Faded Glamour on the Gold Coast

Palazzo Versace Foyer Photo:Supplied

Sunny Grace celebrates her belated 50th birthday at the Palazzo Versace and is transported back to their heydays.

My dream fiftieth birthday was to hire a villa in Italy and celebrate with my closest friends. When it became apparent this wasn’t going to happen for many reasons, Covid and finances amongst them, and a sweet deal came up for accommodation at the Versace Hotel, I snapped it up thinking it could be the next best thing. Albeit perhaps a trashier version of Italy.  When Covid 2.0 hit, and the Queensland borders closed in 2021, my plans were delayed again until a few weeks ago.

My husband and I packed our suitcases for the long-awaited two-night stay. Ironically he was one of the first people to stay at the Palazzo Versace back in 2000, before it even opened, for his role as one of the models for their opening campaign shoot. Hard to believe that was twenty-two years ago.

Driving up the Hotel’s circular driveway in our dusty Subaru I was reminded more of my visit to Las Vegas than my visions of Italy. The concierge opened the car door and my husband, who likes to pretend we are millionaires, chucked him the keys and said, “we left the Ferrari at home.” 

Walking into the foyer was an explosion of gilt and gold, the chandelier from Gianni’s home the main foyer feature. However, there was an underlying feeling of it losing its lustre. Perhaps from the lingering symptoms of the pandemic, a sort of long Covid, or the fact it was about to change hands. As we walked to the lift my husband remarked, “it’s a bit tired.” A woman walking past overhead and replied, “it’s getting a full-face lift soon now we have new owners.” She looked really pleased about this. I couldn’t help noticing despite being in the Versace staff uniform she had white rubber thongs on her feet. Gianni would be turning in his grave! 

Walking the corridor to our room was like walking into the last century. Framed photocopies of iconic 90s supermodels Linda Evangelista, Helena Christianson and Naomi Campbell with a few male models thrown in too lined the ornate wallpaper hallway.  We stopped to admire some, and laugh at others. They don’t do fashion like that anymore though.  Not an influencer in sight. 

Sunny’s husband and model in Palazzo Versace Advertorial. Photo: Simon Upton/Supplied.

Entering our room at first glance it was a cacophony of gold, glass and silk Versace cushions. The fittings were dated in comparison to modern hotels but at least they were of good quality. Real wooden cabinets and marble in the bathroom. A quaint Juliette balcony overlooking the pool and fountains. I threw off my shoes and fell onto the bed. Always a big test of a hotel room it didn’t disappoint. Big and luxurious with the best pillows. 

Too cold for the pool we grabbed a spot in the lounge for a drink and some people watching. It was obvious it wasn’t running at full capacity, but we did feel like we were somewhere else in the world.  Room service is one of my favourite indulgences going back to my childhood when stopping at a roadside motel with my mum on road trips and getting take away was my idea of heaven. A sneaky club sandwich at ten o’clock heralded the end of my fiftieth year. 

I woke on my fifty-first birthday to see sunshine! It had been a while. After an ordinary buffet breakfast, the pool beckoned. I grabbed my book and nabbed a spot. The pool itself was quite cold and surrounded by fountains that are not for swimming. But hey, style over substance right? Because…fashion! The pool service however was great. Lovely staff and a good menu. I didn’t get much reading done preferring to check out the other guests instead. True to my prediction they were mostly over sixty or possibly gangsters. 

Palazzo Versace Pool. Photo: Supplied

My friend arrived in a breeze of giggles, and we settled in for some oysters and champagne before heading to our rooms to get dressed for dinner in the hotel restaurant. The food was standard hotel fare but well cooked. We stopped at the other bar for a nightcap and chatted to a couple who had been coming to the hotel since it opened. They still appreciate the quality of the building despite its faded glamour. “A bit like us,” they laughed. 

Another friend of mine who also stayed recently commented, “it’s kind of funny. Reminds us of our heyday!” And she is right. Staying at the Palazzo Versace reminded me of old school fun before iPhones and influencers. I hope the new owners manage to keep the essence of Palazzo Versace when they give it a facelift, maybe just a bit of Botox and fillers rather than going under the knife. Would be a shame to lose its uniqueness and become like every other modern hotel. You never know, I might go back for my seventieth! Although I’d better start saving now because it isn’t cheap.

Sunny Grace is a writer, producer and director who divides her time between the NSW Northern Rivers and Sydney. Her website is located at sunnygrace.com.au.

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