In the 19th century, the sleepy Ligurian town of Bordighera was among the most indulgent attractions for the elite traveling the Italian Riviera, and perhaps nothing better exemplifies its former glory—and subsequent decay—better than the appropriately named Hotel Angst.
Allured in part by the 1855 publication of Doctor Antonio by Giovanni Ruffini—an exiled Italian author seeking British support for Italian unification—Britons flocked en masse to a town redolent with exotic palms, olive trees, and that sweet, healthy coastal breeze, leaving in their wake churches, tennis courts, and numerous other distinctly British buildings that remain anachronistic to this small Italian town.
None remain as imposing as the Hotel Angst.
Seeking to capitalize on this glut of wealth and the recent construction of a new railway running directly to London, star-crossed Swiss entrepreneur Adolf Angst started construction on the Hotel Bordighera not far from the train station. After an earthquake in 1887 compromised such plans, however, he shifted his focus to the nearby Via Romana, where he would give the world its first “Six Star” hotel.
Construction was relatively quick for the time, lasting from 1887 to 1914, and resulted in a product worthy of Mr. Angst’s ambition. The very top of society luxuriated in its world-class billiard halls and ballrooms, in its state-of-the-art suites. Queen Victoria herself was so enticed she reportedly proposed a visit the hotel in 1889, shortly before her death. Her stay, however, was not to be.
The outbreak of World War I left the Angst as a military hospital, and, after Adolf Angst’s death in 1924, the place began to suffer under its great ambition. Fast-forwarding to the Second World War, when the hotel and its city came under Nazi rule, anything of value was stripped from the premises and the once-illustrious Hotel Angst fell into ruin.
Though several attempts at rehabilitation have been undertaken over the years, the collapse of tourism in the region has seemingly left its owners with little reason, and little money, to restore it to its original glory. Today, the site remains closed off to visitors under the longstanding promise of its reconstruction. Its infrastructure, from the regal edifice to its several floors waiting underground, remains unstable and quite dangerous.
Even in ruin, however, the Hotel Angst continues to impress, and hopefully, with the return of another boom, it can one day return to its former glory.
Know Before You Go
It's a quick walk northwest from the train station. At present, visitors must negotiate huge security barriers and even the occasional guard dog.