Opened in 1907, The Grand Kursall Casino stands today as perhaps the best preserved example of liberty architecture in Italy, with a supreme elegance and sense of luxury. A monumental building that seems to be waiting for a purpose to be revived. The developer Ceasare Manzzoni was the main visionary of San Pellegrino Therme’s worldwide success, with an idea based on the curing qualities of the thermal waters but also on a wide range of activities aimed at the noble bourgeois clientele and the new financial aristocracy who were in a continuous search for luxury and entertainment. It was, however, the elegance of the liberty style that had the unifying role in creating this very special elegant mountain resort in which a typical period to stay at the turn of the 20th Century was 2 to 3 months opposed to an average period of one day in today times. Little by little, with the additional hotels, this little place in Val Brembana established an elitist and exclusive atmosphere.
The young Romolo Squadrelli was the architect of the Casino, and he also designed the Grand Hotel, built in 1904, the train station, and the buildings of the famous mineral water company. Later he built the municipality building, Villa Bagini and thereafter continued his work in Milano. The Therme complex was built by the Milanese Engineer Luigi Mazzocchi
As an element of curiosity, the Casino had a special “tears rooms” where the ‘not so fortunate’ could grieve on their losses, but contrarily there are also private rooms where victory could be celebrated with intimate feminine company. These in addition to the more usual main ballroom, also a theatre (built only in 1914) and the traditional gaming rooms, coffee rooms, billiard parlours and so on. The Casino was a private club where membership was strictly by personal introduction and a new member required the guarantee of another associate. It never had a public licence even though labelled the San Pellegrino Casino, it being more of a private enterprise, which was perhaps one of the reasons that led to its short but glorious existence.
With the outbreak of WWI and political interferrence it was closed after only five years of functioning. During it’s brief operating period all the efforts of the hotel operators, the mucnicipality and of course the Casino was to offer a view of San Pellegrino as a very preferential place to be, where concerts, balls, great hotels and modern coffee lounges were serving the burgeoisie and members of the nobility. Due to its fame at the time, it was called the Vichy of Italy. F. Fellini’s movie “Giulietta degli spiriti” and Dino Risi’s “Primo Amore” are both set in the Casino, with the first of these also using furniture from the Grand Hotel.