Collect stories, not beds: hotels tell stories

"A hotel must have something to offer in addition to beds, or the big brands will take over the whole market”. Ben Rafter, President of OLS Hotels & Resorts. Hotels, in other words, must be able to tell a story, as well as being welcoming.

But which are the structures that are really able to do this? In which hotels have the most iconic characters of the last century spent the night? In what areas have conversations taken place that are able to mark our history, our culture and our imagination? We were a "tour" of the world, discovering it for you.

From ``The picture of Dorian Gray``, Oscar Wilde

There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

In a highly competitive context such as the hotel offer, crushed by competition from private Airbnb and networks for alternative hospitality such as couchsurfing, one bed is not enough, you also need the fairy tale suitable for good night.

To distinguish themselves in the basket of an increasingly vast and varied series of proposals, the experts of the hotel industry advise managers and entrepreneurs to focus high on the definition of a solid and recognizable brand identity. If then, in addition to offering design furniture and exclusive furnishings, tailor made services to users and entertainment during your stay, you have some tricks in your sleeve that can leverage the collective imagination, it's worth playing them.

Hotels today, to become legends, must be able to tell stories. And that is why some accommodation facilities boast, without making mystery, the merit of being the stage of events that have changed the fate of humanity, and the set of meetings between characters that are part of our historical memory.

They will be famous

We will never know what Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ordered to drink to celebrate the agreement with Joseph Marshall Stoddart, publisher of the Lippincott's Magazine, who commissioned them to write the two novels that made them famous: The portrait of Dorian Gray and the adventure of Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of the Four, both published in 1890, which the Langham Hotel in London remembers with a plaque, that significant meeting.

Opened in 1860 with a ceremony officiated by the Prince of Wales, the Regent Street hotel is now a prestigious 5-star member of the Leading Hotels of the World Association. In its current appearance, it boasts 380 rooms, a business centre, a ballroom for 400 people, bars and various restaurants in addition to the Palm Court, the tearoom that has been open for 150 years.

During the second world war the army transferred some military delegations in the Langham and, in the immediate post-war period, its management passed to the BBC that moved there its offices until the transfer of the building to the free market. Napoleon III, Toscanini and Mark Twain were in love with it, and Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaulle, Lady Diana and Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie stayed overnight in its rooms. Sherlock Holmes was imagined within its walls, and Oscar Wilde wrote his first novel, the masterpiece of English literature that celebrates the cult of beauty.
"Life imitates art far more than art imitates life": it may be a coincidence, but the famous aphorism of The Portrait of Dorian Gray seems to be the principle that inspired the latest restoration of the structure, which today looks like an elegant blend of tradition and future, including contemporary upholstery and facilities, fine marble, vintage furnishings and furnishings in Art Nouveau style. A safe haven for lovers of luxury, it was also the alcove of the controversial Irish writer who worked so hard in the search for beauty.

Oscar Wilde, who appreciated the comforts and loved the hotels, lived the last years of his life at No. 13 Rue Des Beaux Arts, in the sixth arrondissement of Paris, guest of the Hotel d'Alsace, now renamed the Hotel. Wilde stayed in number 16, the room that was modernized with eccentric decorations reminiscent of the style of the Irish author, and took the name of Oscar Wilde Suite.

Also in Paris, on the 17th of Place du Pantheon, another text came to light that would have a profound impact on Western culture: The Magnetic Fields, the manifesto of the automatic surrealist writing of Andre Breton and Philippe Soupalt who met at the Hotel Des Grands Hommes, as recalled by a plaque placed in the perennial memory of the illustrious creative partnership.
Around the same time, Gabriele D'Annunzio, the Italian aesthete who was completing the construction of the Vittoriale, lived at the Grand Hotel Gardone in Gardone Riviera in the province of Brescia, where he had an entire private floor. He arrived on February 2, 1921 with the pianist Luisa Baccara and all the service staff, and over the years he received many guests, including the futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.

The elegant resort, the first on Lake Garda, was also the residence of Vladimir Nabokov, who seems to have taken periodic refuge in Italy to study butterflies.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald also chose a hotel to complete the drafting of The Great Gatsby, New York's Plaza, where it is still possible to stay overnight in the Fitzgerald Suite. The New York years were lived under the banner of worldliness and waste, so much so that Fitzgerald became the symbol of the new generation risen from the ashes of the post-war period, who let themselves be carried away by a carefree life made of exciting adventures. He was the greatest exponent of the literary current of the Lost Generation, an expression coined by Gertrude Stein and made popular by Ernest Hemingway in the epigraph of the novel Fiesta, a group of writers who reached the age of majority during the First World War.

New hotels, new stories

From the Lost Generation to the Beat Generation, the step is short: a time jump of a few decades takes into account the changes in the historical context in which the parable of the "burnt youth" movement took place, which found expression in the political, artistic, poetic and literary fields.

Among the authors of reference are Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, who had established a second headquarters in the city of Paris, at the Relais Vieux Hotel, as evidenced by the photos hung in the lobby of the hotel. Today it is a four star hotel but originally it was a Spartan place, intimate as an alcove, run by a woman, Mrs. Rachou, who did not disdain the bohemian lifestyle of her guests. It is said that he even allowed them to write on tables and walls, so as not to limit their creativity; and it seems that he was often charged in poems and stories with dedication.

Another Paris habitué is the queen of the romantic thriller Mary Higgins Clark, who at Plaza Athenee always rents the same suite, one that overlooks Avenue Montaigne and has been renamed with her name.

Her colleague Agatha Christie, on the other hand, found inspiration to write Murder on the Orient Express in a historic hotel in Istanbul, which was built in 1892 specifically with the aim of accommodating passengers on the famous train that connected Paris to old Constantinople. Elegant and luxurious, wrapped in timeless charm, the Pera Palace Hotel is located in the centre of the Beyoglu district, in the European part of the city. In honor of the lady of detective stories, the restaurant of the hotel has been renamed Agatha.

Ian Fleming suffered the same fascination as the exotic. Before becoming an acclaimed writer at a mature age, Fleming was an officer in the Royal Navy during World War II. He was enlisted in the Navy Information Service and during the ocean expedition Golden Eye (1946) landed on the tropical beach Oracabessa Bay in Jamaica where he built years after his private residence, to which he gave the same name as the military operation: Golden Eye. Here he wrote Casino Royale and the other 13 novels about James Bond.

The residence, still considered an extraordinary early example of functional tropical architecture, was also used as a location for films inspired by the saga of the famous investigator. During Dr. No's shoot, Ian Flaming's destiny intertwined with that of Chris Blackwell, the former manager of Island Record, the music label that exported reggae beyond the coast of Jamaica and now boasts a portfolio of artists ranging from Bob Marley to U2. Blackwell, who worked as a location manager, fell madly in love with the Golden Eye residence, of which he became the owner in 1976, years after the writer's death.

In 40 years the estate has tripled in size and today looks like a sort of holiday village consisting of villas surrounded by greenery and cottages on the sea. In the same area there is also Villa Fleming, the private residence of the writer who has been renovated and made available to the most demanding guests in terms of storytelling. A place of the soul packaged in super luxury mode: the Golden Eye Resort is a kind of paradise where the black angel Naomi Campbell often wanes.

Speaking of beautiful women it is necessary to spend a few words on a very young Julia Roberts who lent her face to Pretty Woman, in the iconic film that indelibly marked the collective imagination of the 90s.

The Beverly Wilshire Hotel was the alcove where Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) and Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) consumed their erotic-sentimental encounters. His fame still precedes him, so much so that to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film's release, Wilshire has organized themed stays: a 3-day Pretty Woman Stay with beauty treatments, spa and personal shopper to make its guests live the experience of feeling like a Pretty Woman; while the film repeats itself on the plasma televisions scattered in the hotel's immense beauty salons.

Hall of fame

Where there's a hint of VIP there's appeal. We are all victims of the seduction of a star system that means to live beyond its means and above the capacities of ordinary mortals. And if up to now we have talked about hotels that seduce with the stories of the historical figures who have lived them, at the end of our imaginary journey we arrive in the place that has been the crossroads of many cursed stories.

Built as a copy of the medieval Château d'Amboise in the Loire Valley of France, the Chateau Marmont stands on a hill north of Sunset Strip Boulevard. Designed in the late 1920s as the first earthquake-resistant residential unit to be built in Los Angeles, it was due to open in the fall of 1929 but due to the economic crisis the owners could not sell any of the apartments and turned it into a hotel.

The result is that the rooms are very similar to mini apartments, with separate rooms, kitchens, balconies and independent terraces, with spectacular views of the city.

"If you're in trouble, do it to Chateau Marmont" said Harry Cohn, the founder of Columbia Pictures. But despite the past, the hotel still enjoys excellent health and boasts prestigious visits.

A destiny that in a way recalls that of the Carlyle Hotel in New York, where John Fitzgerald Kennedy lived for 10 years on floor 34 and where it seems that most of the clandestine meetings with Marylin Monroe took place, who had a reserved route so as not to intercept the other guests of the hotel during the frequent visits to the presidential suite. Carlyle's Royal Suite is still the hotel's most popular room, what guests ask when they want to respect themselves, according to the general manager. In fact, sleeping in the same bed occupied by Kennedy, Truman and Micheal Jackson gives you some thrill.

The same thrill that you get at the Hotel De Bilderberg in Oosterbeek in Holland where, in 1954, the first meeting of the Club Bilderberg was held, think tank of neoliberal ideology and hypothetical undisputed leader of the world.

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