The History of the Excelsior Palace Hotel

21st Jan 2004

On the cliffs overlooking the blue sea of the Portofino Coast stands the Excelsior Palace
, Rapallo’s historic and elegant hotel and first Italian Casino, which has come back to life again after a twenty-year closure.
The Excelsior was in its numerous years of activity the central point for its refined etiquette in hotel hospitality and tourism on the Gulf of Tigullio.

Its history begins in January 1901, when on the “Ciappadea Cliff” behind Rapallo’s Kursaal , the New Casino opened its doors for the first time; later called Excelsior Palace, it was constructed following plans drawn up by Architect Verrey from Lausanne.
The views are really special, particularly from the sea, given the enviable position of the hotel, just six kilometres from Portofino. It is surrounded by the sea on three sides and by the luxuriant vegetation on the hills behind.

Right from its birth, the hotel acquired prestige and fame by being the seat of the first Italian Casino.
Even though the Casino was transferred to San Remo,  in 1928, the Excelsior remained high society’s favourite spot. In 1914 one of the first films with live external shooting was filmed here. It was “The Birth of a Ship”, interpreted and directed by Gian Paolo Rosmarino, a notable figure in the history of Italian cinema.

During the 50’s and 60’s Rapallo, with its prestigious Excelsior Palace Hotel, continued to be frequented by the most important names from the cultural and theatrical worlds, confirming the quality and beauty of this particular part of the Ligurian Coast.

It is easy to imagine Eleonora Duse sitting in an elegant armchair in one of the hotel’s lounges, hidden under a large, beautiful hat reading a book of D’Annunzio’s poems. The Duke of Windsor with Mrs. Wally Simpson, King Farouk, King Hussein of Jordan, King Constantine of Greece, the lovely red headed actress Rita Hayworth , the writer Ernest Hemingway, all spent their holidays here, not forgetting the Nobel Prize for physics, Guglielmo Marconi, who not far from the Excelsior succeeded in transmitting for the first time by waves and not wires.


Towards the end of the 60’s the hotel fell into a progressively decadent state which led to its final closure in 1974. From this date to June 1995 the hotel remained closed, “vanishing” from the social scene and depriving Rapallo for more than twenty years of an important part of its history.


This long closure seriously damaged the structure of the main building, so that when Turin Hotels International, based in Turin, took over the Excelsior, radical changes, as well as a complete re-organisation of the complex, had to be made in order to save the building and return the hotel to its original style and standards.

It has, in fact, been totally rebuilt inside and out, from the original four floors it has passed to the present seven, enjoying a total redistribution of the space available.

The very modern “Duke of Windsor” Congress Centre is situated on the lower floor under the hall, where still enjoying the sea view, nine interconnecting meeting rooms can accommodate up to 450 people.

On the upper floors we find the Guests’ rooms: the dominant colours are the warm tones of coral, blue and sand, basic elements of the enchanting views over the Tigullian Gulf.

Thanks to its special link between the Excelsior and the Kursaal we arrive at the Beach Club, which offers a lovely well equipped beach, panoramic swimming pool, sun beds, beach umbrellas and beach huts, the Eden Roc summer restaurant right on the cliff edge and the elegant Sporting Bar.

Part of the Kursaal, a beautiful villa dating from the beginning of this century, has been dedicated to the Health and Fitness Club (also open to visitors) with a gymnasium, heated indoor pool with hydromassage, Turkish bath, sauna and sun beds. The Beauty Farm offers a variety of massages, personalised face and body treatments and talassotherapy (sea treatments).

Many are the sporting attractions, too, courses in gymnastics, movement rehabilitation, swimming, water aerobics, are all followed by qualified instructors as well as sailing, skin-diving and water skiing.

The Excelsior, as its Guests affectionately call it, has finally been restored to its refined and elegant life, which follows the slow and lazy evolution of the historical and aristocratic bathing seasons of the entire Portofino Coast. In the meantime, the Hotel Management has already had the pleasure to welcome Guests such as George Clooney, Michelangelo Antonioni, Burt Bacharach, Gloria Gaynor, Grace Jones, Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band, Amii Stewart, Dionne Warwick.


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