Suite Wars: Italy – La Dolce Vita

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We bring you the six finest suites from the country that introduced the world to La Dolce Vita

By Ayesha Khan

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From the canals of Venice to the alpine climbs of Cortina and the sun-drenched hills of Tuscany, Italy is truly breathtaking. Impossible as it is to encompass the sheer grandeur of this proud nation, our selection of suites in five of the most important haute spots of Italy are sure to offer some well-rounded insight.

We begin our tour in la Città Eterna: Rome, the capital of the modern world from as early at 753 BC. At the St. Regis Grand, just steps away from Via Veneto and the Trevi Fountain, guests will find Rome’s first and foremost grand hotel. Opened in 1894 by César Ritz, the ultimate arbiter of haute, this hotel boasts elaborately frescoed walls, soaring Corinthian columns, Ritz’s original Murano glass chandeliers, and, of course, 23 butler-serviced suites

The finest among them is the sprawling 3230 square foot Royal Suite. Over the decades, the likes of Juan Peron, Princess Grace, and Richard Burton have called this elaborate suite their temporary home, and it’s not hard to see why. A lavish entrance foyer leads to a living room kitted out with every manifestation of true luxury. Floors are entirely clad in authentic Aubusson carpet, walls with massive mirrors and sculpted wood panelling, and gold ceilings with exquisite Bohemian chandeliers. In the private dining room, which seats up to 12, a coved ceiling depicts an elaborate Pompeian fresco. The suite also features a private kitchen and wine cellar, two bedrooms, and an oversized marble bath with his and her dressing closets.

 Dominating Milan’s Piazza Della Repubblica, the Principe di Savoia has been the meeting place for the well-heeled international bourgeoisie since the 1920’s.

Also adding its own brand of charm to the historic streets of Rome is the 125-bedroom Hotel de Russie, located on the fashionable Via del Babuino, which runs between the Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo.  The hotel opened in April of 2000 after a complete refurbishment that brought the hotel up to the standards of today’s discerning travelers. The hotel is famed for its stunning terraced gardens, the recently added Butterfly Oasis, and newly refurbished spa, The Wellness Zone. Also adding to the fame is The Popolo suite, which offers stunning views overlooking the Piazza del Popolo.  The hotel’s inviting suite has attracted more than its fair share of A-list clientelle, including George Clooney and the rest of the cast of Ocean’s 12.

From Michelangelo’s frescoes at St. Peter’s, we transport you to Florence, the Tuscan capital, which will forever be synonymous with its most revered native son. The Grand Hotel Florence is as much a part of the city’s history as the Ponte Vecchio or the Florence Cathedral’s world famous dome. In fact, it was the great Brunelleschi who was commissioned by the Guintini family to build their residence in Piazza Ognisstanti. More than four hundred years later, this prestigious address overlooking the River Arno houses the finest suite in Florence.

The Grand Hotel Florence’s Royal Suite plays out scenes from the Medici Court within its elaborately panelled walls and hand-painted vaulted ceilings. Up to two bedrooms with elegant canopied beds can be added to the grand salon, which features exquisite renaissance furniture (most of which was purchased by the Aga Khan when he owned the property). The suite is serviced by a personal butler and offers its guests unrivalled technology (courtesy of Bang and Olufsen) within its distinctly Florentine renaissance setting.

And when the Tuscan sun sets on Florence, it rises again on the urban hub of everything glamorous- Milan. Dominating Milan’s Piazza Della Repubblica, the Principe di Savoia has been the meeting place for the well-heeled international bourgeoisie since the 1920’s.

So it’s not surprising that the most extravagant suite in Milan sits atop this fine hotel. Set over 5380 square feet (one of the largest suites in all of Europe), the Presidential Suite offers panoramic views of the city through its lavishly dressed windows and corner terrace. The suite consists of three bedrooms, a dining room and parlor, all appointed in fine crystal, boiserie, frescos, and marble. But the pièce de résistance is an elaborate 30-meter indoor swimming pool completely surrounded by the finest Italian marble, frescoes, and intricate stucco work. Adjoining the pool is a Turkish bath, Jacuzzi, and sauna: opulent facilities that make this suite the ultimate urban sanctuary.

The quaint lakeside town of Gargnano has inspired many artists and poets. D.H. Lawrence called it “one of the most beautiful places on earth,” and Benito Mussolini spent his last years during the German occupation here. Set in the verdant grounds between the hills by Lake Garda, and surrounded by ancient trees and hills is Villa Feltrinelli, the summer home of Italy’s renowned banking, lumber, and publishing family. The truly unrivalled beauty of this quaint villa inspired Regent Hotels founder Bob Burms to invest over $30 million (ten times the price he paid for the property) to realize its potential as a great Italian retreat.

The result is the exquisite Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli, where rooms and suites are appointed in original antique furniture from the Feltrinelli family, Frette linens, hand painted frescoed ceilings done in the 1890’s by the Lieti brothers, and every imaginable mark of truly personalized luxury. Although each and every room at Villa Feltrinelli is the ultimate embodiment of a Suite Wars suite, the quaint lakeside “boat house” is an ideal option for secluded comfort. It offers a full kitchen, dining area, living room with fireplace, outdoor patio, and one bedroom on its second floor, adjoined by an outdoor terrace, dressing area, and a white marble bath.

What better place to round out our tour of Italian luxury than the Gondola-lined canals of Venice? The Hotel Cipriani, and its accompanying Palazzi, the Vendramin and Nani-Barbaro, are dramatically set on the shores of the lagoon overlooking Piazza San Marco. Adjoined by an ancient courtyard, flowered passageways and the Cipriani’s Casanova Gardens, these three properties are the ultimate manifestation of the romance of Venice.

What truly sets this hotel apart is its Palladio Suite, named for Venice’s most renowned renaissance architect, and often referred to as “a glass capsule suspended mid-air above the lagoon.” It is this distinct feature that makes its interiors, and most importantly its views, second to none. A complete 180° vista of Venice is offered through floor to ceiling windows in the bedrooms, dining room, and living room. The main entertainment space features fine original artwork from Venetian glassblower Luciano Vistosi and delicate Murano glass lamps. And of course technology is not far behind: a 42″ LCD screen emerges from a Tibetan chest at the touch of a button. A private garden deck, complete with heated plunge pool and shaded by fragrant jasmine bushes, is also at guests’ disposal.

It is difficult to succinctly describe the plethora of luxury options in a country as multifaceted and as well versed in luxury accommodations as Italy. Any list will inevitably fall short of the glorious hotels and suites that line virtually every acre of the country. But it is our sincere hope that our five have inspired many ardent, discerning luxury travellers’ imaginations.

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