The history of the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea – a masterpiece of Sicilian Art Nouveau – is linked to the encounter between two famous Palermo-born men: Ignazio Florio jr and Ernesto Basile.
The former was the heir of one of the most notable and rich families in Italy at the time: the Florios owned banks, factories, shipyards and countless activities. He was the man behind some of the historic enterprises on the island: building the Teatro Massimo (where Enrico Caruso would be “discovered”) and establishing the “Ceramiche Florio” factory, the Consorzio agrario siciliano (Sicilian agrarian consortium), Palermo’s shipyard, and the daily newspaper “L’Ora”.
The latter instead created many of the splendid buildings in the Sicilian capital: casa Utveggio, villino Fassini (‘villino’ literally means “small villa”), villino Basile. And, first and foremost, villino Florio inside Olivuzza Park, Italy’s first Art Nouveau building, which he was commissioned to build by Florio – who also entrusted him with designing the Teatro Massimo.
Thus, in the late 19th century, the fruitful relationship between these two men resulted in a beautiful building – decorated by Ettore De Maria Bergler and furnished in a wonderful floral style by Vittorio Ducrot – that today is considered one of the most luxurious hotels in the region.