustainability in the truest sense of the word – support local organizations and know the artisans you work with.”

A salon restored to a glorious Belle Epoque.

The salon has been restored to its Belle Epoque glory © Lea Anouchinsky

One of the suites at Villa Igiea

One of the suites at Villa Igiea © Lea Anouchinsky

This is the Rocco Forte Hotel. Wellness is always a feature. Forte’s daughter Irene, who also serves on the board of the Global Wellness Summit (and directs the hotel’s entire wellness program), weighs in on the spa and gym. It occupies its own long tower at the bottom of the garden – all light wood, bright green tile work and light pouring through floor-to-ceiling windows. The skincare invented three years ago with products grown at Verdura and sourced across the island (hibiscus oil, apricot and pistachio and orange blossom oils) are reasonably priced.

The hotel is currently in the process of being unofficially launched. Design details are hindered. Decorate and customize menus But when the hotel was completed It’s safe to say that nothing is incredible in the Sicilian capital. As for Palermo itself: the success of Manifesta contemporary art nomads held here in 2018, along with the opening of the private museums of the Palazzo Butera, Massimo and Francesca Valsecchi in the Kalsa district, seem to kick off a small renaissance. There is an increasing number of wine and cocktail bars. And of the young chef, there is a Galleria d’Arte Moderna that is great value. It is in the convent center of Sant’Anna and the lively concerts and exhibitions in the almost absurdly beautiful Santa Maria dello Spasimo. Kalsa’s unfinished 16th-century church

And there’s predictable competition on the horizon, as well as an ambitious renovation of the city’s other historic sites, the Grand Hotel et Des Palmes, which opened with a restaurant and a rooftop bar controlled by an Italian chef. Palermo might finally be better and truly better. There is a new house next to the sea waiting for those who are interested to find it themselves.

roccofortehotels.com; from €420

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