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How Bulgari Conquered the Hotel Industry

The Bulgari empire comprises not only boutiques but also some remarkable hotels in the most beautiful places in the world

May 22 2023

Pure luxury: the Bulgari empire


Bulgari Hotel Paris © optional

Audrey Hepburn, Liz Taylor, Clark Gable and Gary ­Cooper all traveled to Rome around the middle of the 20th century to visit the shop of a Greek immigrant named Sotirios Voulgaris. A goldsmith by trade, he had arrived in the Eternal City in 1881 and opened his first store in the Via Sistina. In 1905, he opened what would become not only the flagship store of a jewelry brand but of a world-renowned empire of beauty and design. Voulgaris became Bulgari, and although he had found a new home in the luxurious Via Condotti shopping street, Sotirios never forgot his origins.


Bulgari Hotel Paris © optional

Design and diversification


Bulgari Hotel Paris © optional

One of eleven children, Voulgaris learned from his father how important it was to be dedicated and passionate about your profession and prepared to work hard. When the company founder died in 1932, his sons Costantino and Giorgio followed in his footsteps. The pair certainly filled his shoes; more than that, they expanded the brand’s worldwide presence by adding elements of the Italian Renaissance and their Greek heritage to their father’s iconic French-inspired designs. Stores in New York, Paris, Geneva and Monte Carlo followed. The glamour of the 1960s and 1970s was later reflected in Bulgari designs.


Bulgari Hotel Milano © optional

The brand’s first diversification took place in the 1990s, at a time when a new generation had been at the helm for some time. In addition to jewelry and perfumes, the brand now began to market accessories, such as scarves, and leather goods, such as handbags. Then the company went public. In 2001, the next big step came with the launch of Bulgari Hotels & Resorts in partnership with the Marriott International hotel group. The first Bulgari hotel opened in Milan in 2004. It set the standard not only for all future Bulgari hotels but also for the international hotel industry – and how it defines the term “luxury.”


The garden of the penthouse at the Bulgari Hotel Paris © optional

Even the location is iconic: The hotel is hidden behind the relatively unassuming walls of a palazzo at the end of a private road close to the Via Monte Napoleone, La Scala and the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera. Inside, you find unexpectedly spacious courtyards and lots of greenery. The records show that the hotel garden, which is about 4,000 square meters in size, dates to 1305. Visitors are therefore walking in the footsteps of history. The unique setting is complemented by the hotel’s designer interior, conceived and implemented in partnership with the Italian architectural firm of Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel. For Bulgari, luxury has always been in the finer details.


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Here, very good service is not good enough; it must be outstanding. For example, the hotel organizes private visits to museums upon request, helps guests pack and unpack, provides personal trainers and personal shoppers, and can even supply a private plane for excursions. It’s an inspiring concept. After Milan, Bulgari hotels opened in Bali, London, Dubai, Beijing, Shanghai and Paris. Expansion is currently proceeding relatively slowly. After all, the one thing the company will not jeopardize under any circumstances is its commitment to what Jean-Christophe Babin, Bulgari’s current CEO, calls “super luxury,” which is absolutely a cut above.

Cautious expansion

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“It’s like our jewelry stores: We want our customers to feel special, exclusive and well looked after. We also want our employees to get to know them personally. So we limit the number of rooms we have.” Babin shared these insights into the company’s brand strategy in a recent interview. And, of course, only the best is good enough when it comes to spas and dining.

The opening of the Bulgari Hotel Beijing marked the beginning of a special culinary collaboration when none other than celebrated Milanese chef Niko Romito, a recipient of three Michelin stars, was invited to partner with the restaurant.


Bulgari Hotel Beijing © optional

Time almost stands still in the brand’s spas, thanks to the elegant materials, thoughtful design and expert therapists ready to pamper guests with luxurious treatments. This is indeed luxury for all the senses.

Guests will also be able to enjoy this luxury in Rome and Tokyo from 2023, with more Bulgari hotels to follow in 2025. Hotels are planned for Miami Beach and the Maldives, and the brand has also announced a Los Angeles hotel for 2026. Bulgari thus continues to expand its luxury brand portfolio with more ­show-pieces which, thanks to their timeless elegance, will never go out of fashion. 

Bulgari Hotel Beijing © OLIWER 63

This article appeared in the Falstaff TRAVEL issue Spring 2023.

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