Cavalieri Hilton in Rome – not quite your regular Hilton

Cavalieri Hilton in Rome - not quite your regular HiltonSupposedly, Hilton hotels all look the same. The standard quality and features that feel reassuring to many international travellers are, for many others, reasons valid enough to avoid Hiltons. Well, today the ditcum « all Hiltons look the same » is a little less true. See for yourself next time you go to Rome.
The Cavalieri Hilton, nested on top of Italy’s capital’s Monte Mario, was already known for boasting some interesting paintings by sought-after artists from the XVIII and XIX centuries. By now the prestigious five-star establishment could right-fully claim the status of art gallery.
In the main lobby the educated Martini lover will find himself face to face with not one but three large paintings from Giambattista Tiepolo. This Venetian artist born in 1696, was no conventional painter.
The Italian art lover who bought the paintings from Sotheby’s in 2006 is no ordinary man either. Guido Angelo Terruzzi is known in art circles for having accumulated for his personal pleasure a private collection of over 5,000 pieces. But his latest buy was too large, even for substantial villa in Bordighera, where most of his collection is gathered. So he thought of hanging the three paintings by Tiepolo in the main lobby of the Hilton hotel, which he owns. The paintings come from Palazzo Sandi in Venice and had not been shown in public for almost two centuries. Mr. Terruzzi used his money to buy the Tiepolos when he realised the Italian government was not going to intervene to avoid the painting leaving the country. It had been over 50 years since any Tipeolo’s paintings were put on auction. An opportunity that someone like Terruzzi could not miss.
Cavalieri Hilton in Rome - not quite your regular HiltonI sat right under the paintings, with my thirteen-year-old son Paolo, sipping a drink and observing the paintings and the hotel guests coming and going. Most of them did not even look up, let alone realize they were laying eyes on some 18th century art wonder disclosed to public view after resting for 200 years in the shadowed vast rooms of a Venetian patrician palace. Not that you can easily miss the canvasses: the central one must measure 6 meters in length and the scene is not one that goes unnoticed. The characters in the painting are no less than Hercules, Ulysses, Achilles, Apollo, Mars, Anteus and Lycomedes. All names that once held powerful meaning and told even more powerful stories. Today they probably sound to the average intercontinental traveller like they come from Matrix the movie.
It must be said that the Hilton itself does not give much publicity to the paintings. At the reception desk, a glossy flyer among many others illustrates briefly this new acquisition and describes the life and art career of Giambattista Tiepolo. Apart from that, no big fuss. I reckon this blas? attitude towards art at its utmost expression is very Italian: for this people driving daily through the historical foundations of Europe’s civilisation, one Tiepolo more or one less does not make much difference.
I have briefly researched this Mr. Terruzzi and found out I could not pierce his famous discretion and somehow mysterious personality. Terruzzi is a wealthy man born in Milan with a passion for art and collections. He is a cultivated man, difficult to make contact with, and a picky, perseverant art collector. He lives between Bordighera, on the Italian Riviera west of Genoa, and Cap Ferrat (you know where that is, of course). The interesting fact is that he lives with his collection. I mean that his main house (the one in Italy) is home to almost 5,000 unique pieces representing all fine arts. I did not learn much of his secondary residence in Cap Ferrat, apart from the fact, told by a friend of mine, that it is a four-storey villa immersed in a garden the size of a natural reserve.
Cavalieri Hilton in Rome - not quite your regular HiltonMr. Terruzzi resembles a man with a mission: gather the best of Italian renaissance and modern art to avoid it flying out of Italy, and make his collection accessible to the public. To do this, he is trying to find a home for his treasures, whose number would require a grand palace. At the same time, Rome, Milan, Venice and other citta’ d’arte are competing to have Mr. Terruzzi take his collection to them. However he has already chosen Villa Regina Margherita in Bordighera to hold a part of his collection. It is said that the Mayor of Rome, who was invited to the inauguration of the Tiepolo’s collection at the Hilton, insisted that he should pick Rome as the final destination of the remainder of the collection.
It won’t be easy to find a manor for this large treasure, also because people close to Mr. Terruzzi say that he is seriously considering continuing to live with his collection, therefore he is looking for a palace that could be both his residence and a gallery open to the public.
As this saga goes on, and before the paintings leave their temporary home, you should not miss the opportunity of enjoying your martini while sitting within reach of these magnificent pieces of visual art. Enzo, the skilled bartender endowed with abundant Roman wisdom and sense of humour, will mix the perfect one for you. This is the best season for a long weekend in Rome and their pool will soon be open. If the agony of Alitalia spares you the occasional strike, you might even be back at work on time. Enjoy.
Francesco Pisano, May 2007

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