JACKIE: The Splendide Royal is just what it implies, splendid and royal … and romantic. It’s where Italy glides into Switzerland, with its own Prince Charming.
DAVID: “I’ve always wanted to be – knew someday I would be – General Manager of a Grand Hotel.” That’s not me speaking, though I wish it were; that is what Giuseppe Rossi (General Manager of the grandest hotel, Splendide Royal Lugano) told me over dinner prepared by Executive Chef Marco Ghioldi at his La Veranda Restaurant. It was not a boast; just a simple statement of a young man’s dream achieved through preparation (he became fluent in English, French, and Italian), daring to grab opportunity when it came his way, and luck. He has done it all, starting as a waiters’ assistant – delivering food from the kitchen to the waiter who delivered to the diners – becoming a sommelier who knew little about wines, but learned quickly – to private butler in a castle in Scotland owned by a very wealthy family. He worked his way up through restaurants and hotels until he achieved what he set out to do. And he is one very happy and successful gentleman who has become my friend.
JACKIE: He’s also handsome, charming, and someone I call my boy friend since we first met in Lugano. Again, this is I commenting on David’s trip.
DAVID: I can’t be jealous; Giuseppe is very happily married (and so is Jackie!) with two grown sons. He has become a valuable asset to Roberto Naldi, owner of the Splendide Royal and three other hotels with another in the works.
I have been staying at this perfectly wonderful, perfectly situated hotel for many years, and it has only grown better each time. The staff from Reception to Concierge, from Dining Room to Chef to Pianist, from bellmen to chamber-maids makes each guest feel like a Very Important Person.
JACKIE: David really likes to feel like that.
DAVID: I certainly felt that when my train was met by a Splendide bellman who took me to the hotel. I had traveled by rail from Verona to Milan where I had only 15 minutes to change trains (with more kind help). Once more, my Eurail Pass was a godsend. No crowded motorways, no expensive gas, no maps to follow. Just settle back in comfort and enjoy travel on the rail, this time from Italy into Switzerland.
The Splendide is enjoying its 125th Anniversary. It has delighted guests like Pavarotti, the Aga Khan, Francois Mitterand, and King Farouk. Oh, and Jackie and me! The celebrated Aniello Lauro, General Manager from 1978 to 2008 when he retired and recommended Giuseppe Rossi, took care of us on our dozen visits. Helped by super Concierges Giovanni and Giuseppe and Rafael and dining room manager Gerolamo and breakfast manager (a real stand up comedian) Fabrizio. Just a few of the super professional staff.
JACKIE: Ambience. Peace. Beauty. I remember how this hotel fronts the absolutely breathtaking Lake Lugano with the Pre-Alps in the background. Unforgettable.
DAVID: That heavenly sight greeted me each morning. Inside almost as gorgeous with an entry leading to large bedroom with king bed, pale golden fabric covered walls, complimentary carpeting, large antique wardrobe and desk, high ceilings featuring a splendid Murano glass chandelier. Big marble bathroom with luxury Etro toiletries, and of course, Wi-Fi, flat screen TV with several English channels.
JACKIE: Time for dinner with Giuseppe?
DAVID: If you insist. Piper Heidsieck Champagne to start with delicious hors d’oeuvres. Red tuna tartar on a green apple and broad bean ratatouille. And a perfectly roasted turbot with little vegetables. Finally, Earl Grey sorbet on lemon cake with a liquorice reduction. A very good Louis Latour Moulin a Vent throughout the meal and a yummy Pantelleria Moscato along with decaf espresso to finish.
Wonderful from beginning to end!
JACKIE: Life isn’t always fair; you never gain an ounce. Anyway, Buono appetito, and we’ll Travel….