Beloved Haven during Turbulent Years (1957-1966)

View of the hotels in Bürgenstock with the Pilatus mountain in the background.


The Burgenstock is a magnificent mountain peninsula 450 meters above the picturesque lake of Lucerne
in the midst of unspoilt nature, away from noise and traffic o
verlooking five lakes and the Alps.

Bürgenstock was the haven for many movie stars in the 1950's and 1960's and remains today a select leisure destination.

Hammetschwand lift is the entry to the very top of the Bürgenstock mountain.

At the top are the three famous hotels which own the funicular and also the Hammetschwandlift, a vertical lift first built in 1905 and known as the
"fastest external lift in the world". From the top of the Hammetschwand, the man-made promenade built on the rock, the 360° view is really great with
a high concentration of natural beauties: the Lake of the Four Cantons, the Rigi, the Titlis, the Stanserhorn, and the Pilatus.

The hotel resort has been a popular vacation spot since 1872.

The promenade was built a hundred years ago.
Beautiful view of Vitznau from Bürgenstock. The Pilatus Mountain

Vitznau's funicular train reaches Bürgenstock. Stairway to paradise along the Felsenweg promenade. The Taverne serves Swiss dishes since 1879.


In late July 1957, Sophia and Carlo fly from Los Angeles to Switzerland and move into the old Palace Hotel in Burgenstock, a superluxurious resort complex
known as a chic
haven for movie stars and other VIP's with a taste for privacy, the mountain air and considerable tax advantages. The hotel boast a genuine Rubens
on one wall and  a discreetness as tight-lipped  as a numbered bank account. Reporters who converge on the hotel notice that Carlo and Sophia both are rings
on the "marriage finger."

Sophia's chalet, named "Daniel", in front of the Taverne. April 1959 breakwith wedding church in the background.
The Club Restaurant and Peter Paul Rubens Bar.

Audrey Hepburn and actor-husband Mel Ferrer resided there between filmmaking assignments and also married at the chapel in September 1954. Sophia and
Ponti thought it might  suit them as well, but the real reason for the visit was to consult with their Swiss lawyers. Ponti already had them working on a Mexican
divorce that  would end his present marriage, but there were many details that needed to be taken care of before he could marry again. He was considering the
possibility of becoming a Swiss citizen, which would mean paying much lower income taxes than in Italy
. Ponti already did most of his banking in Switzerland,
where laws were more liberal  than in any other country in the world at that time.

At the end of 1957, when The Key shooting in the UK was over, Sophia and Carlo return to Bürgentstock and make it their European residence for the
duration  of their exile.
With its proximity to Italy, Maria and Romilda both spent the Christmas holidays with Sophia, bringing presents and moral support.

Although the Bürgenstock estate had three superluxury hotels in its five hundred acres of gardens and parkland, the Pontis selected one of its individual chalets,
"Daniel", which had a quaint Swiss exterior but a completely modern interior with enormous picture windows that looked out on the
. The two-bedroom
duplex had every living convenience, including maids, butlers, and the option of ordering from one of the hotel kitchens if the Pontis didn't feel like coo

The premises also had all the business facilities that Carlo Ponti needed to keep in touch with Hollywood and the production centers of Europe. Due to his
legal problems in
Italy, Ponti would have to forgo producing more films there, but during the past eighteen months he'd made six. 1

Sophia has not step a foot in Bürgenstock for a very long time. In fact,, once Sophia and Carlo were legally married as French citizens, they had no reasons after 1966
to be judged as bigamists.The Pontis did go afterwards but the end of Sophia's beloved haven in Bürgenstock stopped in the laste 60's.

Today, Bürgenstock still is what it was 50 years ago, a natural, unaltered and picturesque that attracts an in crowd from all over Europe but is no longer .
Among other Bürgenstock guests are Audrey Hepburn  and Mel Ferrer
- who married at the local chapel - Rod Stewart, Sean Connery, Joan Fontaine,
Yul Brynner, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan and many others.

During my last stay in Bürgenstock, an experienced Italian steward at the hotel complex, who could only speak his native tongue and German,
but was so very excited about being asked, in in his own language about Sophia's cottage, confirmed that the house had not hosted any dwellers for years.

Breathtaking overview of the town of Weggis from the Felsenweg promenade.

1 Warren G. Harris. Sophia Loren. New York: Simon & Schuster Trade,1997.

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Updated 01/09//2010