Tea with Mussolini

A brief look at…
Brescia | Hotel Vittoria

Intact Art Deco ensembles are a design rarity. In the hotel world, especially few properties have managed to maintain the geometric elegance of this style through the past decades (however, exceptions like ‘Claridge’s’ in London still exist and have even made it their hallmark). In Italy, where Art Deco is often referred to as Stile Liberty, existing examples take a decidedly political turn. Subject of controversy to this day, many Italian cities underwent a radical urban ‘renewal’ that began by the end of the 1920s and reflected a monumentality which vaguely hinted on precedents from ancient Rome. Deemed fit to symbolize the values of the ‘new Italy’ by the government of the time, examples abound in nearly every town from South to North, and are typically illustrated by public buildings like railway stations, post offices and courthouses.

Home to the ‘Beretta’ gun manufacture since the 16th century, Brescia is an industrial city in Northern Italy that is surprisingly charming – and often overlooked. Here, in the middle of its baroque historic city center, a monumental urban ensemble unveils the urbanist aspirations of Italy’s Fascist government: an array of elegant, marble-clad civic buildings that enclose a representative forum. While similar projects were planned all over the country, Brescia’s ‘Piazza della Vittoria’, however, remains the singular exhibit in the chapter of Italy’s Fascist architecture that comprises also a luxury hotel. Opened in 1931, the 65-room Albergo Vittoria has survived nearly unchanged in the style of the time.

Piazza della Vittoria

Although part of this coherent urban ensemble in a broader sense, the hotel is almost completely hidden behind the buildings in the ‘front row’. Located on a quiet shopping street with its characteristic arcades, the hotel’s marble facade and its lack of ornamentation is striking. Apart from the circular sculptural ornaments that frame the letters of the hotel’s name, the building’s openings mirror the admittedly subdued aesthetics of the neighboring piazza. Marble also abounds within the building itself, making it a rather somber, yet extraordinary example of 1930s design that nevertheless reflects a very ‘Italian’ savoir faire. The ubiquitous revolving door reveals an elegant succession of ground floor spaces that still feature their original detailing and which find their spatial culmination in an extravagant, almost square ballroom on the second floor.

But despite these qualities, hotels like the ‘Vittoria’ remain a tightrope.
The lack of full appreciation for the artistic value of this peculiar décor and the muddle of judgement that is naturally associated with the period during which it was realized, set up a real challenge. In other words, how to successfully carry a rather solemn sophistication into the 21st century…

Hotel Vittoria
Via X Giornate, 20
25121 Brescia
Italy

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