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Rome Cavalieri Hilton

Rome Cavalieri Hilton
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*** In the Beginning ***

In 1954 Fred Joyce, the publicity Director for Hilton Hotels Corporation, issued the following press release:

"The Societa Generale Immobiliare (Real Estate), in cooperation with Hilton Hotels International have formed the company to be known as Italo American Nuovo Alberghi (New Hotel) which will have an eventual capitalizaiton of some $3 million. The hotel will be known as the Albergo dei Cavalieri Hilton and will cost approximately $7 million. Emilio Pifferi, a famous Italian architect is presently consulting in Rome with John W. Houser, executive vice president of Hilton Hotels International regarding the design and planning for the new hotel. It is expected that Rome's municipal government will build a new expressway from the heart of the city to the hotel."

Houser was a former Marine intelligence officer who became a director at Hilton Hotels International. Houser had negotiated with the pro-Batista Cuban faction for the casino in the Havana Hilton which opened in 1958 and nationalized in 1960.

The hotel would be owned by the Rome real estate Sociata General Immobiliare (The General Company of Real Estate). The proposed name of the hotel was Albergo Dei Cavalieri Hilton (The hotel of knights Hilton). Societa General Immobiliare is known to have the Vatican among its stockholders. It has also built the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C. The name Cavalieri pays tribute to the riders or knights who for centuries rode the path known as Via Francigene from Canterbury in England through France and on to Rome. Travellers used to rest on the hill of Monte Mario.

Conrad Hilton made a trip in 1955 to work with Italian concerns for the construction of the hotel. Hilton's plans were fought by the Left-wing parties in the Rome Municipal Council. The Communists (as Left-wingers were known then) contended the proposed Hilton Hotel was ugly and would ruin the sky line of Monte Mario. A proposal for a smaller, lower hotel was finally approved in 1959. Opposition to the hotel, led by Antonio Cederna, one of the founders of Italian Nostra, began immediately referring to the hotel site as a "wound" in the green of Monte Mario. The site of the hotel was expected to be a public green such as on the Janiculum Hill, the second tallest hill in Rome with Monte Mario the tallest. The Italian Nostra organisation was founded in 1955 with the specific aim of opposing the projected demolition of part of the city’s historic centre. The hotel is located in the residential area of Monte Mario, Rome’s highest hill. The Rome Cavalieri is 3 km from the Vatican and 5 km from the historic city centre and is nestled in a 15-acre private Mediterranean park, overlooking the Eternal City.

On September 13, 1960 Conrad Hilton watched as the cornerstone of a six-story hotel bearing his name was laid on Monte Mario. Designed by Ugo Luccichenti (1898 - 1976), Emilio Pifferi and Alberto Ressa the hotel was under construction from 1960 -1963.

*** Cavalieri Hilton Hotel opened in June 1963 ***

The hotel has 400 rooms and suites and sits high atop Monte Mario northwest of Rome. It has a panoramic view of almost the entire city. The italian architectural team of Ugo Luccichenti, Emillio Pisseri and Alberto Rossa designed the 8 story hotel. An opposing planner and architect, Italo Insolera, was quoted "the hotel was even worse in reality than one would expect." Others say the hotel belongs in Miami Beach. In the hotel lobby's atrium, the spiral fountain was designed by Franco Albini (1905/77) and Franca Helg (1920/89).

When opened in 1963 the building was an admirable example of modular architecture, resulting in a style which is both clean-lined and functional. The hotel resembled a Mediterranean vacation village, including olympic size swimming pool, tennis courts and a 7 acre park filled with pines, cyprus, olive pal and lemon trees. The hotel's original restaurants were the roof terrace restaurant night club La Pergolia with a cosmopolitan cuisine with specialties from around the world. At the garden level is a night club/restaurant known as L'Ellisse with French cuisine. La Belle Arti specialized in Italian food. The coffee shop (note the lower case) served Italian and American food with prices from $1.25 to $2.25. The coffee shop had an American style soda fountain and two pizza ovens. The hotel's massive ballroom, Salone dei Cavalieri, could seat 1,600. The hotels opening rates were $10.50 for a single to $74.00 for a two room suite. There was a 18% service charge and a 3% government tax. The ballroom was the largest space without column support at that time in Italy. Italians called it the most beautiful hotel in Rome "l'albergo più bello di Roma".

In 2001 the Rome Cavalieri Hilton, started a four-year, $45-million renovation designed to enhance the guest experience across all touchpoints of the resort. Each of the 370 guestrooms were modernized and refurbished, welcoming travelers with opulent new amenities and a higher level of convenience and connectivity. Also new is a collection of 25 individually designed and decorated suites. The property received extensive landscaping attention, the lobby received a face-lift, new fitness offerings were added and meeting space upgraded.

The Rome Cavalieri Hilton lobby received new reception and concierge desks by Italian architect Gaetano Castelli which feature surfaces made of Sodalite, a rare Brazilian semi-precious stone dramatically shaded in blue, gray and green. This stone is believed to facilitate communication between people, stimulate creativity and soothe and relax the soul. Antique multi-chrome marble panels, originally decorative features of an aristocratic southern Italian palazzo, adorn the center of each desk, encased at the sides by contemporary curved blue crystal. Also displayed in the lobby are some rare Old Master paintings, furniture, tapestries and artifacts dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.

In 2002 the Rome Cavalieri Hilton had 372 rooms. A standard double was US $474, Continental breakfast is US $29. The use of the fitness center was US $28; a massage, US $80. Dinner at La Pergola for two with wine, about US $320.

In 2008 the hotel was rebranded from just a Hilton to Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. Guestrooms were refurbished in 2011. The Imperial La Pergola is Rome’s only 3 star Michelin rooftop restaurant.

*** Hotel Art Collection ***

The Rome Cavalieri possibly has the world’s most prestigious art collection housed within a hotel worldwide. Among the over one thousand works of art kept in the hotel:

"Ulysses discovering Achilles among the daughters of Nicomedes" by G.B. Tiepolo (1696/1770)
"Judgement of Paris" by Giuseppe Bazzani (1690/1769)
"Landscape with Hermit" by Alessandro Magnasco (1667/1749)
"Flora" by Carlo Cignani (1628/1719) a pupil of Francesco Albani
"Arrival of the Bucintoro in St. Mark's Square" by Josef Heintz the Younger (about 1600/78)
"Country landscape with bridge" by Giuseppe Zaïs (1709/84) artist from Belluno who died in poverty, exponent of the Arcadian school
"Dollar Sign" by Andy Warhol (1928/87)

Bronze statue "Boy with Dog" by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770/1844)
Marble sculpture "The Kiss" by Antonio Tantardini (1829/79)

*** General Managers ***

Franz Schutzman (1915-2001) was the opening general manager. He served from 1962-1964. Prior to the Rome Cavalieri Hilton he was the Manager Raffles Hotel, Singapore, 1950-1959 and general manager Nile Hotel, Cairo, 1960-1961. From Rome Schutzman went on to general manager Hyatt Regency Toronto, Ontario, 1971-1974. Vice president, general manager United Nations Plaza Hotel, New York City, 1974-1976 and general manager The Manila Hotel, 1976-1987.

It is said Franz Schutzman concocted the popular cocktail, the Singapore Sling, while at the Raffles Hotel. Paul Schreiber was the opening Food and Beverage Manager, previously he was at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

From 1964 to 1967 Gabor Olah De Garab (1924-2014) was the general manager. He also managed the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC for 18 years from 1967 to 1985. Gabor Olah de Garab was born in Paszto, Hungary on August 8, 1924. After studying hotel management at the world-renowned Ecole Hoteliere in Lausanne, Switzerland, he held managerial positions at the Gallia Excelsior in Milan, the Hotel Splendido in Portofino and the Cavalieri Rome Hilton. In 1967, at the request of Giuseppe Cecchi, one of Washington, DC's foremost real estate developers and then project manager for the Watergate complex development, Olah assumed leadership of the Watergate Hotel that year and served as its General Manager for 18 years.

Serge Ethuin was the Cavalieri general manager from 2008 thru 2014. Serge graduated in 1982 from the Ecole Hôtelière in Strasbourg, and began his career in 1983 working for the Hilton Group as a receptionist at Hilton Paris, Strasbourg Hilton and the Orly Hilton. In 1997, he was appointed general manager of the Hilton Madagascar and followed by Hilton Rome Airport and Hilton Arc de Triomphe. In 2008 he moved to head the Rome Cavalieri Hilton, which became the first European hotel to integrate the prestigious Waldorf-Astoria Collection. Serge Ethuin inspired a new dynamic through the three Michelin Star restaurant La Pergola, the Grand Spa Club, the hotel's unique Art collection. In 2011, he was awarded “Best General Manager” by Waldorf Astoria Worldwide. After 30 years within the Hilton Group, Serge Ethuin moved on to managed the Royal Monceau Raffles Paris and most recently as General Manager of the Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo.

In 2014 Alessandro Maurizio Cabella was appointed general manager of the Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. He previously served as general manager at Hilton Molino Stucky Venice, the Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa in Portugal and Hotel Mirabeau - Société des Bains de Mer Monte Carlo in Monaco.

It seems the best chef in Rome is German. Heinz Beck has presided over Pergola, the panoramic restaurant at the Rome Cavalieri Hilton, since 1994. The dining room tables are arrayed around the picture windows overlooking the city. Rare tapestries, paintings, sculptures, and blown glass give the restaurant an atmosphere of excellence. Rated 3 stars in the Michelin guide, La Pergola is routinely voted the best in Rome. The wine cellar is vast: an array of rooms containing 65,000 bottles of wine, with 3,500 different labels offered on the list. The 7 course tasting menu here was €210, with a full a la carte choice as an alternative. Heinz Beck now has restaurants in Portugal, Dubai, London (Apsleys) and Tokyo.

Compiled by Dick Johnson, May 2017
Date: 2017-04-21 05:01:03

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