Roma, caput mundi, regit orbis frena rotundi*

*Rome, capital of the world, holds the reins of the world (motto inscribed in the crown of Diocletian)

From: Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, The Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class (2018), by Luke Barr:

“In late 1891, the Savoy Hotel company bought a plot of land in Rome, near the Baths of Diocletian. This was to be the luxury hotel that Rome so desperately needed: Americans were coming to Europe in droves on transatlantic ocean liners, and in Rome there were no hotels at the level of the Savoy to serve them. The Marquis di Rudini, the Italian premier, had traveled to London on a state visit in the spring, and encouraged Ritz (whom he knew from years before, when he stayed at the Grand Hotel National in Lucerne) to set up shop in Rome. “We need a new Savoy, a new Grand National, in Rome,” he said. And so it came to be.

The previous owner of the site, a Mr. Cavallini, had begun construction of a building and then run out of money; he was introduced to Ritz by an old friend, Franz Joseph Bucher, another Swiss hotelier Ritz knew from his days in Lucerne. (Bucher ran the Burgenstock and had spearheaded the building, a few years earlier, of a funicular railway running from Lake Lucerne up to the resort.) Cavallini was desperate to sell. The site was magnificent, right in the center of Rome, on a small hill, the Viminale. The hotel would be close to Termini, the central train station built in the mid-1870s, the point of arrival in Rome for more and more visitors…

Indeed, the Savoy brand of luxury was travelling – Rudini had been right to encourage Ritz to come to Rome. The city was full of visitors (the English, the Germans, the Americans), and new hotels were opening all over. The Hotel Eden, on Via Ludovisi, owned by the Munich-born hotelier Francesco Nistelweck, was only a few years old. The Hotel Hassler was soon set to open at the top of the Spanish Steps – it was owned by Alberto Hassler, who was Swiss. Rome was much smaller than London, and had an easygoing, resort-like atmosphere. The weather was balmy. The Hotel men all knew each other; indeed, Hassler’s daughter Berta was married to Nistelweck.”

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