La Mamounia, the Orient Express, the Excelsior Venice Lido are among the sacred places of vintage tourism. Places that history has consigned to myth, which have risen to the role of relics of a definitively gone era.
The one in which journeys lasted weeks, time did not stand still but moved slowly and, above all, no one had the feeling of having none. Yet La Mamounia, the Orient Express, the Excelsior Venice Lido are always there, in their place, alive and frequented, ready to enter again and again in the memory of those who stop for a few days in their rooms.
Vintage tourism: a luxury for the few?
A holiday for a few? Undoubtedly. An inappropriate luxury for the times? Depends. Because there are many good reasons to preserve beauty and transform it into a fragment of history that reaches us intact.
It is a testimony of devotion to man's know-how, to culture, to a lineage of civilization that is lost over time and reverberates in a current situation - that of vintage tourism - which certainly has beauty much needed.
How do you keep these places alive, without falling into nostalgia?
Architects and designers called upon to restore luster and immerse the splendor of historic and exclusive tourism in a contemporary frame are first and foremost required to engage in a spontaneous and cultured dialogue with the concept of luxury.
A design attitude that must momentarily overlook the inconsistencies with the contemporary and find a solution for the technological complexities and the different use of infrastructures. But the work is naturally above all on aesthetic choices, in the attempt to preserve and bring alive the grandeur of the past, without indulging in nostalgia.
The deep knowledge of artisan culture and the relationship with those who practice it daily are the true secret of a beauty that seems eternal and immutable.
Imagining an archetypal luxury place as part of the evolution of this world, perhaps to give life to vintage luxury tourism, is not easy. Yet everything continues, certainly not imperturbably, but solidly.
The Orient Express restarts in 2025
The Orient Express, for example, will start traveling again in 2025 regularly on various European routes. Already at the time of its construction, in 1883, it was destined to be a luxury train, designed for a wealthy clientele who took advantage of the wonders of the increasingly widespread railways to transform the journey across Europe into a cultural experience. itinerant, a modern, rail-based version of the Grand Tour.
The beauty of the carriages and the undeniable charm of the journey to the Middle East contributed to building that atmosphere of mystery that inspired Agatha Christie to write her mystery Murder on the Orient Express, which then became a famous film for the first time in 1974 and revived by Kenneth Branagh in 2017.
With the advent of air flights, the Orient Express slowly entered an inevitable decline. The intelligence of today's project is revealed in a precise strategy of the Accor holding company, which has recovered the carriages forgotten in the various stations in Europe, 13 of which on the border with Belarusian.
The artisans of the past and those of today to put the Orient Express back on the tracks
Retrace the footsteps of a design attitude similar to that which in the 1930s involved craftsmen such as René and Suzanne Lalique and René Prou in the design of the new coach carriages. The future Orient Express will return to travel in 2025 after having been completely redesigned by the designer Maxime d'Angeac and rebuilt by a team of French craftsmen following a project in balance between past and present.
“It was first and foremost a technical challenge”, comments d'Angeac. “It is a complex moving object defined by rhythm and the laws of gravity, crossed by the technological revolution and the history of design”.
Inspiration: Le Corbusier
The inspiration comes from Le Corbusier's concept of Modulor, mitigated by the constant search for comfort and, naturally, luxury.
“It all started with hand-made drawings, sketches and models. Meticulous work. Just like before. Putting myself in the shoes of its creators, from René Prou to Suzanne Lalique, I tried to reinterpret the events of this legendary train, without any nostalgia, but with the desire to prolong its history, to let us be transported elsewhere. Like in a dream".
Mamounia turns 100
A simpler story is that of The Mamounia of Marrakech, which accomplishes one hundred years.
Arset El Mamoun is the original name of the sumptuous twelve-hectare orchard that in 1923 the Royal Moroccan Railway decided to transform into one of the most beautiful hotels in the world. Frequented by intellectuals and show business stars since the 1950s, La Mamounia was the set of The Man Who Knew Too Much by Alfred Hitchcock, a regular guest of the Grande Dame.
In the Seventies the bohemian jet set chose it as an ideal destination: the most iconic rock groups of the time could not fail to stay at La Mamounia, recognized as a oasis of peace capable of inspiring free rein to creativity: the Rolling Stones spent their holidays here in 1968, while Paul McCartney composed the song Mamounia here: it was 1973.
The renewal of the 2000s
Renovated several times since the 1950s, the hotel underwent a major renovation from 2006 to 2009, led by the French architect Jacques Garcia. , which gave the building unprecedented views and collaborated with local artists and artisans on the interiors.
In 2020, after several months of renovation under the supervision of the Jouin Manku architecture firm, La Mamounia reopened its doors again to lovers of vintage tourism.
The Jouin Manku project
Also in this case the restyling involved local craftsmen, capable of patiently recreating details around the natural functional evolution of the spaces. “The first time we visited La Mamounia, we had the strange and comforting sensation of the slow passage of time, of the simplification of life,” says the team that worked on the project.
Starting from the idea of tranquility and a natural succession of spaces and gestures, the French studio has reworked its potential, working on the idea of a luxury that arises from the skill of the artisans and their ability to give every detail the excuse to become decoration, beauty, harmony.
Respect for the origins of this space is fundamental, thought to be a precious wedding gift in the 19th century: a garden and an orchard in the heart of Marrakech.
Also important is the continuous mention of the stays of entertainment and political figures who have made history and who, due to an illusion of memory, still hover in the hotel's spaces.
Excelsior Venice Lido: 15 new suites
The latest news for vintage tourism enthusiasts is the opening of fifteen new suites of the Excelsior Venice Lido overlooking the horizon of the historic Venetian beach. Located on the fifth floor of the hotel, they represent the first phase of the interior renovation, after the complex restoration of the large facades, characterized by the Moorish style, with an important historical and architectural value.
The general manager Alessio Lazazzera highlights the complex and continuous restyling work of the hotel, which since 1932 has had a constant link with the Mostra del Cinema (Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde was screened here for the first time in 1941): it is the hotel chosen by local and Hollywood stars to prepare for the red carpet of the Festival.
And it is a place particularly loved by Paolo Sorrentino, who perhaps finds here the opulent atmospheres of The Great Beauty.
“Preservare la sua ricchezza è un’opera complessa, che abbiamo avviato in questi anni e che proseguirà nel corso dei prossimi mesi, così da poter tutelare e rinnovare questo capolavoro di architettura dedicato all’ospitalità”.
Conservare non solo l’architettura, ma anche la memoria di una delle scene più belle della storia del cinema, girata nel 1984 da Sergio Leone nella Sala degli Stucchi dell’albergo.
“L’atmosfera delle nuove camere omaggia il classico gusto veneziano, grazie a una combinazione di stile rinascimentale con un tocco moderno”. Imponenti lampadari in vetro, a richiamare la tradizione di Murano, dominano la scena, resa ancor più luminosa da un gioco di luci creato dalle ampie finestre e dagli specchi.
Gli arredi caratterizzati da dettagli e accessori raffinati, insieme alla palette di colori pastello, con il verde dominante e un rosa tenue, accrescono il fascino romantico delle camere che si aprono a perdita d’occhio sull’Adriatico.
Foto di copertina: Il Lounge Bar dell’Orient Express che torna a viaggiare nel 2025.