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Grand Hotel Vesuvio
History, images and review of the five-star luxury hotel in Naples

Article added on May 11, 2006
Although Naples is one of Italy's largest cities and used to be an obligatory stop for travelers on the Grand Tour, it offers only a few luxury hotels, Grand Hotel Vesuvio probably being its best.

Naples is a beautiful city, although somewhat chaotic city. In addition to nearby attractions such as the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Ercolano, the isle of Ischia, the romantic and rocky coastline of Amalfi, Positano and Sorrento, Naples should be one of the top spots to visit in Italy. Unfortunately, the city's image still suffers from past errors, although the G7 summit of 1994 gave Naples and its tourist industry a boost.

The German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) already suggested in 1786 to "watch Naples and then die" (Neapel sehen und sterben).

Originally, behind the newly built grand Hôtel du Vésuve lay one of Naples poorest districts, Borgo Marinari. Today, it is a fashionable area with luxury boutiques and antiques shops. It needed foreign visionaries to build the hotel in 1882, because the city still had not recovered from the outbreak of the volcano Vesuvio in 1872 and, in 1884, the cholera epidemic killed thousands in Naples because of poor hygienic conditions.

In 1869, the Belgian brothers Du Mesnil from Vierviers near Namur bought the license to build a new sea frontline between Santa Lucia and Piazza Vittoria. The called the new embankment Partenope, named after the siren in Greek mythology. The centaur Vesuvio fell in love with the beautiful Partenope (or Parthenope). Their love unleashed the fury of Zeus (Giove in Italian), who punished both, transforming Vesuvio into a volcano and Partenope into a rock. The two were condemned to watch each other across the sea for eternity. On the rock of Partenope in Naples was built the Castel dell'Ovo.

In 1882, the Grand Hôtel du Vésuve opened opposite Castel dell'Ovo, when the embankment was not entirely finished. The Belgian writer Albert Du Bois wrote parts of his book A travers l'Italie in a splendid suite, generously put at his disposal by his friend, the hotel owner. The book largely concentrated on Naples.

Two years after the opening, the Swedish Queen Victoria and her personal doctor, Axel Munthe, stayed at the Grand Hôtel du Vésuve. From their suite, they had a perfect view of the nearby isle of Capri. This did not remain without consequences. Subsequently, Axel Munthe chose the island as his permanent residence. On Capri, he wrote his world-famous Il libro di San Michele. The book largely concentrated on the emotions he felt when he discovered the blue island. His villa later became a cultural foundation, still very active and well-visited by many today.

Another early visitor of the grand Hôtel du Vésuve was the French writer Guy de Maupassant, who in May 1885 described his impressions of Naples with strong images. At the time, the French influence in the city was strong: in the salons, the cultivated people spoke French, and at Hôtel du Vésuve the restaurant served French cuisine, as the leading travel guide of the time, Baedeker, noted.

Within a few months, Oscar Wilde spent two long periods in Naples. At first he came with his friend Alfred Douglas with whom he stayed at the elegant Villa Giudice a Posillipo. After a tour to Sicily, he came back alone and decided to stay at Hôtel du Vésuve. A few days before he left the city, he confessed to a few journalists that he had greatly enjoyed his stay at Naples. He did not mention the sexual adventures he experienced in the side streets of the city, but explicitly mentioned his room on the third floor of Hôtel du Vésuve, from the balcony of which he enjoyed the world's most beautiful scenario, as the most pleasant memory of his stay in Naples.

Not long after Oscar Wilde, the Italian writer Gabriele D'Annunzio honored the hotel with his presence. The reason was his love story with the Sicilian noblewoman Maria Gravina Cruyllas. D'Annunzia took with him 900 signature cards of L'Innocente, which he had to give to his editor Ferdinando Bideri. The novel was also published in the local newspaper Corriere di Napoli.

The singer Enrico Caruso called the grand Hôtel du Vésuve his "Neapolitan home" (casa napoletana) in several interviews. No wonder then that the hotel restaurant is named in his honor. The Caruso suite has preserved the furnishings which were there at the time of his visits. These include the large wooden table and chairs at the center of the salon, an elegant sofa, landscape paintings (vedute) of Naples and the precious pianoforte scuro-opera by the German pianomaker Sailer, on which Caruso tried out his famous songs. Music critics of the time immortalized the pianoforte by writing that Caruso only loved to rehearse with the help of this instrument. Incidentally, Caruso grew up in Naples, singing in local taverns before becoming famous. However, after getting booed in the Naples opera at the beginning of his career, he decided never to sing again in his hometown - and he kept his promise. Unfortunately, on August 2, 1921 Enrico Caruso passed away prematurely in his suite at the grand Hotel du Vésuve at the age of 48. The funerals took place at the basilica San Francesco di Paola. The funeral oratorio was conducted by maestro Cilea.

In 1895, the Baedeker emphasized that the grand Hôtel du Vésuve offered all possible luxury, including electrical light, heating, elevators and running water and baths in all rooms, quite extraordinary for hotels of the late 19th century.

From the 1890s onwards, after the death of Oscar Du Mesnil, the hotel was run by the Fiorentino family, which already ran several other luxury hotels. In 1924, after the death of Du Mesnil's widow, Cora Maria Thomaz, the hotel passed entirely into the hands of the Fiorentino family and their Società Napoletana Alberghi.

On October 24, 1922 at Hotel Vesuvio, the Black Shirts proposed and approved the Fascist marcia su Roma. Subsequently, Naples never became a stronghold of Fascism. However, the city suffered over 100 bombing raids during the Second World War, without an adequate defense.

The Via Partenope was occupied by the heads of the armed forces. On August 4, 1943 during a terrible bombing raid, the Hotel Vesuvio was severely hit by grenades. One hotel wing crumbled, two people were killed and many more injured.

It took some time to rebuild the hotel, which reopened only in April 1950. Originally, the façade of the grand Hôtel du Vésuve was built in a neoclassical style. Since the reopening, it has been built in a postwar design. Two floors were added to the original building, as well as a terrace on the 9th floor. Architect Michele Platania used tufo vesuviano for the floors. Hotel owner Fiorentino, in collaboration with his nephew Gino, who later took control of the company, made sure that the furniture remained unchanged, with the exception of the additional two new floors.

The first famous signatures added to the guestbook after the reopening were by president Luigi Einaudi and his wife Ida, who stayed at Hotel Vesuvio during the time their Neapolitan residence, Villa Rosebery, needed renovation. Within a few months, Prince Rainier de Monaco and Grace Kelly as well as many other illustrious guests followed the example of the Einaudis.

The chef of the restaurant, Roberto Cerrito, born in Naples' Lacco Ameno, was a great football fan. Hasse Jeppsson, the Ronaldhino of the time, stayed at the Vesuvio. He was paid the scandalous sum of 110 millions Lire by the SSC Napoli. But when the Brazilian striker Vinicio arrived from Belo Horizonte, the Swede and South American never managed to get along with each other. Roberto Cerrito tried to mediate between the two, but ultimately he remained unsuccessful and the Swede, eclipsed by the Brazilian, left the club.

Another famous Neapolitan celebrity, the actor, singer and writer Antonio de Curtis, better known as Totò, spent many nights with his beautiful company, Franca Faldini, at the Vesuvio, entertaining the hotel with his many gags. The mafia boss Lucky Luciano frequented the roof terrace. Needless to say the everybody tried to fulfill all his wishes. In 1951, Rita Hayworth (at the time the principessa Marguerita Ali Khan) and, later, King Feisal of Saudi Arabia stayed at the hotel. Errol Flynn arrived with his wife, which did not hinder him from having an affair, resulting in an embarrassing marital crisis in the Vesuvio. Clark Gable was wiser and left his wife Lady Ashley at home. Instead, he traveled with a mysterious blonde. In 1955, the American writer Thornton Wilder, honored the hotel with his presence. He had already visited Naples several times during the war, nurturing rumors that he was a spy.

In general, the 1950s and 1960s helped the hotel to build up its prestige. Unfortunately, the city of Naples slowly took the opposite of development. Furthermore, on November 23, 1980 an earthquake struck Naples and the region of la Campania. The political mismanagement of the city did not improve the situation either. The days of the "Grand Tour", when Naples was an obligatory stop for all travelers touring Europe, became a distant memory. Tourists went to Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento, Capri and Ischia. Naples was considered too ugly and dangerous.

In 1989, after the hotel had been taken over from the Fiorentino family by the CEGAL company (Compagnia europea grandi alberghi), the Hotel Vesuvio started a three year renovation. Newly renovated, the Vesuvio celebrated its 110th birthday with a fashionable and magical party on February 27, 1992. Shortly afterwards, the Italian President Francesco Cossiga, a regular guest of the Vesuvio, had a coffee and his favorite dessert, the Neapolitan sfogliatelle at the hotel. He spent most of his visits to Naples in the suite Caruso.

However, the city of Naples needed the G7 summit of 1994 to regain a positive feedback on the international level. It was the then Italian prime minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, a man in love with the city of Naples, who managed to bring the G7 to southern Italy. Not only was the Hotel Vesuvio freshened up by its private investors, but the city of Naples renovated for instance its public spaces and its general appearance, with the help of public money both domestic and foreign.

For the G7, the Hotel Vesuvio had the honor to host the American and the French presidents as well as the Italian prime minister and his entire staff. Bill Clinton had many security requests, whereas François Mitterrand and his staff never created any problems. However, Clinton was satisfied by the measures taken by the hotel, not only because he stayed there, but also held all bilateral talks in the Vesuvio.

Staying in Naples, a few hours before he had to deliver his speech at the Palazzo Reale, the new Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi received his investigation warning (avviso di garanzia) that he had to show up in front of the the Milanese "clean hands" (Mani Pulite) judges. Hosting three major political personalities at the same time was a major challenge to which the staff of the Hotel Vesuvio rose with bravura. No wonder then that the same year, the hotel was elected Italy's best hotel, awarded the prestigious "Golden Gate" at the Bit turismo in Milan by a jury of journalists and experts.

After the success of organizing the G7 summit, in November 1994, Naples hosted the Global Conference on Crime, proposed by the secretary general of the United Nations, Boutros Ghali, accommodating hosts from 187 countries.

In the last decade, Naples and its hotels, above all the Hotel Vesuvio and its sister hotel (Hotel Majestic) have managed to partly regain their international clientele.

Books about Naples from

A massage in the spa. Photos © Grand Hotel Vesuvio, Napoli.

The hotel entrance. Photos © Grand Hotel Vesuvio, Napoli. Books about Naples from

The Caruso Suite. Photos © Grand Hotel Vesuvio, Napoli.

The Caruso Suite with the gramophone Caruso used. Photos © Grand Hotel Vesuvio.

Suite Carraciola. Photos © Grand Hotel Vesuvio, Napoli.

The terrace of the Suite Carraciola. Photos © Grand Hotel Vesuvio, Napoli.

View of a hotel room. Photos © Grand Hotel Vesuvio, Napoli.

The bar with the reception in the background. Photos © Grand Hotel Vesuvio, Napoli.

Breakfast with the view of Castel dell'Ovo. Photos © Grand Hotel Vesuvio, Napoli.

The hotel opposite Castel dell'Ovo. Photos © Grand Hotel Vesuvio, Napoli.

View of the gym. Photos © Grand Hotel Vesuvio, Napoli. Books about Naples from

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.