Many people ask me why I decided to work in the hospitality industry. The answer is simple; I’m forever fascinated by the magic of the grand hotels. The few remaining ones we have left, exude a mysterious energy alluring visitors to enter a world where time simply don’t exist. It all began with these majestic hotels. That’s why I’m excited to introduce a new series here on the blog called “Hotels with history”. The first one in line is the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea in Palermo, Italy. Something amazing is currently going on there, and so I invite you to get comfortable and join me for a visit to this historical property.
Constructed under the British reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), Grand Hotel Villa Igiea was originally built as a private villa by the British admiral Cecil Domville in the late 19th century. Overlooking the glistening ocean and surrounded by lush vegetation, the villa still stands proud with its Gothic-style architecture, which was en vogue at the time.
Upon Mr. Domville’s death, the property was purchased by the Italian Ignazio Florio who quickly named it after his daughter, Igiea. Florio had a dream; he wanted to create a luxury hotel that reflected the spirit of the Belle Epoque era. He did – and Villa Igiea became one the hot spots for the European aristocracy – at least for a few years. Then came World War I, and his dream was destroyed. Instead of housing the rich and famous, the villa suddenly became a field hospital for injured soldiers fighting on the Italian front.
When the war ended, the Banco di Sicilia acquired the property, and they erected the hotel to its former glory. Once again, Villa Igiea became a gathering point for Europe’s jetset – and that would last for many decades to come. Since the 1990’s, the old hotel has been sold and purchased many times, e.g. by Hilton and AccorHotels. Most recently, it has functioned as a Sofitel hotel, however, things are now changing once again. The Italian hotelier Rocco Forte and his family have acquired Villa Igiea, and are planning to open it in the Spring of 2021.
Right there, at the foot of Mount Pellegrino and the Gulf of Palermo, the old Villa is revitalised and ready to welcome guests from far and near soon again. Just like it always has.
During the hotel’s renovation under Ignazio Florio, the Gothic style was partially replaced by Art Nouveau architecture, which is still visible today, e.g. in the shape of an exotic indoor garden, interior walls adorned with female figures and florals etc. As a Rocco Forte hotel, the interior has been infused with a contemporary flair to match the requirements and comfort needs of modern travellers. With its unique location, historical elegance and now also a brand new gourmet restaurant, it remains the pinnacle of Sicilian coastal glamour.
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