March 4, 2024

Silvio Ursini, the executive vice president of the hotel division of the Italian legend of high jewelery Bulgari, the Roman firm that was the official supplier of the great Hollywood stars during the Cinecittà years and that 125 years after its founding continues to be an undisputed synonym of great luxury, has a very long relationship with Spain. He was in charge of opening the first store in the capital twenty years ago: “I remember that we had a global campaign coordinated with WWF, the foundation for wildlife, and we met all over the world with local representatives, who here and there told us about trees, birds, etc. And when they arrived in Madrid, during the meal, they only talked about hunting!”. Ursini laughs heartily on the other side of the screen, from his home in Milan, because he is well acquainted with the contradictions and contrasts of Spain, a country where conservationism was born closely linked to hunting and to which he has been coming since he was a child, when his father, fond of sailing, had his boat anchored in Andratx on Majorca.

For this reason, and because he manages one of the most luxurious hotel chains on the planet, which this year has three openings planned —the closest, in the Japanese city of Tokyo—, we must listen carefully when he talks about the criteria he follows for the time to consider the possibility of opening an establishment in a new city.

Lobby of the first hotel that the hotel chain opened, the one in Milan.
Lobby of the first hotel that the hotel chain opened, the one in Milan. ROBERT BONARDI

“We are known for turning down business opportunities in locations that do not have extraordinary conditions: the building, the views, the area, everything has to be incredible. But, in addition, there are technical reasons: our rates are very high and not all markets are ready for them. For example, 20 years ago it would have been unthinkable to open in China because the country was simply not ready: people paid 200 euros to sleep in dingy hotels and thinking about doing business there was very risky. But suddenly, the market evolved and today our hotels there are twice as expensive as those of the competition”, says Ursini.

The question seems obvious for this executive who defines each of his hotels as jewels (“We started with this business division just to test how it was going: sometimes you have to do things just for fun”) in which the furniture of design, the craftsmanship in the decoration, timelessness in the rather minimalist proposal, the highest quality Italian gastronomy and a team of professionals trained to interact with maximum diligence but also warmth. Is there an intention to open the first Bulgari accommodation in Madrid? “We are looking and we have a wonderful opportunity on our hands. Madrid has historically had a couple of very, very good hotels, but it was a very institutional city, however, although I haven’t been there personally for two years, my colleagues in the sector tell me that everything has changed a lot: fantastic restaurants have opened Old hotels have been restored and new ones of a high standard have opened. What is happening reminds us of what happened with Miami, which was a boring city for retirees and suddenly it exploded. Madrid is in a similar situation now, not only in terms of energy, but also because it is beginning to be prepared to absorb our rates”. Ursini refers to the highest prices in the Madrid market so far. And this taking into account that they had already increased considerably since 2018 with the arrival of Rosewood, Marriott, Four Seasons or Thompson (the average price per room in 2022 was 520 euros per night, the year in which the city surpassed Barcelona for the first time ).

View of the garden on the roof of the Bulgari Paris, located on the George V avenue in the French capital.
View of the garden on the roof of the Bulgari Paris, located on the George V avenue in the French capital. TOMMY PICONE

“The price per night per person in London is 1,500 euros and in Paris, 2,000. Although it is too early to give a figure, these are the prices we are considering for Madrid”. Who is willing to pay those amounts? Ursini assures that the customer profile of Bulgari hotels cannot be defined by age or professional activity: “Neither by nationality: there are Americans, Europeans, people from the Middle East, Asians. It is very interesting because they can only be segmented in terms of good taste”.

This is said by a man who is capable of getting emotional talking about some of the design pieces created by Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel, two of the best industrial designers in the world, for the firm’s accommodation, but also when he talks about the one who, he confesses , is one of his favorite hotels in the world: “The Claridges in London. It is amazing how they still have unique pieces, like that wonderful brass railing that an operator takes care of keeping shiny at all times”.

What about the location for the possible new Madrid hotel? The executive vice president of the Bulgari hotel division assures that he is not authorized to give specific details at the moment, although he is optimistic (“In six months we hope to announce something”). And he offers clues: “We have found a real gem. It is a spectacular location, a palace, in a noble area. It’s a real emerald.”

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