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Bulgari Hotels & Resorts: the origin story.
With hotels in Paris, London, Milan, Bali, Dubai, Shanghai, Beijing, and more on the way, Bulgari Hotels & Resorts is quickly expanding its portfolio.
In 1884, a few years after Sotirios Voulgaris (Italianized to Sotirio Bulgari) moved to Rome, the talented Greek silversmith opened a shop on Via Sistini and established Bulgari. Despite its humble beginnings, the brand quickly gained recognition in the 1920s when Voulgaris started to hone in on high-end jewelry. In the 1940s, the signature Bulgari identity began to emerge, with a focus on yellow-gold pieces. The house’s now-iconic serpentine aesthetic made its first appearance and was further cemented in the mid-1950s when the company introduced atypical color combinations of precious stones. Bulgari gained an international and Hollywood following in the next decade, beloved by the likes of Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Princess Salimah Aga Khan, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Today, Bulgari is recognized as one of the finest jewelry brands in the world. Over the years, the company has made some expected expansions into high-end watches, bags, accessories, and fragrances, but in the early aughts, the maison made one unprecedented move: venturing into the hotel industry. The goal? “To offer the hospitality of a jeweler, very personalized and warm, although distinguished and sophisticated, and take it to the next level,” says Silvio Ursini, the executive vice president of Bulgari Hotels & Resorts.
As a jewelry company, Bulgari had the humility to acknowledge the need to bring in an expert that was familiar with the business in order to properly execute luxury hotels. So, they turned to Ritz-Carlton, now part of Marriott International’s luxury division, to serve as their operating partner.
In 2004, the company made its highly anticipated debut with Bulgari Hotel Milano. Some may agree that it was the perfect first destination — it’s in Italy and in the country’s fashion capital, no less — but others may question why not Rome, where Voulgaris launched Bulgari? The answer is simple: location.
“For all the projects we develop we don’t want to create ‘another’ luxury hotel, but a unique hotel in a unique location," Ursini says. "And this is the reason why we invest so much time to find the only place that can really guarantee an extraordinary experience. We don’t care about how long the whole process will take.”
And this can be seen with all of Bulgari's properties. For example, in Milan, the hotel is in the heart of the city, but situated on a private road that allows for privacy and tranquility; in London, it’s positioned on a quieter section of Knightsbridge, just down the street from Harvey Nichols and Harrods; in Shanghai, it’s set in a protected heritage zone in the Jing’an District with the vibrant metropolis’s urban landscape on one side and the calming Huangpu River on the other; and in Paris, the group’s hotel, which just opened at the end of 2021, is on Avenue George V in the famed Triangle d’Or, just a short stroll away from the shop-lined Champs-Élysées and Avenue Montaigne. In 2023, the brand will finally make its homecoming to Rome in the Campo Marzio neighborhood, just minutes from the Spanish Steps and Bulgari’s flagship store on Via Condotti.
But what else can one expect from a stay at a Bulgari hotel? There’s a degree of uniformity when it comes to aesthetics. All designed by Milan-based architecture firm Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel, every property is contemporary and showcases Italian craftsmanship, down to the custom marble finishes. Each hotel boasts colorful accents that pay tribute to the brand’s jewels, and subtle touches of Bulgari iconography, such as signature eight-point star stitched into the curtains or more overt displays like a glass panel depicting a serpent in the bathrooms at the Bulgari Hôtel Paris. Each one also boasts a world-class spa, most of which feature a large indoor pool — with the exception of Bulgari Resort Bali, where the oasis is outdoors to immerse guests in the lush environment — and additional facilities like steam rooms, saunas, and relaxation lounges.
And it goes without saying that service is exceptional — attentive and personable, but not overbearingly so. “As a luxury brand, we know how to pamper and build a true relationship with our customers,” Ursini says. “Our first priority was and still is guest satisfaction.” Ursini also describes the overall experience as “addictive,” which is not just his own opinion, but is also confirmed by the high number of return guests received at the various Bulgari properties. “We believe that on the market today there are either classic luxury hotels, which have a very traditional design and atmosphere, or trendy hotels with very innovative designs, [but] do not fall into the luxury sector. The Bulgari hotels differ because of their strong energy and contemporary feeling, whilst still maintaining true luxury elements in quality and features.”
Bulgari Hotels & Resorts currently has seven properties in its rapidly expanding portfolio. In addition to Rome, a Tokyo hotel near the city’s main train station is also slated for next year. After these two exciting openings, the brand will finally make its debut in the United States, first with a Miami hotel in 2024, followed by Maldives' and Los Angeles' openings in 2025. With projects in such popular destinations well underway, one can only surmise that they have their eyes on others, but only time, and the right location, will tell.
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