Home World Travel Celebrity Hotel Rooms & Suites, Part 4

Celebrity Hotel Rooms & Suites, Part 4

Francis Ford Coppola

Palazzo Margherita, Bernalda, ItalyFrancis Suite 9

Films and hotels have many aspects that are the same. For example, there is always a big vision, an idea. – Francis Ford Coppola

The Francis Suite at the Coppola Palazzo Margherita. Photograph courtesy of Gundolf Pfotenhauer, Palazzo Margherita.

Francis Ford Coppola purchased Palazzo Margherita in 2004, transforming it into a luxurious Italian boutique hotel, believing it was time to introduce visitors to the stunning Basilicata region of Southern Italy. The Palazzo was first built 1892 by the Margherita family, in the hilltop town of Bernalda, ten minutes from the Mediterranean’s Lido di Metaponto Beach. With Mr. Coppola all works of art are done with passion and based on personal experiences – whether it be writing screenplays or directing films, producing Coppola Wines or conducting regional Italian cooking lessons; his works of art now includes transitioning the Palazzo to newfound glory.

The Francis Suite pays homage to Mr. Coppola’s Tunisian-born grandmother.
The Francis Suite balcony offers a quiet reprieve, complete with garden views. Photographs courtesy of Gundolf Pfotenhauer, Palazzo Margherita.

The Francis Suite, for example, was inspired by Mr. Coppola’s Tunisian-born grandmother Maria Zasa. The suite features North African design elements like colorful mosaic tiles, bold Moroccan patterns and Tunisian textiles not to mention stunning views over the hotel’s lush gardens.

Bernalda, itself, was the birthplace and home to Agostino Coppola, Mr. Coppola’s grandfather, who always referred to it affectionately as Bernalda bella.

Francis Ford Coppola (April 2019); the iconic director of The Godfather films, The Conversation, One from the Heart, Apocalypse Now and The Cotton Club. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

All of Palazzo’s nine rooms are designed and decorated by Mr. Coppola and acclaimed French designer Jacques Grange, where Coppola obsessed over every detail from the frescoes to the personally curated library. He wanted the Palazzo to become a place that his children would want to visit again and again, and therefore invited the whole family to contribute ideas to the design. His daughter, film director Sofia Coppola, was married at the Palazzo.

While the neighboring region of Puglia has become popular with tourists, the town of Bernalda remains relatively undiscovered outside of Italy. It is considered a part of Southern Italy where the culture, food, and wine remain authentic. The surrounding countryside, settled by the Greeks before the Roman era, produces sumptuous fruits and vegetables, as well as the Aglianico grapes, used to make wines of the same name.

Along with intimate luxury, Palazzo Margherita offers 4-day cooking courses, and nature experiences that include olive harvests, truffle hunting, biking tours, hiking in the Rupestrian Park and Rafting in Pollino National Park.

But, above all, it is the very sense of family that distinguishes Palazzo Margherita as one of the most charming boutique hotels in Italy.

Nelson Mandela

The Saxon, Johannesburg, South AfricaThe Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. – Nelson Mandela

The Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite at The Saxon. Photograph courtesy of Saxon Hotel.

Though his narrative needs no introduction, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid political leader, a revolutionary who spent 27 years in prison, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. He is also one of the most admired men in history.

In 1964, Nelson Mandela arrived on Robben Island where he would spend 18 of his 27 years in prison. Confined to a small cell, without a bed and a bucket for a toilet, he was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He was allowed one visitor a year for 30 minutes, and could only write and receive one letter every six months. But his captivity at Robben Island transformed him. Through his intelligence, charisma and dignified non-violent defiance, Mandela eventually transitioned even the most brutal prison officials to his will, assumed leadership over his jailed comrades and became the master of his own prison. He emerged from it the mature leader who would fight and win the great political battles that would create a new democratic South Africa.

President Nelson Mandela with members of the Congressional Black Caucus at an event at the Library of Congress in 1994. Wikimedia Commons.

The Saxon Hotel was once “home” to Mandela after his release from prison. It was during this time that South Africa’s former president used the serene setting of the palatial estate to edit his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.

Mandela was a regular guest of the Saxon, when the property was a luxurious residential retreat due to his relationship with its owners, the Steyn family. Located in the lush suburb of Sandhurst outside Johannesburg, the property was later converted into a 53-suite boutique hotel, with six pools, a library, wine cellar, piano lounge, award-winning restaurants and a sprawling spa with eight treatment rooms.

Today you can stay in the Nelson Mandela Platinum Presidential Suite, designed by Johannesburg artist Dean Simon. His design illustrates the stages of Mandela’s life, taking guests on a journey through Mandela’s rich narrative from his days as a young militant through his years as a statesman. Dark wood, animal skin rugs, copper lamps and traditional geometric patterns create a distinctly South African ambiance. In the entrance hall, a portrait of Nelson Mandela fragments into a mosaic of words (the president’s nicknames like “Madiba”) as the viewer approaches the work.

Photograph courtesy of Saxon Hotel.

Dean Simon also created a statue entitled “27 Years” (representing Mandela’s time in prison), along with wall screens which depict Mandela’s face, only visible at certain times of day. You can also find Dean Simon’s pencil sketches adorning the walls of the hotel’s public areas. The architraves and doors are decorated in traditional South African carvings with images of crocodiles, lizards and birds, which are symbols of protection and good luck.

J.K. Rowling

The Balmoral, Edinburgh, ScotlandRoom 552

I thought I can go to a quiet place so I came to this hotel because it’s a beautiful hotel. – J.K. Rowling

The bedroom in the J.K. Rowling Suite. Courtesy of The Balmoral

J.K. Rowling wrote most of her Harry Potter books in Edinburgh Scotland, later commenting that the city is her home and the place where the Harry Potter character evolved over seven books. Rowling’s personal narrative has proved to be inspirational to many; from a single mom on welfare, treatment for depression after the loss of her mother, studying to be a teacher while writing the first Harry Potter book at a quiet café – and always with her sleeping two-year-old daughter at her side. Her initial intention was to become a school teacher in fear that her first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone would not be published. But published it was, leading to six other Potter books, making her one of the most famous authors in the English language.

J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the Easter Egg Roll at White House in 2010. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
J.K. Rowlings. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

After publication of her fourth book and the release of the first Harry Potter film, Harrymania had conquered the globe, and Rowling found she could no longer write incognito in a café, and needed a quiet place outside of the glare of the public. Her quest to find that ‘quiet place’ was rather easy; she would write the ending of the final Harry Potter book in a secret suite at the city’s best-known luxury hotel, The Balmoral. Mum’s was the word at The Balmoral with many of the staff completely unaware of her six-month presence. Her daily writing routine included listening to classical music on the radio and drinking 8 to 9 cups of a tea a day.

After finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling left the hotel, but her spirit remains at The Balmoral who designated her secret six-month home as the J.K. Rowling Suite.

The bedroom in the J.K. Rowling Suite. Courtesy of The Balmoral

The suite was redesigned by Olga Polizzi, and features the antique oak desk Rowling used along with the queen-sized bed in which she slept. With its Harry Potter-stocked bookshelves and woodland-inspired décor, the J.K. Rowling Suite at The Balmoral is exactly how you would picture it to be. The crown jewel of suite, is a marble bust of the Greek god Hermes, which once sat on the desk where J.K. Rowling finished writing on January 11, 2007.

EXTRA

Richard Harris

The Savoy, London, England Room Undisclosed

It was the food! – Richard Harris

The grand foyer of the Savoy Hotel restaurant in London by Max Cowper. Courtesy Wkimedia Commons

At 70 years old, Irish screen and film actor, and lifelong mischief-maker, Richard Harris moved into London’s ultra-luxurious Savoy Hotel. Yes, there is a tie in to J.K. Rowling for he played the Dumbledore character in the Harry Potter movies until his death in 2002. For many T-Boy film critcs, though, he is most endeared for his roles in This Sporting Life, Il Deserto Rosso, Major Dundee and Juggernaut under the directorial hands of Lindsey Anderson, Michelangelo Antonioni, Sam Peckinpah and Richard Lester, respectively. A supporting role in Robin and Marian, with director Lester again, should also be included in his pantheon. We’ll leave 1967’s Camelot for others to decide.

Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn presenting proclamation for “Camelot Day” to Actor Richard Harris. City of Boston Archive via Wikimedia Commons

According to an article by The Telegraph, He loved the fact that if he wanted a sandwich at 4 a.m., he could get one. By ringing a bell he’d have someone put his clothes away or bring his dinner-and for this he was willing to pay 9,981 a week. He told The Telegraph, If you’re paying the mortgage on a home, you can’t ask the bank manager to fetch you a pint. Oh, and the ladies? You bring those in yourself.

So attentive is the service at the Savoy, that the staff makes notes of regular guests’ likes and dislikes. Harris indicated the precise temperature at which he preferred his porridge to be served.

And perhaps the best Richard Harris story comes from an interview with a Savoy historian: While Harris was being taken out of the building on a stretcher shortly before his death, he raised his hand and told the diners, ‘It was the food!’

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