H aving collaborated with the likes of Birkenstock, Matchesfashion and Aquazurra, the Pellicano Hotels Group is no ordinary hotel group and Marie-Louise Sciò is no ordinary hotelier. Thanks to their exquisite locations, stunning design and Marie-Louise's attention to luxury detail, the Pellicano hotels have become renowned as some of the most refined holiday destinations on the planet.
Her family has owned and operated the legendary Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole, a hotel which has hosted the likes of Sophia Loren and Jackie Onassis, since 1979. Today, Marie-Louise, who studied architecture and interior design, is CEO and creative director of the group which also includes La Posta Vecchia in Palo Laziale, The Mezzatorre in Ischia, and the latest addition, ISSIMO, the digital extension of the hotels.
Sotheby's is honoured that Marie-Louise is guest curator for the upcoming Contemporary Curated sale in Milan and here, she picks her highlights from the sale and tells us about how a childhood blending contemporary and classical cultural influences led her to become one of the most important – and stylish – hoteliers in the world.
Let’s start at the very beginning, your childhood in Rome. What sort of childhood did you have and how did it impact on your creative journey?
I grew up in Rome with an American mother who was an artist and an Italian father. So, I was brought up in two cultures, but I lived in Rome until I was 14, and most of my childhood was spent in our country house, before we turned it into a hotel.
How did having an American mother and Italian father impact the way you see the world?
Well, I think it was very influential to have an American mother, living in in Italy. She’s an artist and very curious, very cultured. She used to take me to museums, ballets, you name it. So, obviously when you grow up in Rome, you live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with an incredible heritage! So, I think my mother brought contemporary culture into my life while we were living in an open-air museum. When we went to New York, I'd see more contemporary things. And then back in Rome, she would drag me to every single museum, all the open-air museums, all the sights. So, it was really formative and great because maybe my father wouldn't have taken me there because again, being Italian, being Roman, you take it for granted that you live next to the Colosseum or you walk to the forum to go to school… And I feel very lucky to have that as my background.
And your father?
My father is a businessman but has always had a love affair with beauty. That was the reason he got into the hotel business. So, he was a client at the Il Pellicano, he took my mom there all the time, because it was the only place where people spoke English. So they were regular guests. And when the founders decided to sell, although he was in a complete different business, he was afraid that someone else would buy and destroy it, so he wanted to protect it. And so that's how he got into the hotel business, for the beauty of the place.
You went on to study architecture – was that a natural evolution for you, given this exceptionally culturally rich childhood?
Absolutely. I knew I wanted to do something creative and be in the arts world. But while I didn't exactly know what I wanted to do – I didn't know if I wanted to be an architect – I thought architecture would probably be a good base. And it ended up being exactly that. I went to Rhode Island School of Design, where they really taught you how to think. They taught architecture as a fine art, not so much about learning the height of a door or the width of the sink, the technicalities of things. It was more a critical-thinking approach, which is influential on what I do with the hotels now.
It must have been exciting, to go from Rome to studying architecture in the States…
Well, as a child in Rome, I lived in a Bernini building and then where I am now, La Posta Vecchia, a 1614 villa built on Roman ruins. So obviously my background is very classical. But when I went to RISD, I was studying architects like Louis Kahn or Frank Gehry, modern architecture, which I didn't really know anything about, but was interesting as I learned about the evolution of design, the history of architecture, and how we get from Bernini classical buildings to Frank Gehry, and everything in between. I really started questioning light and materialism, volume and space and circulation. I started getting really interested in questions such as: how do you get from the 15th century kind of buildings to that? What's the history? What's the thought process? And that bringing things together, the past and the present, has informed a lot of my way of thinking, my hotels, and our e-platform. And I think the link between the past and the present is timelessness.
Would you say that timelessness shows itself in your own work?
Yes, I definitely tried to achieve that in my own work. And when I started working at the hotels, the first project I did, fresh out of college was for my father. He asked me to design a bathroom at the Pellicano hotel. I saw the hotel as being an old glory, you know. It had its heyday in the 1980s, but I made it more contemporary. The Pellicano hotels are a complete extension of my personality. From the books, the films, the flight, all of it, I poured my heart and soul out into them in a very free way. And then obviously there's the business part. So I managed to make the two aspects coincide.
We're really excited that you are our guest curator for Contemporary Curated this month at Sotheby's. How did you enjoy the experience?
I feel really honored to have been asked because I love art, I love architecture. Again, it's a way to learn and express myself. And I found some beautiful pieces here, incredible artwork that moved me and talked to me. Art moves me in two ways, emotionally and intellectually, it gets to my stomach or my brain.