A luxury Tuscan spa hotel that has hosted the likes of Giuseppe Verdi, Paul Cezanne and Arnold Schwarzenegger has rolled out the red carpet for an unexpected arrival from the world’s new capital of bling — Moscow.
Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, has hitherto avoided a reputation for rock star living, but made a start this month by booking out the entire hotel La Pace in Montecatini Terme for one week and showing up with her son and a 30-strong entourage.
In a move worthy of an oil sheikh’s wife, Medvedeva, 46, arrived while the 140-room hotel was shut for the winter, prompting staff to throw open the shutters as Italian police set up security in the small town.
As Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin retakes the reins in Russia from her husband, Medvedeva may have wanted a breather from hectic years of opening art festivals, meeting Japanese orphans and visiting crisis centers.
With rooms going for 600 euros (US$786) a night and suites at up to 1,300 euros, the hotel clearly looked the right place to splurge.
Clark Gable, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn have all checked in over the years, and discreet staff have smoothly handled guests with peculiar requests or capricious behavior, including the Polish count who insisted on clearing the restaurant for a game of tennis, to a British lord who was ticked off for flicking cherry stones at other guests during dinner.
Medvedeva’s visit followed promotional trips made to Moscow by hotel managers, according to the Italian daily Corriere Fiorentino.
Her stay, the hotel hopes, will trigger an onslaught of oligarchs and their wives, just as Roman Abramovich’s visit to Tuscan resort Forte dei Marmi turned it from a genteel hideaway for Milan industrialists into Moscow-on-sea, and Putin’s stay at former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Sardinian villa helped clog the island’s Emerald coast with Russian yachts.
Massimo Giovannetti, a local official, told Corriere Fiorentino the effects of Medvedeva’s visit “will be seen in the coming months when Russian tourists who love classic spas will turn up in ever greater numbers.”