Once upon a time there were letters, postcards and notes. This brief tale of the Bristol Palace in Genoa is one of couriers and postmen, of trunks and stagecoaches. It speaks of queens and noble coats-of-arms in a far-off era and is written in the refined hand typical of the start of the twentieth century.
Post offices in hotels, a revolution in mass tourism
At the start of the last century Genoa was an expanding city whose increasingly functional port was growing rapidly in size. In parallel, here as in other places, mass tourism was starting to spread too. It was a novelty that triggered an acceleration in the rush towards a more dynamic lifestyle. Everything improved as a result: from roads to means of transport to hotels. Yet there were still relatively few post offices.
This is why, in ways that varied according to the years, the most prestigious hotels and those in tourist resorts – and also the most isolated – set about filling the gap. One habit that spread increasingly at the start of the twentieth century was the opening of post offices inside hotels that were convenient and safe for travellers. Genoa’s Bristol Palace was one of the establishments that offered this indispensable service. As of 1925, the Italian Royal Mail offered hotels the possibility of opening their own postal agencies. Correspondence from the whole of the first half of the century bears the names of these hotels in cancellations that are now veritable collector’s pieces. In the post-war years these agencies gradually closed down with the widespread diffusion of post offices.
The Royal Family’s coat-of-arms at the Bristol
The postcards and letters the guests who made use of the Hotel Bristol’s internal post office sent all across Europe were distinctive because they were postmarked with the Royal Family’s coat-of-arms. The symbol appeared with the name of the hotel in headings on writing paper and was legible on the bespoke cancellations.
Behind this detail lies a brief anecdote. On the wall to the right of the entrance to the hotel, housed in an art-nouveau palazzo on Via XX Settembre, hangs a framed document. It is a royal concession from June 1911 stating that Her Majesty the Queen Mother Margherita of Savoy wished to offer Federico Fioroni, officer, knight and, at the time, manager of the hotel, “a special and public token of her benevolence”, entitling him to adorn the Bristol’s emblem with the Royal Family’s coat-of-arms. The document is certified at the bottom by the signature of Her Majesty’s knight-of-honour. The royal concession made it possible to use the Savoy coat-of-arms on correspondence leaving the hotel. It was a tangible sign of recognition for Fioroni, who had founded and chaired the Italian Hoteliers’ Association until 1911, and for the Bristol itself. Opened in 1905, it was one of the most prestigious hotels in Genoa and also famous internationally.
Easter provides a magnificent “excuse” to admire the royal concession – and hear the story from the hotel’s staff. The Bristol would like to invite you to enjoy a two-or three-day minibreak in its art-nouveau palazzo with sumptuous breakfasts and gourmet dinners – plus Easter lunch featuring some of chef’s special traditional recipes – as part of a “total immersion” in comfort.