Murder, music and the mafia in Sicily’s Grand Hotel.
The Grand Hotel et des Palmes is an icon of Palermo life. Its rooms and public spaces have witnessed the events that have shaped twentieth century Sicily, everything from the suicide of poets to political intrigues and clandestine mafia meetings.The hotel has a long and venerable history. It started out as a private residence for the Ingham-Whitakers, the Anglo-Sicilian family of marsala fame, before becoming a hotel in 1876 and a favorite stopover on the Grand Tour. Wagner was one of the first guests to stay, looking for inspiration to finish his last opera, Parsifal. A few days after he completed it, Renoir arrived to paint his portrait in celebration. Next came Guy de Maupassant, who demanded to stay in Wagner’s suite to be close to his ‘presence’. The novelist and playwright, Raymond Roussel, checked in in the 1930s and checked out a few years later–in a coffin.Arthur Miller, Sophia Loren and Maria Callas were all regular guests and when Visconti was filming The Leopard in Sicily, the entire cast–notably Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon–stayed at the hotel. Less illustrious guests included Aleister Crowley, Lucky Luciano and Giulio Andreotti, the former Italian Prime Minister, who stood trial for murder and mafia associations in the ’90s.A richly researched history of this historic hotel, with a cast of characters ranging from the good, the bad, and the ugly.