History The Westin Excelsior, Rome Present The Westin Excelsior, Rome

The cover of our book EXCELSIOR, painted by Manfred Markowski, shows the hotel around its opening date, in 1906.

The Westin Excelsior, Rome

"The Excelsior - like the Colisseum or the Vatican - is a synonym of Rome. Located at the apex of the Via Veneto, the Roman avenue made so fashionable by Fellini in La Dolce Vita, the hotel still rises regally above the street commanding Fellinesque attention. General manager Michele Frignani runs a magical hotel where film icons, politicians and business tycoons move through the brass revolving doors."

How the Stage was Set HISTORY IN BRIEF: 1906: Inauguration of The Excelsior. The Excelsior is the first luxurious grand hotel in this part of the city. During the 1950s- and 1960s the hotel becomes the revolving point of the international film-jet-set, resulting in movies such as Fellini's La Dolce Vita, which was set along Via Veneto, featuring footage of The Excelsior. Ever since the Excelsior is the melting pot of international travellers, the world of finance, the glamorous set of Hollywood actors and Cinecitta movie stars as well as the discerning traveller from all four corners of the globe.

Hotel Excelsior by Manfred Markowski

HISTORY IN DETAIL: 1889: Opening of Via Veneto, named after the village of Vittorio Veneto (this village later became famous after a legendary World War I battle in 1918) 1904: The architectural plans for the Hotel Excelsior were completed and approved. The owning company, Actiengesellschaft für Hotelunternehmungen, a hotel stock company based in Luzerne, gave the green light for building work to go ahead. 1906: Opening year of The Excelsior. Alphonse Pfyffer was the general manager. The inauguraton gala took place on 18 January. At the same time, in Venice, and nothing to do with it, a certain Count Guiseppe Volpi founded a hotel company called CIGA with a capital of some 4,500,000 lire. c.1910: Tea in the Winter Garden was a favourite pastime of Roman high society. 1914-18: During World War I, The Excelsior played a patriotic role. On the request of the Red Cross Society, which still threw its yearly ball, the hotel offered two floors to be used as a hospital for senior officers. 1920s: The hotel's owning company, Actiengesellschaft für Hotelunternehmungen, sold its interest to CIGA, the Venetian – Italian hotel group that subsequently grew into the most powerful luxury group of the country. 1937: The opening of Cinecitta, Rome’s most famous studios, triggered an influx of new arrivals at the Excelsior. 1938: With the political climate souring across Europe, these were uncertain times. The building of the new Excelsior annex was delayed. Building was postponed indefinitely. 1939-45: An air raid bunker was installed at The Excelsior. The hotel escaped World War II unscathed - in fact most of the Ludovisi quarter was untouched by bombs. 1943-44: German forces occupied Rome after Italy signed an armistice with the Allies (September 9 1943). The German Army commandant of Rome operated from a number of buildings at the top of the Via Veneto across from the Villa Borghese. The residence and the initial working quarters of the top German officers was the Hotel Excelsior. Here General Kurt Malzer, the German commander in Rome often called the “King of Rome,” held his usual wine centered heavy luncheons. 1944: When 32 German soldiers were killed by the Italian resistance, a message was sent to The Excelsior. General Kurt Malzer left his lunch and ordered the buildings in the area to be searched. Over 200 people from the neighborhood were soon lined up against walls in the Piazza Barberini. Fortunately, Malzer was persuaded by cooler heads not to have all 200 people, mainly women and children, shot on the spot and the entire street blown up. 1945: The Allied command, under the American General Clark, headed for Via Veneto, setting up Clark’s temporary headquarters at the Excelsior. American soldiers arrived at The Excelsior, which was nicknamed ‘rest camp’. Many took their first bath in years at the hotel. In 1945 80 medical officers met at the hotel for the first time, forming The Excelsior Surgical Society. Henceforth this group of surgeons would regularly convene in Rome. 1953: The building of the Banco di Napoli annex was completed. 1950s: Cinecitta dubbed Hollywood sul Tevere ('Hollywood on the Tiber'). The Excelsior plays host to the biggest film stars of the decade. 1959: Release of William Wyler's Ben Hur . The director and cast moved into The Excelsior, while shooting the production at Cinecitta (see famous guests). c.1960: Exiled King Farouk of Egypt, a legendary bon vivant, frequently sojourned at The Excelsior. 1960: Release of Fellini's La Dolce Vita . Set in 1960s Roman society up and down Via Veneto, the legendary film epos featured footage of The Excelsior. 1962: In 1962 a star-studded cast of actors arrived in Rome to shoot Two Weeks in Another Town, based on a novel by Irwin Shaw. The movie was partially set at The Excelsior and all the stars where there (see famous guests). 1960s: The smart front office crew invented a Mussolini Suite to lure clients to the hotel. Of course the dictator had never stayed at the Excelsior, although his barber had been the hotel's barber. 1985: For almost one decade Karim Aga Khan became the 'king of tourism’, owning - among other enterprises - also the CIGA group of luxury hotels. 1994:Sheraton bought CIGA and incorporated the chain into The Luxury Collection. 1998: Starwood, the US real estate company that would become one of the biggest luxury hospitality grops in the world, bought Sheraton. Its Westin group became The Excelsior's mother company. 2000: The former tearoom was renamed 'Doneys'. 2000: At the turn of the century, US$ 30 million investment project rejuvenated the hotel (facade, fitness centre,restoration and creation of 316 deluxe and grand deluxe guestrooms with 32 suites including the Villa Cupola). 2001: The hotel changed its traditional keys for key cards. 2008: The history is for the first time completely researched and published as a book in the library of THE MOST FAMOUS HOTELS IN THE WORLD®. Go to the book

From the World of Entertainment

Charlton Heston Arnold Schwarzenegger Sylvester Stallone Steven Spielberg Woody Allen Sharon Stone William Wyler Whitney Houston The Rolling Stones Sophia Loren David Niven Alberto Sordi Peter O’Toole Michael Douglas Kirk Douglas Kevin Costner Naomi Campbell Roberto Bellini Orson Welles Frank Sinatra Cher

From the World of Politics Imelda Marcos Collin Powel General Mark Clark Shah of Persia King Farouk

From the World of Art Pablo Picasso

From the World of Fashion Naomi Campbell


Former headconcierge Walter Ferrari at work. He invited Silvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger for a fly fishing competition.

The opening in 1906:

1906 8 Jan.

clippings from the press:

A Grand Hotel
The civic authorities, including the Mayor, Commendatore Cruciani Alibrandi and all the city council and the press were invited to a formal dinner yesterday evening to inaugurate Rome’s majestic new hotel, the Excelsior, located in the Ludovisi area, on the corner of Via Veneto and Via Boncompagni, opposite Queen Margherita’s palace.

This marvellous construction, erected as if by magic, was designed by engineers Vogt and Otto Maraini, in an area which, originally hit by the construction crisis, a few years ago seemed a broken-down area and which now instead has become the most beautiful and the richest area in Rome.

Rome already had luxury hotels, but there is an international clientele whose requirements stem from boundless wealth, for whom this luxury was not enough (luxury is never enough). They had not found in Rome the splendour to which they were accustomed to in Cairo and elsewhere.

The Excelsior hotel is made for this wealthiest of clienteles, which will find in its apartments – because nowadays a hotel for the rich must consist of apartments rather than rooms – all the luxury, all the comfort that it desires.// We said that it rose as if by magic, because the hotel was completed in little more than a year, from foundation to finished building, and it has been furnished impeccably; and if this example of speed were to be imitated, the housing shortage in Rome would be remedied within a few months.

Everything which represents the triumph of work, of intelligence, of organisation, of capital – the great motivating forces of modern life – is proper for a city, and from this point of view, private speculation, too, should be congratulated, because it honours Rome.

The profusion of luxury in the majestic building represents the efforts of a hundred industries, of a hundred arts brought together with the sole aim of creating all that is beautiful and sumptuous.

The result could not have been better. The ground floor consists of reception rooms which are modelled on those of the palace of Stuttgart. The predominant colour is white, [con effetto che ricrea la vista [?] which has an amplifying effect; and the thoroughly elegant Directoire style stuccos, of truly marvellous execution, and the profusion of artificial marbles, so perfect that they could be mistaken for the originals, in the great procession of the reception rooms, worthy of receiving royalty, were impeccably executed by the firm of Lobbia, Brasini and Arcieri, which set a real record in terms of the precision of execution and in the perfection of the admirable work.

These rooms will become conversation rooms, a restaurant, a table d’hôte restaurant, smoking rooms, etc. Taken together, they can form a splendid apartment where, like this evening, in aid of the Red Cross, truly magnificent celebrations may be held. The Associazione della Stampa (Press Association) is looking to hold its traditional celebration here this year, in the form of a masked ball.

Last night, the apartment was used to hold the gala dinner and inauguration reception, which were both of the utmost brilliance and extremely well attended.

The Hon. Emilio Maraini, president of the administrative board, did the honours – because nowadays such hotels can only be built by powerful companies – and by Commendatore Phipher [sic], director of the new hotel, who also managed the Grand Hotel here in Rome.

Gathered in Rome and at the inauguration dinner were all the proprietors and the directors/managers of the Italian grand hotels. // After dinner, – the richness of which defied the imagination – speakers included cav. Del Vitto, proprietor of the Hotel Milano, president of the Rome chapter of the Societa’ Italiana degli albergatori, (Italian Society of Hoteliers) and Cav. Campione, manager of the Hotel de Londres in Naples, on behalf of the president of the Society itself.

Cav. Campione, a true orator, wished the courageous enterprise well, speaking in just terms of the importance of the hotel industry in modern life; an industry which, by virtue of the amount of capital and the attention it requires, ranks among those which provide an impulse to the modern economy. The meeting went on until midnight.

In these same halls this evening, as already mentioned, there will be the Grand Charity Ball for the Red Cross.

Il Messaggero (digiphotos from Natnl. Library, Rome – famoushotels-archives)
1906 Jan 15. Dinner was held maybe on 14 (Sunday) or 13 (Saturday) January.
“Un Pranzo all’Hôtel Excelsior” (translation below)
Iersera ebbe luogo un pranzo, per invito privato dei proprietari, al quale intervennero il presidente del Consiglio on. Fortis, il ministro degli esteri on. Di San Giuliano, il duca Leopoldo Torlonia, il principe d’Antuni pel sindaco, il senatore Doria, don Prospero Colonna, il principe Odescalchi, il senatore Roux, il barone de Bildt ministro di Svezia, il duca di Bomarzo, il principe Rospigliosi, il ministro dell’Argentina dott. Moreno, il senatore Rattazzi, il signor Fieva [?] ministro di Rumania, i sottosegretari di Stato marchesi di Bugnano e Del Balzo, il barone senatore Di San Giuseppe, il marchese Guiccioli, il marchese Capranica del Grillo, il senatore Vitelleschi, il ministro dell’Argentina presso la Santa Sede, l’ing. Pfyffer e l’architetto Vogt costruttore dell’albergo. // Che il pranzo sia stato squisito, e la riunione sia risultata animata e liettissima e’ superfluo dire. // Allo champagne, il presidente del consiglio di amministrazione della Societa’, onorevole Emilio Maraini, ringrazio’ gli intervenuti con parole elevate e cortesi. // Alludendo alle alte posizioni ed ai meriti degli intervenuti, egli rilevo’ che nessuno albergo era mai sorto sotto migliori auspici. Ricordo’ brevemente la ospitalita’ dell’antica Roma, e quella non meno larga che segui il risorgimento, e concluse: Roma moderna alle ospitalita’ tradizionali deve aggiungere ora quella della raffinatezza del gusto, della igiene, del conforto. E come l’intelletto ed il cuore si elevano nello studio dei monumenti secolari e delle meravigliose raccolte d’arte, cosi’ anche i bisogni materiali devono trovare qui piacevole soddisfazione. Questo pensiero ha mosso la nostra iniziativa, questo intento hanno di mira i nostri studi, i nostri sforzi, i nostri lavori. In nome della Societa io vi debbo e vi rendo altissime grazie e faccio un brindisi caldo e sincero alla vostra felicita’. // Prese quindi la parola, in nome del Sindaco, il principe d’Antuni. L’on. Fortis ringrazio’, lodando l’intelligente coraggio di coloro cui spetta il merito dell’iniziativa di una intrapresa, che e’ destinata a portare un notevole incremento economico alla Capitale.

Translation: “Dinner at the Hotel Excelsior”

Last night, a dinner was held by private invitation of the proprietors. Guests included Prime Minister Fortis, Minister of Foreign Affairs Di San Giuliano, Duke Leopoldo Torlonia, Principe d’Antuni on behalf of the Mayor, Senator Doria, don Prospero Colonna, Prince Odescalchi, Senator Roux, Baron de Bildt Minister of Sweden, the Duke of Bomarzo, Prince Rospigliosi, the Minister of Argentina Dr Moreno, Senator Rattazzi, Mr Fieva, Minister of Romania, the undersecretaries of State marquesses Bugnano and Del Balzo, Baron Senator Di San Giuseppe, Marquess Guiccioli, Marquess Capranica del Grillo, Senator Vitelleschi, the representative of Argentina to the Holy See, general manager Pfyffer and Architect Vogt, builder of the hotel.
Needless to say, the dinner was exquisite, and the gathering animated and merry. // During the champagne toast, the President of the Board of Directors of the company, the Hon. Emilio Maraini, thanked the guests with elevated and courtly words. // Referring to the high rank of the guests and to their many merits, he noted that no other hotel had been built under better auspices. He briefly alluded to the hospitality of ancient Rome, and the equally grand hospitality of the renaissance, and concluded that modern Rome now added to traditional hospitality the notions of refinement of taste, of hygiene, and of comfort. And as the heart and the intellect were elevated in the study of secular monuments and wonderful collections of art in Rome, so too should material requirements find pleasant satisfaction here. This is the thought that inspired our initiative, and this intent is the objective of our studies, of our efforts, of our work. In the name of the Company, I owe you and proffer my most grateful thanks, and I would like to propose a warm and sincere toast to your happiness. // Prince d’Antuni then spoke on behalf of the Mayor. Hon. Fortis in turn offered his thanks, praising the intelligent courage of those responsible for the undertaking which was destined to bring substantial economic income to the capital

La Capitale (digiphoto from Natnl. Library, Rome – at famoushotels archives)
1906 8 January.
Il ballo della Croce Rossa
Come gia’ annunziammo, giovedi’ 18 corrente, nel nuovo albergo Excelsior, in via Veneto, avra’ luogo il grande ballo della stagione a favore della Croce Rossa. // Chi ricorda il successo avuto negli scorsi anni da tale ballo, non puo’ che gioire a tale annuncio, poiche’ esso indubbiamente costituisce ormai la piu’ eletta festa della vita mondana della capitale nel compimento di un’opera buona verso una istituzione altamente umanitaria.// L’ inaugurazione dell’albergo e’ ugualmente stabilita pel 18 corrente, e cio’ per gentile pensiero dei suoi proprietari, che vollero coincidesse con l’attuazione di una grande festa della carita’. // Superfluo aggiungere che fervono i preparativi per la organizzazione della brillante festa e pel relativo cotillon. // I biglietti trovansi presso le signore patronesse: duchessa Torlonia, contessa Guendalina della Somaglia, principessa d’Avella, contessa Taverna, signora Besso, contessa Bruschi, principessa Maria Sforza Cesarini, marchesa di Rudini, Donna Eugenia dei ...

More anecdotes

At the end of World War II, the US military, including most notably General Mark Clark, had its headquarters at the hotel. During shooting of Ben Hur (released 1959), the cast stayed at The Excelsior. Movie star Charlton Heston was filming the famous chariot scene at Cinecitta. It was so life-like that he would come back to the hotel every night with bleeding hands, cut by the horse reins.

During the heady days of La Dolce Vita the hotel was full of moviestars. Hercules star Steve Reeves recalls the evening he was invited to a party by the film distributor Joseph E. Levine: “He came to Rome and threw a big party in his suite at The Excelsior. He served something like spaghetti and meatballs. In show business you have to protect yourself, and what I always did, for prestige, would be to have my name above all other names, 70 percent of the size of the film's title. Otherwise they could put it at the bottom under 20 other names, 10 percent of the size of the title. So I did that: No other name including director, producer, etc… At the party, Joe Levine said he wanted his name as big as mine or bigger, and I said, ‘No way. You signed the contract. I'm the star of this picture.’ He was furious and threw his plate. Some of the spaghetti got caught in the crystal chandeliers.”

During shooting of Two Weeks in Another Town (released 1962) the film's stars Kirk Douglas, Edward G. Robinson, Hamilton, the beautiful Cyd Charisse George and a ravishing Daliah Lavi all checked in to The Excelsior. ------ Imelda Marcos arrived at The Excelsior with 250 suitcases and 60 pairs of shoes.

It took eight days of tight security measures to prepare a set of rooms for the US Secretary of State Collin Powell and his delegation. His stay lasted one night only.

Victor Mature, a leading actor, who was so strong that he could carry a stone column from the elevator to the door of his room. He repeated the trick at least twice every day and it always took three men from housekeeping to carry it back.

Determined to see in the new millennium Excelsior-style, certain celebrities clashed over who got to stay at the suite Villa La Cupola on New Year’s Eve 1999, at a daily cost of €10,000.

When Alfa Romeo celebrated its 75th anniversary, a lavish sit-down banquet for 1,162 was arranged in three different salons, including the lobby and the winter garden.


Researchers are welcome to read these stories, which are copyrighted by the author | famoushotels.org. Unauthorized use will be prosecuted.

La Dolce Vita
Some scenes were shot at the hotel. The elder generation of Excelsior porters like Gastone Pizzoli, doorman from 1957–1993, still remember the blonde Swede slapping the face of a fellow actress in front of the hotel in one of the scenes. “She had to repeat the scene about 30 times,” recalls Pizzoli. “By the end the face of the other poor girl was totally swollen.”
Two Weeks in Another Town

1906: at the opening the general manager was Alphonese Pfyffer
2008–2012 Michele Frignani

<italic> Paolo Lorenzoni, General Manager, managed the hotel until March 2009 </italic>

Managed by: Starwood A Westin Hotel
316 Rooms
33 Suites

In-room movies Radio Television with remote control Cable channels Wireless high speed internet access Heavenly bed Glassware 24-hour room service Mini bar Bathroom Telephone Make-up/shaving mirror Hairdryer Art work Writing desk Marble bathroom Rich fabrics.

Villa La Cupola Features include: 566 sqm (6,099 square feet) area adorned with frescoes and stained glass windows Private elevator Jacuzzi Stunning balconies and terraces 168 sqm (1,808 square feet) 1 or 2 bedrooms with the option of a total of 8 Hand-frescoed interiors
On the fifth floor: a master bedroom; study panelled in Italian walnut; living room with stained glass windows depicting allegories of a mythological figure paired with a modern one, such as Atlas and Television, Hypnosis and Neurosis, Hermes and Marketing, and Hermaphrodite and Fashion Private cinema with Dolby surround sound

In the Ludovisi quarter of Rome, on the elegant, tree-lined Via Veneto immortalised in Fellini's masterpiece La Dolce Vita. Nearby landmarks are the Villa Borghese at the top of the hill and the Piazza Barberini below.

Restaurant Doney is the fine Italian restaurant on the ground floor. Woody Allen, Fabris Testi, Alberto Sordi and Sharon Stone, among many others, have dined here.

Enjoy Rome's fashion boutiques. Have a suit tailor made at Brioni and take a stroll over to the Excelsior's sister hotel, the St Regis Grand, which was opened by Cesar Ritz in 1894.

Westin Kids Club

The 3,200-square-foot health club includes treatment rooms, a sauna, Turkish bath, Jacuzzi and indoor pool.

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The Westin Excelsior, Rome
Country: Italy
City: Rome
Opening date: 1906

Note from the Host

General Manager

Marc Lannoy


Via Vittorio Veneto 125
Italy, Rome

Tel: +39-06-47081
Fax: +39-06-4826205

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