Just off the hotel lobby is ample seating, an antique fireplace, a small library and the American Bar. // © 2018 Grand Hotel Wagner
Feature image (above): The highest room category, a Suite, features a living room, a desk, two televisions, a bedroom separated by sliding doors and a bathroom with a whirlpool tub. // © 2018 Grand Hotel Wagner
From the moment I walked in the doors of Grand Hotel Wagner, I felt like a time traveler.
The Palermo, Sicily, hotel is quite unassuming at first. Its entrance is small — you could almost miss it if you didn’t know what you were looking for — and its lobby is simple: a small desk next to the stairs to the upper floors. But after the initial once-over, I did a double-take. Had I just arrived at a 19th-century palace?
A seating area just off the lobby is decorated in tones of cherry and mahogany, with ornate details including a piano and one very impressive chandelier. And no wonder I thought I had stepped into a stately affair: I later learned the light fixture was used in the ballroom scene of the 1963 Italian classic “Il Gattopardo” (The Leopard) by Luchino Visconti, a film that follows the story of a 19th-century Sicilian nobleman.
A walk up the stairs, with its wrought-iron railing and delicate stained-glass windows, brought me to a majestic hallway. A royal-palace-worthy rug in shades of blueberry is accented by gold and powder-blue detailing on the walls, and each wooden hotel door — featuring intricate flower patterns — looks as though it could be the entrance to that ballroom from “The Leopard.”
My Deluxe room further transported me to bygone days with its ornate details. From the padded and decorative headboard on the bed and the dark wood desk and its ornamental chair, to the gold-framed paintings on the wall and the large inlaid wardrobe, the guestroom made me feel like a Sicilian baroness. Of course, for those who don’t want to get stuck entirely in the past, Grand Hotel Wagner offers the amenities a modern-day traveler desires. All room categories feature complimentary Wi-Fi access, LCD televisions and minibars, along with marble bathrooms that offer hairdryers, amenity kits, robes and slippers.
The hotel’s services are modern, as well, and include laundry service, a complimentary breakfast buffet and a health and wellness area, which is composed of a treadmill and exercise bike, a sauna and a few massage and treatment rooms. But my favorite spots were those that evoked days gone by. The modest library, adjacent to the seating area off the lobby, is cozy and warm, featuring more of those elaborate stained-glass windows and a beautiful fireplace with carved statues. And slightly hidden away from the seating area is the American Bar, which I had all to myself as I enjoyed a glass of white wine (while I sent out some decidedly nonhistorical emails).
The hotel, which is well-rated on TripAdvisor (it’s the No. 14 hotel in Palermo), is also centrally located. It’s about a 20-minute stroll to the historical center of Palermo and its many monuments, and those looking for a little more footwork can venture on the 35-minute walk to Catacombe dei Cappuccini, catacombs housing thousands of mummified corpses. Quite close to the hotel are many local eateries; recommendations from the cheery and absurdly helpful concierge, Wim, include Oste dello Stabile for seafood and Antico Caffe Spinnato for espresso and pastries.
The property is the perfect respite from the busy urban life just outside its doors. It’s peaceful and elegant, with palatial details that never seem ostentatious. Rather, the ambiance of Grand Hotel Wagner invites its guests to relish in their own nobility and enjoy a little well-deserved quietude.
Grand Hotel Wagner