Six storeys of history
. The spectacular white marble elliptical staircase
with its wrought iron railing climbs in a spiral up to the top floor. It appears not only suspended in space but also, somehow, suspended in time. We can almost imagine the celebrities of the time walking up and down the staircase: from novelist Edmondo De Amicis, who wrote a note of compliments – “I left the Bristol under the illusion that I’d been a great gentleman for five days” – to the poet and novelist Gabriele D’Annunzio, the playwright Luigi Pirandello and Eugenio Montale, also a poet, who used to come here to attend weekly Rotary Club meetings. The staircase’s dizzying perspective
was also admired by the likes of Emperor Hirohito, the Infanta of Spain, the former Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the Israeli politicians Yitzhak Rabin and Simon Peres, Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi Montalcini and two great stars of Italian stage and screen, Vittorio de Sica and Alberto Sordi. The deft feet of the great ballet dancers Rudolf Nureyev and Carla Fracci also tripped up and down these steps. According to legend, finally, Alfred Hitchcock
– twice a guest at the Bristol
when he came to Genoa to shoot some scenes for To Catch a Thief
– drew inspiration from the staircase for Vertigo
. To understand why, you only have to go to the top and look down: what you see is a spiral that conjures up an optical illusion.