The Rise and Fall … and Rise …of Palazzo Versace
By Tiana Templeman
Settle back on the crisp Versace sheets and put the weekend papers on the covers beside me, take a sip of freshly squeezed orange juice and pick up the knife and fork beside my plate. There’s only one thing better than breakfast at Palazzo Versace and that’s having that very same breakfast in bed or, in this case, an elegant poolside cabana beside the hotel’s sparkling lagoon. It’s the perfect excuse to stay in bed all day.
Palazzo Versace may be celebrating its tenth anniversary this year but as my recent breakfast experience shows, it’s far from business as usual. The world’s first fashion branded hotel has undergone a reinvention worthy of Donatella Versace herself and is hotter than ever before.
Shiny Vespas in full Versace livery are parked in the driveway, there’s an LA-style pool salon and what must surely be the coolest designer surfing experience in the southern hemisphere. Hard to believe that just a few years ago this avant-garde property was in danger of losing its coveted front row seat.
Palazzo Versace began in the imagination of Soheil Abedian who founded the Sunland Property Group in Australia in 1983. His fascination with the elegant baroque style prevalent in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries led him to see the synergies between a highly luxurious hotel concept and the Versace lifestyle. He travelled to Milan and pitched his idea to the Versace group, and Palazzo Versace opened to much acclaim on 15 September 2000.
It was the first year of the new millennium and the luxurious hotel captured the attention of aspirational travellers from around the world. Some arrived in Ferraris which were parked outside on the second largest pebble marble mosaic in the world; others jetted in from overseas, while some guests berthed their mega yachts at the private Palazzo Versace marina.
Guests marvelled at the magnificent 750kg chandelier which once hung in the State Library of Milan, and admired the jewel bright colours in the opulent foyer. Palazzo Versace was the place to be seen and everyone dreamed of staying in one of its lavish rooms.
However, as the years went by the novelty of reclining on designer cushions and eating off Versace plates was no longer enough for many consumers. Palazzo Versace remained the jewel in the crown of the Gold Coast but occupancy rates were a far cry from the halcyon days of the early 90s, largely due to the GFC. But all was far from lost.
“In Italian there is an expression: we don’t sleep on the fame,” says Donatella Versace. Neither did the iconic hotel. Palazzo Versace has since reinvented itself with a dash of Italian cool and a range of innovative new packages.
One change is immediately apparent upon entering the opulent marble foyer. Gone is the tasteful yet somewhat bland classical music, replaced with a mix of tunes which is more in keeping with the hip, avant-garde mood of the hotel. Tom Jones mixes it up with the likes of Morcheeba and Beyonce with stylish ease, and adds to the ambience of Le Jardin, the chic lobby bar.
Palazzo Versace embraces the fashion credo of keeping it fresh and fun with just the right amount of edge, and not just when it comes to music.
Two zippy black Vespas decked out in full Versace livery are the latest addition to a range of bespoke experiences embracing the quintessential Italian concepts of romance, passion and style. Even better, there’s no need to tackle the crazy streets of Rome. Guests can embark on their own ‘Roman Holiday’ Gold Coast style, with a tailored map of secluded romantic locations, an Italian-themed gourmet picnic hamper for two, and a range ofother treats. There’s even a secret scroll of Italian love phrases to provide added inspiration and serve as a unique keepsake.
Red Alert will also get your heart racing, albeit in a different way. This package invites your inner wild-child to come out and play with an action-packed triple thriller: joyriding in a speedboat, hitting the waves on a jet ski and then parasailing high above them. For guests who prefer something a little more relaxing, there’s always the ‘Pool Salon’ with its custom-made Versace daybeds and cabanas draped with breezy sheers for added privacy arranged around a man-made beach of Surfers Paradise sand.
Those near the restaurant are ideal for an indulgent breakfast in bed with a difference, whereas the exclusive enclave of cabanas at the far end of the lagoon will appeal to couples seeking the ultimate in romantic seclusion. Packages range from cabana rental to gourmet picnics for two with French Champagne on ice, a chilled face spritzer, fruit platter and sparkling mineral water (Italian, of course).
With a nod to the iconic pool culture of LA, guests can also enjoy spa treatments such as a manicure, pedicure or massage without leaving the comfort of their cabana.
“Palazzo Versace is a place for everyone to enjoy,” according to Mr Abedian. The thoughtful addition of an adults-only zone and family preferred area with bright beach toys for the children proves him right.
Last, but certainly not least, there is the sleek black Palazzo Versace surfboard which is kept under lock and key, so exclusive that only a select few know it exists. Can’t surf? No problem. Nothing beats strolling along the beach with it tucked under your arm. And, like a true Italian, your hair will remain perfect coiffed.
Sea World Drive, Main Beach, Queensland, ?Australia, t: +61 7 5509 8000, : palazzoversace.com