Sleeping with the Past

Global Traveler|June 2020

Sleeping with the Past
At storied hotels around the world, luxury comes layered with legends.
DEBRA BOKUR

WHEN YOU SWEEP THROUGH THE ENTRANCE portal of the Regina Isabella on the island of Ischia in your best linen trousers or with your flowing silk skirt lifting seductively in the warm Mediterranean breeze, you’re absolutely allowed to bask in the limelight and surrender to your most outrageous film fantasy. It’s almost obligatory, given the path across the lobby’s fabulous tiled stone floor requires you to follow, quite literally, in the footsteps of movie icons Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sofia Lauren, Audrey Hepburn and Charlie Chaplin — all of whom adored this villa set into the Italian cliffs rimming the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The stories contained in the spaces between the floors and roofs of hotels such as the Regina Isabella provide inspiration to legions of travelers who long to touch — or be touched by — grand and glamorous moments from the past. Historic hotels speak to us in whispers and creaks, in the details of their façades and the experiences of the travelers who came before us; each leaves his or her own mark, whether with a swirl across a ballroom floor or with a signature scrawled across the page of a guestbook.

Take, for instance, the d’Angleterre in Copenhagen, occupying an enviable location overlooking Nyhavn harbor and Kongens Nytorv, or King’s New Square. Established more than 260 years ago, it’s one of the world’s oldest purpose-built hotels. Lucas Johansson, d’Angleterre general manager, said the hotel’s corridors were designed wide enough to allow two ladies to pass each other gracefully in their dresses, while staircase landings allowed them an opportunity to catch their breath in corsets.

“Just imagine,” said Johansson, “the parties in the beautiful ballrooms when historical events — like the royal celebration of polar explorer Roald Amundsen’s discovery of the Northwest Passage in 1906 — took place. Arguably, every single person in Denmark has some sort of connection to the hotel. We take our job as custodians of such a legendary part of the Danish cultural society very seriously.”

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June 2020