Highlighted by Bulgari ambassador Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the new documentary film An Emperor’s Jewel — The Making of the Bulgari Hotel Roma gorgeously documents the creation of one of the most beautiful new places to stay in Italy.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin says the latest Bulgari hotel shares a few traits with the legendary jeweler’s just-released high-jewelry collection, chief among them: “We always approach it with the idea of creating the best ever,” says Babin, the brand’s global CEO since 2013. “The sky is the limit.”

In Aeterna — the 150-piece high-jewelry collection that debuted on May 20 in Rome with Anne Hathaway and Chopra Jonas in attendance — that translates to an abundance of diamonds, emeralds and other gemstones, while the latest Bulgari Hotel takes that “sky’s the limit” notion to the next level. The Bulgari Hotel Roma opened its doors in June 2023 and has been conceived as the ultimate statement in resort accommodations, pointedly so, as it resides in the city the jeweler has called home since 1884.

In the new film — which premieres in L.A. on Tuesday at Neuehouse Hollywood — there are hints of jewelry splashed throughout its one-hour running time. The sparkle is courtesy of an appearance by Chopra Jonas, a Bulgari global ambassador since 2021; the actress bookends the film in scenes that show her striding through the resort’s elegant lobby, its plush 300-square-meter Bulgari suite and the expansive rooftop with 360-degree vistas of Rome. In several of these moments, Chopra Jonas wears the showcase piece of the high-jewelry collection, the Augustus Aeternus Emerald Monete Sautoir, a statement necklace that highlights a roman coin from the era of Augustus, who reigned as Rome’s first emperor from 27 B.C. until his death in A.D. 14. The coin is set in 18-karat yellow gold and surrounded by 149 emerald beads totaling 615.04 carats, buff-top emeralds totaling 16.53 carats and pavé-set diamonds totaling 40.69 carats.

The spa pool at the Bulgari Hotel Roma.

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In between such starry scenes, Bulgari tells the story of how the hotel made its transformation from a 1930s government building planned by Benito Mussolini to the five-star haven it is today. The new film, currently available on Amazon Prime Video, will also screen in New York City at The Morgan Library on Thursday.

Il Ristorante Niko Romito at the Bulgari Hotel Roma.

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Directed by Andrea Rovetta and produced by San Francisco-based Atomic Productions, the film places heritage, of both the house and Italian handcraft, pointedly at center stage. More than 140 years ago, Greek silversmith and jeweler Constantine Sotirios Voulgaris emigrated to Italy and by 1884 he had changed his surname to the more Italian-sounding Bulgari before opening a store on Rome’s Via Sistina.

Roughly two decades later, the highly successful Sotirios Bulgari opened a second store on Via Condotti near the city’s famed Spanish Steps, and this Bulgari flagship, frequented by Hollywood icons that included Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn, remains there to this day, with Adrien Brody and Carla Bruni among the A-listers to recently visit the boutique as paparazzi eagerly waited outside the doors.

Inside a junior suite at the Bulgari Hotel Roma.

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The iconic Via Condotti store is an easy 10-minute walk from the latest hotel to join the Bulgari family — and given its location, without question the most significant and celebrated hotel in the brand’s portfolio. Bulgari Hotel Roma is located on Piazza Augusto Imperatore, so named because it’s where Augustus planned the location and construction of his own mausoleum in 28 B.C.; currently under renovation, the site is visible from several rooms and suites at the the hotel. It’s also the reason a seated, life-sized statue of Augustus, dating back roughly 2,000 years, greets every guest who enters the main lobby. “Being welcomed by Augustus, by an authentic statue that no museum in the world has, is one of my favorite moments,” Babin notes. “It sets the complete tone of the hotel — you are welcomed by an emperor.”

Bulgari opened its first hotel in Milan in 2004, and as of October 2023 the brand counted nine properties in its portfolio; but make no mistake, Bulgari Hotel Roma was conceived from the start at another level altogether. “From the moment we started with hotel projects more than 20 years ago, Rome was among the first places we looked at, but it was very difficult to find the perfect location,” explains Silvio Ursini, a Bulgari vice president and founder of the hotels division. “In fact, we said ‘no’ to many. We found this building about 10 years ago, and from the start, we knew it was the right one. It’s not a small statement, and it also feels right because it’s so close to our offices.”

A view of Rome from the rooftop of Bulgari Hotel Roma.

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Built in the 1930s, when Italy was under the rule of Mussolini, the building’s original purpose was a social-security facility for the residents of Rome. But its size, the travertine marble that already adorned its façade and weighty columns and its imposing attitude checked many boxes for the Bulgari team. And then Ursini stepped onto the rooftop, which at the time was used solely for housing necessary electrical equipment like HVAC and ducts. “I remember looking around in disbelief,” he remembers. “We were in the center of Rome, and we had a 360-degree view of everything that surrounded us. Frankly we never imagined it. In Rome there is a wonderful tradition of landscaped terraces, and immediately we knew here was something that could allow us to have a rooftop garden for parties, cocktails, dinners, all with the famous Roman breeze; we knew it could be a quintessential experience.”

Priyanka Chopra Jonas on the Bulgari Hotel Roma rooftop, wearing a Serpenti diamond necklace, in a scene from An Emperor’s Jewel — The Making of Bulgari Hotel Roma.

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The upper floors of the seven-story hotel indeed now house not only that high-wattage rooftop but also a restaurant run by chef Niko Romito, with its own outdoor terrace offering postcard-shaped openings to the Rome views. The floors below the eye-popping vistas likewise look out upon memorable moments and have been planned with maximum comfort in mind; of the 114 rooms, roughly half were planned as suites, with no two exactly alike — no easy feat, as Roman officials decreed that the building’s structure couldn’t be altered in any way. “Every accommodation was designed following the constraint of the plans,” architect Patricia Viel tells THR. “We spent a good year working only on the design of rooms, and each has been designed as a unique project and ultimately is very residential in feel, as though your room is your privately owned space.”

The Bulgari Bar at Bulgari Hotel Roma, with a facade crafted of hand-blown Murano glass.

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The resulting details include massive room-sized closets, each with a full-length mirror and dressing table, separate living and sleeping areas and bathrooms featuring both a standing shower and a tub surrounded by a mosaic that depicts a vintage Bulgari brooch, with no two brooches alike in any of the hotel’s accommodations. That latter detail plays into the brand’s desire to not only marry the concept of jewels and upscale accommodations but also to do so via Italy’s renowned handcraft. The mosaics were created by artisans of perhaps the country’s best-known school and workshop of the centuries-old handcraft, while chandeliers throughout the hotel, as well as the base of a bar on the same level with Romito’s restaurant, were hand-blown by a Murano glassmaking firm that dates to 1295. The china used for both the restaurant and in-room dining was designed by Ginori 1735, while handmade terracotta tiles throughout the hotel were crafted by a firm founded in 1685. Liberal use of marble, meanwhile, not only includes Italy’s famed Carrara stone but also several imported from other countries, echoing a mandate Augustus had established centuries ago while playing an integral role in Rome’s geographical and aesthetic makeup. An Emperor’s Jewel ultimately highlights the history of several firms participating in the hotel’s restoration, while also interviewing several of the craftspeople directly involved.

A stained-glass artisan crafts colorful pieces to be installed in the hotel’s pool room.

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“This movie is among the best advertising that Italian craftsmanship could ever dream about,” Babin told THR on the day of the film’s Rome premiere. “In each [Bulgari] hotel, we offer a subtle twist that feels local, perhaps 20 percent. But here, this one had to be more; it’s luxury and Bulgari, but the Rome inspiration is perhaps 50 percent. But as we know, Rome is Rome; it had to be larger than life.”

A bathtub inside a suite at the Bulgari Hotel Roma.

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