Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photography by Manos Angelakis
Corinthia Palace Hotel and Spa
De Paule Avenue
San Anton, Malta
European grand-dame hotels are judged not only for their location and distinctive décor, elegant public spaces, luxurious and spacious rooms and suites, recreational facilities and gourmet restaurants, but above all for the dedication to service their well-trained staff abundantly provides. So it was with our recent visit to the Corinthia Palace Hotel and Spa in the island country of Malta, the home of the Corinthia Hospitality Brand and where it all began...
The Italianate Villa was built, conveniently in the center of the island, equidistant between the Capital of Valleta – a UNESCO World Heritage Site - and the medieval walled city of Mdina, in 1920 as a private residence for a prominent Maltese. The Villa remained a private residence until after WWII when it was turned into a boutique hotel called the “Royal Hotel”. The story of the Corinthia Hotel begins in 1959 when Mr. Paul Pisani purchased the villa and its extensive grounds, hoping to convert it into a gourmet restaurant; a big gamble since tourism on Malta was just a gleam in Mr. Pisani’s eye and at that time most locals considered eating out a luxury reserved for special occasions. Luckily Mr. Pisani’s intuition proved spot-on but unfortunately, he did not live to see his dream realized and it fell to his four sons to fulfill their father’s vision.
Initially the villa restaurant was opened as a dinner-dance and wedding reception venue, but proved to be such a huge success it was soon expanded to include catering, with the final leap in 1968 … a total hospitality venue. By that time the Villa Corinthia –named for the Corinthian-style columns that adorned the entrance to the villa – was a well known restaurant with an international clientele. So when the venue was expanded to include a 5-Star hotel, the opening was attended by numerous celebrities, the likes of the Duke of Edinburgh and Roger Moore, the actor famous for his role as 007.
We have had the pleasure of staying at Corinthia Hotels in Budapest; St. Petersburg; Lisbon; and at the eminently stylish flagship London property, the most recent addition to the prestigious brand. Corinthia is that rare breed of luxury hotel that caters to travelers for business and/or pleasure and make both feel as if they are in the perfect home away from home. All of the amenities you would expect from a luxury hotel are provided, but Corinthia Hotels goes one step further. It’s in the dedication of staff that truly cares.
When we arrived in Malta we were picked-up at the airport and driven like royalty to the hotel in a classic Rolls Royce Silver Wraith circa 1951 accompanied by Joseph Attard, one of the longest service employees at the Corinthia. Joseph has a wealth of information about the island and its history and was eager to share his pride as a native Maltese who can trace his lineage back generations. He was there to serve us at dinner and also there at breakfast, watching out that we had everything we wanted or needed to make our stay as enjoyable as possible. Manos happened to mention that when he was a child in Greece, there was a fig tree growing in the garden which he loved. Joseph was unable to get fresh figs since they were out of season but he went out of his way to produce a plate of dried figs for Manos for every breakfast and promised that if we returned to Malta during fig season he would make sure fresh figs would be served to him every morning. But the most astonishing thing of all was that when Joseph finally left the hotel for the evening and was on his own time, he followed our itinerary and was there to greet us and help us out of the Maltese Daghajsa (small boat) that was used to transport us across the Grand Harbor when we had dinner outside the hotel in the city of Vittoriosa. This was surely above and beyond his job description, yet this is the level of staff dedication we found at all the Corinthia Hotels.
More hangers… no problem… within 3 minutes housekeeping was back with half dozen and the offer to provide more if desired. Terry clothe robe too small… no problem... within moments a brand new robe appeared in the perfect size. Fresh flowers brightened our room and not only in the bedroom but also in the bathroom. Every afternoon when we returned from sightseeing we found a snack of exotic hors d’ oeuvres waiting for us in our room along with bottles of water and when we retired for the evening we returned to the room to find that it had been refreshed, the bed had been turned-down with robe and slippers laid out, and a good-night sweet tray was waiting for us… not just a chocolate on the pillow but a tray filled with freshly made goodies. Now I know the staff did not arrange for the rainbow that greeted me one morning hanging in the brightening sky outside our balcony, but for a moment I did wonder…
The Corinthia grounds have been turned into a lovely garden sporting a large, beautiful outdoor pool. There is also an indoor pool attached to the Athenaeum Spa; in fact the spa boasts the only Dead Sea Hydrofloatation Pool in the entire Mediterranean area. Pat Vella, the Spa Manager recently returned to the Corinthia after a few years absence with a renewed dedication to making the spa a wellness center as well as a full service destination spa for beauty and pampering. Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, and Aqua Aerobics classes are offered and body treatments range from the exotic such as a coconut body scrub or a chocolate and orange massage, to lymphatic drainage and body sculpting, and everything in between. You can select from therapeutic facials or simply relaxing and de-stressing ones. The spa, like the hotel, is dedicated to providing their guests with whatever services they need or want. A full menu of available treatments can be found on the web site at www.corinthia.com under the Wellness heading.
And speaking of grounds, just across the street from the hotel is the Presidential Palace with the famous San Anton Gardens which are open to the public, as is the Palace itself by appointment. In fact, Malta provides a wealth of rare and outstanding sightseeing opportunities so tune in next month for a tour of this remarkable archipelago.
To get to Malta: Lufthansa Airlines via Frankfurt www.lufthansa.com
© December 2013 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.