The Bristol Palace in Genoa: a hidden jem
Fri, 02/12/2021 - 11:00
Hotel Bristol Palace
Once upon a time there was – and actually there still is - a city whose face is set with a thousand expressions, a true crossroad of diverse people and different cultures. Genoa’s history is inextricably entangled with that of the Bristol Palace, one of its symbols: the hotel has always opened its doors to cultural stimuli, stories, personalities from all over the world. A cosmopolitan spirit that has its roots in the past.
Genoa, an intertwining of centuries and cultures
One would never tire of walking in the historic center, between the Porto Antico, revisited by architect Renzo Piano, and the narrow alleys lined with houses, between patrician villas and green parks. Historically a city of merchants, bankers and adventurers, Genoa retains the charm of the ancient maritime republic it was, constantly reaching out to the East and to Africa. Subdued by France in 1499, it returned to shine under Andrea Doria, and maintained its proud independence until the Napoleonic period. Its great families have contributed to its ever-rising fame, including the architectural resurgence along Via Garibaldi, Via Cairoli and Via Balbi. Here one can admire residences of incomparable elegance: the "System of the Palazzi dei Rolli", declared a UNESCO heritage site.
Just a few steps away, Liberty-style architecture rules: for example, in via XX Settembre, where the Bristol Palace is located. All the residences on this street, built between 1902 and 1930, tell tales about that elegant era far better than any history book.
The elliptical staircase
Bristol Palace: a destination for artists and celebrities
In 1905, the hotel’s story began. The Bristol Palace almost immediately became one of the most prestigious hotels in Genoa, internationally famous. Memorable parties were held here: for the high society of the time, it was an elegant and refined setting, in perfect harmony with that era’s style, Liberty. The spectacular elliptical staircase in white marble that can be admired at the entrance, and over the years turned out to be the symbol of the hotel, perfectly reflects this cultural influence. Leaning over, one is amazed by the dizzying perspective it offers: unsurprisingly legend has it that its shape inspired Alfred Hitchcock the spiral of Vertigo. In fact, the world-famous director, in Genoa to shoot some scenes for “To Catch a Thief”, was one of the hotel's many famous guests.
The hotel today retains the main structure and décor, and the precious original furniture from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with Napoleon III lounges, precious marble details, a revolving crystal door, an Art Nouveau Winter Garden… every part restored to new life after a careful restoration. In particular, the Michelangelo Room, the early reading room of the Hotel, with its central chandelier, its appliques on the walls and its large mirror, truly testifies to the splendor and taste of its time. It is not for nothing that Bristol is a member of "The Historical Places of Italy" cultural association. Sponsored by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, it protects premises that are at least seventy years old and that have been protagonists of many pages of Italy’s history.
Genoa has always attracted great personalities, and many of these have stayed at the Bristol Palace over the years: among them writers, such as d'Annunzio, Pirandello, Montale, Campana; heads of state and politicians such as Emperor Hirohito, Infanta of Spain, Yitzhak Rabin and Simon Peres; Nobel Prizes such as Rita Levi Montalcini and, last but not least, true dance legends such as Rudolf Nureyev and Carla Fracci.