“Italians do it better,” as the saying goes. From the look of yesterday’s annual Sentebale ISPS Handa Polo Cup – held this year at the Roma Polo Club just outside the capital city – the country certainly put its own festive spin on the sport. From the sweet smelling jasmine archways and lemon bushes that welcomed patrons, to the fans’ vibrant, eclectic style, to the colorful, Mediterranean tiles lining the bar, this fan favorite spectacle had an Italian flavor that warmed the spirits of players and guests, alike.
“I think being in Italy has changed the dynamic and feel of the event,” said Lisa Holladay, global brand leader at St. Regis Hotels and Resorts, which sponsors Sentebale. “It just feels Italian. The lemons, the butlers, the fashion, the whole event. It’s much like the St. Regis Rome. There’s a sense of heritage yet it feels modern and contemporary. I love that juxtaposition. Polo is arguably one of the oldest sports but we’re bringing it to life in such a fun way. It’s that Italian aesthetic.”
The annual fundraising event raises money and awareness for Sentebale, the charity founded by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho. It supports vulnerable children and young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana in southern Africa. In one of the most anticipated events on the global polo calendar, Sentebale’s founding patron (aka Archie’s father) Prince Harry played on the Sentebale St. Regis team, captained by St. Regis connoisseur and Sentebale ambassador, Nacho Figueras, against the U.S. Polo Association team, captained by Malcolm Borwick. A longtime friend of Prince Harry, Mr. Figueras remarked on why this particular Sentebale match felt so meaningful.
“My friendship with Harry is very special, especially now that he’s a father,” Mr. Figueras said. “It’s funny. All the things I used to talk about, he can now relate to. For that reason, it’s a special thing.”
A father of four himself, Mr. Figueras is all too familiar with the joy – and plight – of life with a newborn, but whether he offered any words of wisdom, like getting Archie to sleep through the night, he declined. “There aren’t any tips, you can’t give any,” said Mr. Figueras. “Every baby and every parent is different, so I can’t tell him anything. Plus, he knows what to do.”
As the players took the field, such guests as Delfina Blaquier, Sentebale chief executive officer, Richard Miller, artist Pascale Marthine Tayou, designer Peter Dundas, film producer Julia Loomis, winemaker Gelasio Gaetani Lovatelli d’Aragona and Galleria Continua’s Laurent Fiaschi watched the event from the St. Regis pavilion while enjoying signature St. Regis butler service. A lemon-walled St. Regis bar offered Belvedere and Chandon-fueled spritzes, Ruby Tonics and “Polska Mary’s,” in addition to rosé and champagne. Following the polo match, attendees experienced a traditional St. Regis Midnight Supper at the St. Regis Rome, the city’s first palace and public ballroom dating back to 1894 that recently completed a $45 million renovation.
“We took this beautiful 1894 palace and added a modern design and feel, from the light, to the corridors, to the drapes,” Ms. Holladay said. “The renovation is really what the city needed and it appeals to the type of guest who stays here. The butlers and what they’re able to deliver is incredible. It’s a sense of taking care of you and wanting you to have a magical visit.”
Guests sipped Ruinart champagne before entering a Ritz Ballroom draped in greenery and seasonal florals that provided a chic accent to the room’s historic Mario Spinetti frescoes. St. Regis Rome executive chef Francesco Donatello, in collaboration with 3-Michelin starred restaurant Da Vittorio, created the menu, which featured the signature Da Vittorio tuna spaghetti and pasta Da Vittorio style. As guests began to feast, Prince Harry took to the stage to speak on the power of Sentebale.
“Our work is making a real and substantial difference,” Prince Harry said. “To date, our youth programs have reached over 100,000 people who need safe sex and reproductive education. These child are receiving health and support to understand that HIV is no longer a death sentence. They’re learning they can truly thrive and not just survive.”
Following the dinner, guests were treated to a family style grappa tasting in The St. Regis Rome’s LUMEN Lounge. By midnight the DJ was spinning R&B classics, and while Archie’s father had turned in for the night, Mr. Figueras was holding court with friends. Following Rome, he’ll soon be heading to polo fields throughout California, New York and Aspen over the next three months. When asked if he had any travel hacks to share, he said to keep things moving and stay in the moment, literally.
“I never think about the time,” Mr. Figueras said. “Some people say, ‘Oh, at home, it’s three in the morning, so I’m not hungry.’ No. You get to a place and that’s it. If its 3:00pm, it’s 3:00pm. If it’s lunchtime, it’s lunch. You are wherever you are. You just go.”