A luxury hotel in the heart of Palermo: Grand Hotel et des Palmes opens in December 2020

The Grand Hotel et des Palmes will open its doors in December 2020 and will be a 5 stars luxury hotel in an excellent location: on Via Roma, a few steps from the Theater Politeama and the Theater Massimo. The new structure will host more than 100 rooms that will also include suites and super suites with terrace. It will have 3 restaurants, a spa, an indoor swimming pool and green areas. There will be a roof garden on the rooftops for a top quality restaurant.

The hotel is completing the restoration works, respecting all the original materials and decorations. A work of research of the original designs, in accordance with the Regional Office of Cultural Heritage. An example is the hall of mirrors, one of the best known: the degraded or missing wood carvings have been restored using casts of those existing in other mirrors. The room where Richard Wagner slept will be transformed into a suite named after the German musician. A hotel of great luxury, in the center of the city, great protagonist of the history of Palermo, theater of many historical periods and many stories.

Grand hotel et des Palmes: Luxury and History

Private home

It was built in 1847 by the Ingham-Whitaker family, English entrepreneurs present in Sicily mainly thanks to the production of Marsala wine. It was a private residence with a secret tunnel that crossed the Via Roma and reached the Anglican church in front of it, built by importing the necessary material directly from England, to allow the English visiting Palermo to have a place of worship. The church still entrusted today to the diocese of Gibraltar. The entrance to the passage is in the Sala Azzurra, hidden by a mirror.

Art Nouveau hotel

In 1874 the building was sold to the Enrico Ragusa, who already owned the hotel Trinacria, in via Butera. The building was transformed into a hotel: Ernesto Basile was commissioned to design the transformation of the palace and the building became the symbol of Palermo at the beginning of the 20th century. The hotel took the name Grand hotel et des Palmes and was a very luxurious place with marble, mirrors and inlaid decorations.

Famous Customers

The guests of excellence were not few:

Between 1881 and 1882: Richard Wagner stayed there, together with his second wife Cosima Listz and eight other people. It was here that the writing of Parsifal was finished. Wagner, however, did not have a good relationship with the owner of the hotel, so much so that he said “The only bandit I know in Sicily is the hotelier Ragusa”. In 1893 the Italian Prime Minister, Francesco Crispi, directed the operations against the “Fasci Siciliani” from the Grand Hotel et des Palmes and gave lessons in politics. In 1917 Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, Prime Minister, organized a dinner with 12 courses.

The place of mysteries

The hotel has also been the scene of many mysteries and very original situations: rooms turned into American secret service offices, poisoned philosophers, missing journalists, mysterious suicides, summit of mafia bosses and noblemen with a strange destiny! In 1933 the French surrealist writer Raymond Russel was found dead, in his bed in a hotel room. Officially it was a suicide by hiring barbiturates. But Leonardo Sciascia, years later, returned to this “cold case” in his “Acts relating to the death of Raymond Russel” and revealed many doubts about this case. In 2013, the writer Antonio Fiasconaro presented at the Grand Hotel delle Palme a detective story about this case: “Death of an author”.

Headquarters during the Second World War

In 1943 the hotel was requisitioned by the U.S. Navy and Lieutenant Colonel Charles Poletti, AMGOT camp, together with General George Smith Patton, turned it into their headquarters for war operations. But it was also the place where meetings were held with exponents of the Sicilian-American mafia and it was perhaps in this place that the boss Lucky Luciano was expelled from the United States in 1946. The same Lucky Luciano, in 1956, organized in the hotel a summit between the exponents of the American and Sicilian mafia.

The cast of The Leopard and other actors

In the post-war period it became the point of reference of the politics and hosted important people like Renato Guttuso, Giorgio De Chirico, Luchino Visconti, Burt Lancaster, Vittorio Gassman, Fred Buscaglione, Maria Callas, Primo Carnera, Francis Ford Coppola, Patty Pravo and Al Pacino.

The most original guest: Baron Di Stefano

The guest who made the history of the hotel is undoubtedly the Barone Di Stefano, who occupied room 204 for almost 50 years: until 1998, when he died at the age of 92. A book was also written about this character: “Palermo solo”, by the French writer Philippe Fusaro. The Baron, born in Castelvetrano, in the province of Trapani, was forced by the Mafia to choose between a violent death and a life as a prisoner: this was the punishment for killing a young boy caught stealing almonds in his feud. Every so often the Baron “escaped” from his luxurious prison, it is said that he went to Naples by ship, to attend the operas.

He had very precise habits: after lunch he used to go around the block, the barber and the tailor came to visit him in his suite when necessary. He frequented the famous people who stayed at the hotel and everyone was attracted by his charisma and his unique history. When he died, the hotel gave him the honor of leaving the main entrance, as a deceased, with all the employees lined up.

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