The books of the Queen

Ristorante Regina Isabella

She has not gone down in history as a great queen, Isabella of Bourbon, born in Madrid on July 6, 1789 by Charles IV, King of Spain and Maria Luisa of Bourbon-Parma. She was only 13 when married her cousin Francis of Bourbon, Duke of Calabria, son of Ferdinand IV, King of the Two Sicilies, brother of the father and his uncle. Francis was already a widower at the age of 35 of Maria Clementina of Habsburg-Lorraine. The marriage was celebrated by proxy in Naples on July 6, 1802 and then by contract in Barcelona in late September and early October of the same year.

It was a political marriage and were born 12 children, of whom the fourth, after three females, Ferdinand, became king. Isabella did not participate in the political life of the kingdom but she had an intense love life. She had many lovers and a husband but paradoxically took care of two girls’ boarding school for the daughters of the nobility and a girls’ school and an orphanage for poor children. She died in Naples on 13 September 1848 at just the age of 59.
When in 1830s Neapolitan engineer, Nicola Ciannelli bought the small spa Santa Restituta in Lacco Ameno widening it, he asked the queen-mother to give her name to the new baths and queen-mother agreed. This was reported by Jacques Etienne Chevalley de Rivaz, the most famous spa physician in Ischia in the nineteenth century, in his book of 1837 on the thermal water of the island.
Over a century later in 1953 the Milanese publisher Angelo Rizzoli (1889-1970) bought the small establishment from the gynecologist of his wife, Peter Malcovati, deciding to create a large hotel with an extraordinary urban transformation of Lacco Ameno up then a small fishing village, with hotels, shops, offices, wellness center, engaging an area of about 30 thousand square meters and decided that the hotel had to retain the dedication to Queen Isabella, with the definite article in front in Italian (La Regina Isabella), while the attached baths were dedicated to Saint Restituta, a Christian martyr of the third century patron saint of Lacco Ameno. The church of the Saint is located nearby and Rizzoli proposed that the renewed main square of the village was named Santa Restituta changing the name of Piazza King Umberto I.
Angelo Rizzoli, the great patron of the island of Ischia that he loved so much, entrusted the design to Mr. Ignazio Gardella of Milan, one of the Greats of contemporary Italian architecture, that in the construction of the building complex of Lacco Ameno confirmed his adaptation to the ‘genius loci’ (the spirit of the place), his detachment from the immediate and fashion of the moment, the fine detail. The ‘Grande Albergo della Regina Isabella’ was opened three years later the planning, in 1956, and not only would have been the symbol of the rebirth of the island of Ischia and its entry in the international firmament of the prestigious tourist destinations, with the inseparable duo ‘sea and spa’ that is, health and beauty, but it would become the hotel of the holidays with famous personalities in every field. Angelo Rizzoli has been dead for 43 years and his business empire no longer exists. His papers such as “Oggi”, “L’ Europeo” have changed ownership and his “Cineriz” no longer exists. Even Regina Isabella has changed ownership. Today it is managed by the family business of Mr. Giancarlo Carriero who is the General Manager and is currently the president of the tourism section of the Industrial Union of Naples and its province.
“The Regina Isabella has a special charm. Maybe it comes from the place where it is located, this beautiful island of Ischia, the site where it was built, refined details, the staff who work there, and it is this set that makes it a favorite place of all kind of personality from every part of the world”, says Mr. Carriero welcoming the reporter to whom shows the “fireplace room” and the “the card room”, the forty Neapolitan cards in a beautiful floor of Ceramics of Capodimonte.
At the Regina Isabella 150 people working today. There are 128 rooms, 3 restaurants, a beauty center, and 3 swimming pools including the famous pool overlooking the sea. Davide Maestripieri is the director, 50 years old, Tuscan come to Ischia and fan of Fiorentina, who in the Regina Isabella began working as a clerk at the reception.
Mr. Carriero and director Maestripieri show me - upon my request - the guest register books in more than 50 years of activity that are kept in the safe.
“Here are all registered guests of the hotel in over 50 years and deserve a study because from here have passed many personalities of the world and protagonists of different generations from politics to entertainment. It is a tradition that continues”, said Mr. Carriero. The names are thousands. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, those of the Italian economic miracle, were the protagonists of that time of politics as Pietro Nenni, friend of Angelo Rizzoli, Emilio Colombo, Luigi Einaudi, and yet the characters in the world of film, television and industry.
“The room of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, who shot in Ischia the movie “Cleopatra” in 1962 is the number 370 with the terrace overlooking the sea and it is said that in one of their furious quarrel Liz threw all the clothes of Richard in the sea”, says Mr. Carriero who also recalls “the elegance of Mr. Giovanni Agnelli” that first of all asked about his trusted masseur, Salvatore Monti”.
In one of these books maybe there are also the names of Oriana Fallaci and her partner, Alekos Panagulis, poet and hero of the Greek Resistance to the regime of the colonels. Maybe ... because he stayed into the unknown.
“We decided to spend seaside holidays, thus relaxing ourselves with intimacy and chose the island of Ischia where a hotelier friend would have welcomed us even we had arrived suddenly”, writes Oriana in her masterpiece “Un uomo” (‘A man’) dedicated to Panagulis. They travelled without luggage. It was August. It was a room on the sea.
The tradition has remained also in subsequent years and continues today. In July, already for 10 years, the Regina Isabella is the main venue of the Ischia Global Festival and international film stars arrive for one of the most important events of the tourist season of the island of Ischia that for Regina Isabella began on March 29 with the opening of the hotel and will close on November 2 with an event dedicated to viticulture in Ischia.
“We always aim to maintain long season, employment levels, and the standard of the hotel and keep the old customers. We have for example a German client, industrialist Karl Cronert that today is 87 years old and comes to us twice a year since 1966, and at the same time we aim to acquire new customers like the Russians. In short, the same style as always”, says Mr. Carriero.
Isabella of Bourbon, Queen of the Two Sicilies, only for five years without leaving any trace in history, never imagined that would be remembered forever in the name of a prestigious hotel, in whose registers guests include names of the nobility and the bourgeoisie, in the most important island of the Neapolitan Archipelago, that one his son Ferdinand would have loved most of all.

Albergo della Regina Isabella

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Info on Ischia island

  • Surface: 46 Kmq
  • Hight: 789 mt
  • Lat.: 40° 44',82 N
  • Long.: 13° 56',58 E
  • Periplus: 18 miglia
  • Coasts: 51.2 Km
  • Cities: 6
  • Inhabitants: 58.029

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