On the stunning Tuscan coast, a revolution in luxury hospitality is underway.
With enough passion and respect, any practice or profession can become an art form. For Marie-Louise Sciò, her work as Vice President and Creative Director of the Pellicano Hotels Group and her newly founded creative hospitality consulting agency MLScio are her lifelong masterpieces. An architecture graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, Sciò cultivates hotels with the same sensitivity and love as an artist does their paintings or a chef their signature dish. For her, Il Pellicano and La Posta Vecchia are part of a family tradition of hospitality, so she takes her guests’ leisure time and comfort personally. On the occasion of a beautiful autumn day in Italy, Marie-Louise Sciò brought She’s Mercedes and our Mercedes-Benz G Class 350 D to the regal La Posta Vecchia Hotel and shared the story behind her delicately crafted ecosystem of history, luxury and love.
Il Pellicano and La Posta Vecchia have a very old tradition of hospitality. How do you integrate new ideas into the traditional and luxury heritage?
I really love hotels and hospitality and I travel a lot. There is a big difference between being a guest in a hotel and running a hotel. When I stay at a hotel as a guest, I see all its potential. In many places I often see that they have missed the mark or they had a great architect but the hotel doesn’t have a soul. So I thought I would put my ideas out there in the world, because this is the training I have. I have a creative training, but also the hotel technical background so I can bring that element. I think that we do need the perspective of a creative director. But not one who is only focused on the aesthetics, but one who knows about how every decision influences the logistics of the hotel.
You are planning to expand Pellicano Hotels outside of Italy with the Il Pellicano brand. Is it too early to ask how the new hotels will be different from the original Pellicano Hotels and what the common denominator between them would be?
We want to take Pellicano Hotels out of Tuscany without taking Tuscany out of the Pellicano Hotels. We want to preserve one of the central values of the Pellicano, which is an understated kind of luxury, a timeless chicness and a timeless way of doing things. I am not a big believer in trends. I would like to create a small hotel group of Il Pellicano Hotels that have those intangible values that have this understated, relaxed, elegant, timeless factor. This is always a key point that we try to preserve. We are not a flashy hotel group, this is not the way to do luxury. It is much more subtle and understated.
What I look for is a soul and something that talks to me and vibrates with me.
Your credo is to not think in star ratings when it comes to defining the quality of a hotel’s hospitality. What would you say is a better way to rate hospitality in the future? Do you see the existing system being revolutionised?
I would definitely say that for me the star ratings are silly, because I don’t look for that in a hotel. I don’t look for the square meters of a bathroom, I don’t look how big the shower is. I expect it when it comes with a certain price tag. What I look for is a soul and something that talks to me and vibrates with me. I am also equally happy to sleep in a tent, a one-star hotel or in a five-star hotel. For me it is really about the place and what it communicates to me about the owner, for example. It is about the magic, which goes beyond the star system.
Do you think there is any way people can measure that or is it something that is all about sharing experiences and word of mouth?
I think you can measure the warmth itself. It is rather about putting much more love into it. It is about having a voice. It is like the personality of a person. Sometimes you meet people and you scratch the surface and there is nothing underneath. With hotels it is the same. Sometimes you see a hotel that is unbelievably expensive with gold and marble, then you open the minibar and there is the worst selection you can imagine. I don’t see the love in that.
I think time is really the biggest luxury for everyone.
What do you think does luxury mean today for your guests and what does it mean for yourself?
I think luxury is two things: choice and time. Having time and being able to choose how to spend it. For me those moments are the ones where I feel rich in some way. These moments can vary from discovering something new to simply having a tomato salad that is to die for or even having an incredible conversation. I want to fill my time with things that touch me in some way and I think time is really the biggest luxury for everyone. We want to make sure, when guests spend their time in our hotel, they are content with the way that time was spent. I think people, especially within the luxury market, people who can really stay anywhere, are more frequently trying to go to places that are unique and have a real individuality and point of view.
Did you have to rethink tried and proven processes in the Pellicano Hotels Group?
Pellicano has always been an iconic place, but I have also put a lot of my philosophy into it. All the books I have collected, all the DVDs, the music, there is not one thing that is not carefully chosen. And people enjoy it – make it ten people that realise that a certain kind of music is playing. But those ten people will be moved. And they will come up to you and say, “I can’t believe you’re playing that music”. That wouldn’t happen if you just hired someone and paid them to compose 60 hours of music for the hotel. Hotels do a lot of story-telling. You can tell stories in so many different ways but I think this is a good recipe. You need the right amount of salt and the right amount of pepper to make pesto and I think that’s what a creative director in a hotel is responsible for: putting those elements together so that they make sense. You have to orchestrate the whole experience.
Il Pellicano and La Posta Vecchia have a long list of regular guests. How do you manage to maintain personal connections with them despite your busy schedule?
Because they’re friends, people I really want to see here. I make an effort, and I think we all have to make an effort not to neglect people we love when we have a busy schedule.
Would you say your energy and the fact you enjoy socialising helps?
That helps. And I am not obliged to do it. I spend many days at the hotel because I enjoy talking to people. I really enjoy building nice relationships. I have a lot of fun in the whole strategic part and the ideas part as well, this is a lot of fun for me. And I also ask my son for advice a lot, he is very wise and he always gives me good points of views.
You are already looking back on a remarkable career. Do you still have career objectives you want to reach?
I really enjoy the process of growing. Growing as a human, professionally and also as a mother and a woman. I am enjoying this whole journey. There are still so many things to do. I have told you my biggest dream is to open more Pellicanos. That is also an emotional thing. But I always have too many ideas and too many fun projects that get me excited. I am just generally really excited and happy to exist.
Feeling good in your own skin. That is my idea of La Dolce Vita.
What did you originally plan to do career-wise?
I wanted to do painting or filmmaking. Then my father said to me: “You will never make any money out of this.” Making money wasn’t my objective in life and I knew I wanted to be in a creative field, I just didn’t know what. So I went for architecture. At the Rhode Island School of Design, they teach it as a fine art. That is how I learned to do architecture and I wanted to continue doing it that way. Then one day, my father said we needed to redo two bathrooms at the Pellicano and he asked me to do them. After that, I remember going in with him and telling him that he needed to redo this place, reposition it and give it a second life. And he agreed and asked me to do it. I almost fell of the chair. He had a lot of faith in me, so I redid the entire hotel design and then later the graphics, then the sales and then I got completely sucked into it. I love it and there is nothing else I would rather do with my life than work in the hotel industry.
What is La Dolce Vita for you personally?
I think it really depends on who you are and what you do. Feeling good in your own skin. That is my idea of La Dolce Vita.
Thank you very much for the interview!
* The figures are provided in accordance with the German regulation 'PKW-EnVKV' and apply to the German market only. Further information on official fuel consumption figures and the official specific CO₂ emissions of new passenger cars can be found in the EU guide 'Information on the fuel consumption, CO₂ emissions and energy consumption of new cars', which is available free of charge at all sales dealerships, from DAT Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH and at www.dat.de.