Marie Louise Sciò, CEO and Creative Director of Pellicano Hotel Group
Hotel Il Pellicano, nestled above the Tuscan seaside town of Porto Ercole, had been a favoured haven of socialites and Hollywood A-listers since the mid-sixties when Roberto Sciò bought it in 1979. He soon added La Posta Vecchia, on the shores of the Tyrrhennian, 24 miles from the centre of Rome, and the exclusive Mezzatorre on the island of Ischia off the coast of Naples.
Since 2011, Roberto’s daughter Marie Louise Sciò has been overseeing these three spectacular properties as CEO and Creative Director. It’s a role she’s uniquely suited to, not only because she grew up at La Posta Vecchia and spent childhood summers playing around Il Pellicano’s 47 rooms and two terraced restaurants, but also because she studied design and architecture at Rhode Island School of Design. She also spent some time working alongside renowned interior designer Massimo Zompa in Rome. Once her father asked her to help redesign a bedroom and bathroom at Il Pellicano, she became smitten all over again, and was soon rebuilding the entire hotel.
Nowadays, Marie Louise is completely dedicated to the design, marketing and running of the three hotels, often working long hours. As if all that wasn’t enough, she’s recently launched Issimo, a lifestyle website that intends to enable you to bring the style of Pellicano hotels into your own home, with its carefully curated selection of the best of Italian design, fashion and food.
We grabbed a few minutes of Marie Louise’s time to ask her about her life, her influences and the Pellicano hotels.
Do you know what made your father decide to buy Il Pellicano and later the other two hotels?
My dad fell in love with this magical spot the first time he visited. It is beautiful and he is someone that loves beauty and everything beautiful.
He had visited just a few years after the 1965 opening by English aviator Michael Graham and American socialite Patsy Daszel. As he recalls the story, the first person he saw there was Charlie Chaplin, and he ended up dancing with his daughter Geraldine.
Graham eventually lost interest in hotel management and was ready to sell Il Pellicano, and after a few days mulling it over, my dad made an offer: he wanted to protect Il Pellicano from someone buying it and changing it, and by 1979, he was the owner of Hotel Il Pellicano.
What was it like growing up in these properties?
I was Eloise at the Plaza, but the beach version. I remember hiding in the bushes at Il Pellicano with my brother and watching the gala night parties my parents threw on Fridays: women in fabulous gowns, men in seersucker suits. I was always sitting in a corner observing, trying to figure out what was going on, to make sense of it all. It was always fun, though. I have memories of lots of fun. And of mischief…
Growing up at Il Pellicano and La Posta Vecchia was very formative. That’s the aesthetic I grew up in, the surroundings of my childhood, which formed how I am today.
Did you ever think that one day you would be in charge of running the hotels?
No, I did not! I studied Fine Arts and Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design and began my career in the studio of New York archistar Costas Kondylis. I then returned to Italy for love and to work as an interior designer. One day, I was at the Il Pellicano and my dad asked me to redo a bathroom. I went ahead and took on this challenge. Not long thereafter, he asked me to redo the hotel and the rest is history! It is an institution that needed a few modifications before it could shine as the true gem it is today.
What attracted you to studying architecture?
When you’re raised in a city like Rome, you start to get a training for design right away, and a creative life was almost preordained. The city influences you so much – the aesthetics of the city, the proportions, etc. After finishing boarding school in Switzerland, I headed to Rhode Island School of Design, where I planned to study painting or filmmaking. But my father was very pragmatic and encouraged me to do something else. So, I decided architecture, which proved an extraordinary base that you can apply to anything. It teaches you how to think critically, to question, to come up with solutions, to put the pieces together.
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I am the CEO & Creative Director of the Pellicano Hotels Group, which includes our three hotels in Italy, Il Pellicano, La Posta Vecchia and the Mezzatorre, and ISSIMO, the digital extension of our Pellicano world.
I am between our three hotels, working with the team to make sure everything is on point for our guests, from the menus to the music, the boutiques, the cocktails. Everything.
I am between the north and the south of Italy, looking for the best this country has to offer, which includes fashion, food, design, culture. I am on the road discovering destinations, special places, artisans, meeting fabulous people. And I bring this experience on to Issimo, to create a high-quality Italian lifestyle people can discover online.
Is there a distinct design aesthetic for the Pellicano hotels?
Joyful, Elegant, Timeless, Understated luxury.
Where do you take inspiration from in your design work?
Everything: film, music, art, architecture, design, people.
Are there any particular artists whose work you always return to?
James Turrell, John Currin, Lucio Fontana, Raphael, to name a few…
In spite of the challenges of Covid this last year, did you gain anything positive from the experience?
The pandemic was a very difficult but giving experience that I cherish: it forced us all to slow down and look inwards.
Are there any particular artists or designers you’d love to collaborate with?
James Turrell, Iris van Herpen – I would love to sit and chat with her! And so many more!
Would you ever consider adding to the Pellicano portfolio?
Absolutely and that is actually the plan. But with no rush: it is important that we fall in love with the right place in the right destination that fits our ethos and philosophy.
What are your intentions for Issimo?
I want ISSIMO to be the one-stop-shop for everything Italian of high quality – travel, food, fashion, accessories, beauty, culture, design, stories.
What are you most looking forward to as Covid restrictions ease?
Maintaining a balance and not going back to running around like a mad person… learning the importance of time and slow living.
What does the near future hold for you and the Pellicano properties?