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Find My Hotelier Friends: Italian General Managers

On a recent scouting trip to Italy, our team couldn’t help but notice a cohort of hotel General Managers based across Bel Paese who exuded creativity and a shared innovative spirit…all of whom just so happened to be women.

When we launched our Find My Friends series with Part I and Part II in mid-2021, it was our mission to showcase the brilliant work being done by our hotelier friends around the world. With 9 out of every 10 SmartFlyer travel advisors comprised of mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces, and ultimately, business owners, empowered women empowering women is very much at the heart of our DNA; so, it was only natural that we dedicated a handful of these roundups to women doing glass ceiling shattering work at the helm of iconic hotels.

We checked in with some of the luxury travel industry’s most formidable leaders in our Find My Friends: Fierce [Female] General Managers Edition followed by a part two, Find My Friends: Leaders in Hospitality just last week. And with this latest Italy-dedicated roundup, it’s evident that whether you wind up in Rome, Florence, or practically anywhere in between, our hospitable friends will be sure to look after you.

  1. Ariela Duina, General Manager, Villa Cora
  2. Daniela Cataldo, General Manager, The Rome EDITION
  3. Francesca Tozzi, General Manager, Six Senses Roma
  4. Michela Nicosia, General Manager, Belmond Splendido Mare, Portofino
  5. Sofia Peluso, General Manager, Villa San Michele, a Belmond Hotel, Florence

Ariela Duina, General Manager, Villa Cora

Italian hospitality is world-renowned for its style, attention to detail, and personal touch. How do you approach making guests feel at home at Villa Cora?

Our main strength is the staff, most of us have been here since the opening and we know our guests personally. We remember their tastes as many of them are repeats who come every year…

Ariela Duina: Villa Cora is a family-owned boutique hotel, known not only for its impeccable service but a warm atmosphere that feels like you’re coming home. The Villa is sumptuous and full of art but as I always say to my guests, “we are not a museum!” Our main strength is the staff, most of us have been here since the opening in 2010 and we know our guests personally. We remember their wishes and tastes as many of them are repeats who come every year; they are in love with our location in one of the most beautiful areas of Florence, surrounded by the greenery of the Bobolino and Boboli Gardens. We offer many outdoor spaces like the wonderful Rose Garden with an outdoor swimming pool – which is heated in winter – plus a roof terrace.

With this year pacing to be the busiest summer in recent memory, what fresh innovations are your team implementing to elevate the experience on property?

AD: Now more than ever, guests need outdoor outlets and more space. We have opened the Santa Garden Cocktail Club, a modern and young outdoor lounge by the pool in addition to the gourmet proposal of Le Bistrot Restaurant, offering a casual and cozy menu to give an extra option to guests who will choose al fresco dining in our garden. This opening aligns with our mix of tradition and modernity. This is the distinctive spirit that defines Villa Cora.

Tell us about an impactful interaction with a guest or story shared upon a client’s check-out that left a lasting impression.

AD: Villa Cora has been a hotel since the 1960s and we are fortunate to often host guests who have been here many years ago for their wedding or a special occasion. Last month, I was speaking to a very nice lady from New York; she was in her fifties and visiting Firenze for the first time. Shen went on to tell me that she chose Villa Cora because her parents were here during their honeymoon in the 1970s. Apparently, they always told her she was conceived in room 109! I started laughing with her and showed her room 109 where I took a picture of her to send to her parents and say “ciao” from Villa Cora.

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Daniela Cataldo, General Manager, The Rome EDITION

Italian hospitality is world-renowned for its style, attention to detail, and personal touch. How do you plan to approach making guests feel at home at The Rome EDITION?

Daniela Cataldo: We are very fortunate to be part of a brand that is extremely passionate about creating genuine personalized connections between our guests and our team members through common passions, stories, and preferences. At EDITION Hotels, we proudly breathe, live, and deliver a new generation of luxury, and we truly mean it! We empower our team members to firmly live out their ambitions and speak with guests about their passions. This empowers our team to present not only as ambassadors of a gracious and sophisticated modern-luxury service, but also as individual human beings with knowledge, potential, stories, and dreams. Take the above, add the flair of Italian hospitality, and multiply all by the power of the EDITION culture, you will just get the perfect recipe for making guests feel at home at The Rome EDITION.

How does EDITION plan to open with a true sense of place in Italy’s capital city?

Roman locals genuinely appreciate who they are and from where they come, are eager to embrace all that life has to offer in all its forms, and, most importantly, are passionate about being the best hosts in the world.

DC: Being recognized and coveted as one of the most stunning and appealing destinations in the world, we all know how much Rome has to offer with its thousands of years of history and art. But Rome is not only made of extraordinary ruins and palaces, basilicas and ancient routes, and all that comes with such a one-of-a-kind open-air museum, but is also special for its people. Roman locals genuinely appreciate who they are and from where they come, are eager to embrace all that life has to offer in all its forms, and, most importantly, are passionate about being the best hosts in the world. The Rome EDITION, in line with the brand’s DNA, will open its doors to our guests not only with the best of dining, entertainment, modern luxury services, and amenities but also with and through the Romans and their culture. What better and truer sense of place and belonging than being welcomed by the EDITION hosts keen to genuinely embrace the world’s travelers?

Tell us about an impactful interaction with a guest or story shared upon a client’s check-out that left a lasting impression.

DC: Several years ago, while working in a very large hotel in Los Angeles, I found out that one of our loyal guests was, soon, going to travel to Capri, Italy, on vacation. Being native of Capri and having my family there, of course, I was intrigued by this discovery. Without asking the guest, I found out in which property she would stay through a round of calls to hotels that I deemed appropriate for her profile and asked my parents, both former hoteliers, to do something nice for her. I agreed with my parents – anybody could send a welcome amenity or similar, so we decided to do something different. My dad went to his garden’s fig trees, carefully picked a basket of black and white figs that were in season, and nicely arranged them on a plate on top of figs’ leaves. He nicely wrapped the plate and, together with a jar of fig jam home-made by my mom, he brought them to the hotel, the day of arrival, with a hand-written note, “Dear…, Welcome to Capri and enjoy your stay – Daniela’s parents.

You can very well imagine what happened.  As far as lasting memories are concerned, after almost twenty years – and having changed four cities and two continents – I am still in touch with the client who also became a dear friend. This story, while not at all recent, is certainly very current. I could not be happier to be part of the EDITION family where we embrace hospitality, interact with guests, and strive to leave lasting impressions the same way I learned from my parents, growing up in our family hotel.

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Francesca Tozzi, General Manager, Six Senses Roma

Italian hospitality is world-renowned for its style, attention to detail, and personal touch. How do you plan to approach making guests feel at home at Six Senses Rome?

Francesca Tozzi: The opening of the Six Senses in Rome will be a game-changer for Italy’s capital. The hotel is located right on Via del Corso, close to the Trevi Fountain. The hotel will be located in a magnificent 16th-century building completely renovated by Designer Patricia Urquiola following the Six Senses standards of sustainability. Our concept of hospitality focuses on the wellness of our guests and as a lifestyle. We will offer tailored experiences including the “Sleep with Six Senses” and “Eat with Six Senses” programs. The hotel will be an oasis for our guests to disconnect from the frenetic world we live in in order to reconnect with themselves and others.

How does Six Sense Rome plan to open with a true sense of place in Italy’s capital city?

FT: The hotel is already perfectly situated in the heart of Rome. From the limestone marble to the surrounding alleys and centuries-old monuments, Six Senses Rome will ensure that our guests both sojourning with us as well as utilizing our facilities will enjoy an authentically local Roman experience.

With your sister as a fellow GM in Rome, it begs to ask if you grew up in hospitality? If not, what drew you to this space?

Since my very first experience working in this business, my passion for hospitality has only grown and my determination to always learn and evolve has helped me propel forward in this industry over the past 30 years.

FT: I suppose it all started in our family. Our mother was a wonderful hostess and taught us the art of welcoming friends and family into our home. Our father, on the other hand, was an Alitalia Pilot who provided us with the possibility to both live abroad as well as travel frequently to all parts of the world. I chose to work in an international environment from a very young age and the hotel industry was a perfect fit. I was lucky to start with Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts by being part of their opening team in Milan. Since my very first experience working in this business, my passion for hospitality has only grown and my determination to always learn and evolve has helped me propel forward in this industry over the past 30 years.

My sister, meanwhile, discovered the business after exploring acting and scenography. As fate would have it, she had the opportunity to begin with Hotel De Russie first working in operations and then in sales. She later became the General Manager of Hotel Vilon and is now the GM at the newly inaugurated Soho House in Rome. My sister and I share a lot of common practices in our leadership styles and find ourselves with a very similar sense of hospitality. I must say, It is a great pleasure to be able to work in the same business in the same city as each other!

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Michela Nicosia, General Manager, Belmond Splendido Mare

Italian hospitality is world-renowned for its style, attention to detail and personal touch. How do you approach making guests feel at home at Splendido Mare, a Belmond Hotel, Portofino?

Beyond the arrival, it’s all about special amenities, telling the story of the village of Portofino, our recent renovation, and the divine food in our restaurant.

Michela Nicosia: As a charming guest house with its fourteen special units – mostly Junior Suites and Suites – it is a must to make the guests feel at home and we do it in very different ways. We have many special touches like welcoming them in the main square of Portofino when they arrive by car; there are three of us including a front office team member, a porter for the luggage, and valet to park their car if they self-drove. Beyond the arrival, it’s all about special amenities, telling the story of the village of Portofino, our recent renovation, and the divine food in our restaurant. We are obsessed with the details at Splendido Mare.

With this year pacing to be the busiest summer in recent memory, what fresh innovations are your team implementing to elevate the experience on property?

MN: We have some special experiences included in guests’ stay including an hour complimentary Gozzo tour to explore the beauties of the coast by boat. Another special amenity is access to the best beach club in the area – Bagni Fiore – including a complimentary shuttle service during high season. And of course, those staying with us always have access to the property’s facilities such as swimming pool and complimentary shuttle service into town.

Tell us about an impactful interaction with a guest or a story shared upon a client’s check-out that left a lasting impression.

MN: The checkout experience is equally important to the check-in. We leave all guests a gift to be remembered and we make sure that he enjoyed their stay with us. During this goodbye, we often have guests tell us how special their stay was – whether it be a particular dinner, a relaxing time on a boat trip, or a beautiful walk in nature.

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Sofia Peluso, General Manager, Villa San Michele, a Belmond Hotel

Italian hospitality is world-renowned for its style, attention to detail and personal touch. How do you approach making guests feel at home at Villa San Michele, a Belmond Hotel?

Our aim is to become a Renaissance cultural hub, a place where art, design, architecture, and gastronomy are in dialogue, creating a lively social scene for guests.

Sofia Peluso: Villa San Michele, A Belmond Hotel, Florence, was a former XV century monastery. Today, the property is a boutique hotel on the hills of Fiesole, overlooking the Renaissance city below. The style of service we offer our clients is one that prioritizes personal connection, and details tailored to our guests’ preferences. Guests are greeted by a unique welcome note with a calligraphed message accompanied by a booklet outlining the history behind our story; it was designed and illustrated especially for Villa San Michele. In the evening, guests are met with personally selected amenities that underscore the uniqueness and artisanship of our destination. Villa San Michele reopened this season with a new outlook on its common areas. Our aim is to become a Renaissance cultural hub, a place where art, design, architecture, and gastronomy are in dialogue, creating a lively social scene for guests.

With this year pacing to be the busiest summer in recent memory, what fresh innovations are your team implementing to elevate the experience on property?

SP: In our aim of becoming a cultural hub for in-house guests and local residents alike, this year we have implemented an engaging calendar of weekly events which encompass music, talks, creative sessions, and tastings in partnership with talents and engaging storytellers. These will take place in our flourishing gardens, followed by an aperitivo at sunset during the summer months. Moreover, as part of a new exciting collaboration between Belmond and internationally acclaimed gallery Galleria Continua, Villa San Michele will be presenting two installations by Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich on view from mid-May to early November. Finally, this year we have launched the Leonardo Woodland in which a portion of the woods will pay homage to Leonardo da Vinci who tested his flying machine in 1506 just above our grounds. Through a beautifully illustrated map, guests will be able to follow a path in the woods and discover our new vegetable garden, an old hidden chapel, and our peaceful meditation terrace overlooking the city.

Tell us about an impactful interaction with a guest or a story shared upon a client’s check-out that left a lasting impression.

SP: As part of our personalized service this year we have introduced a new ritual at departure. A staff member will take a polaroid photo of our guests and place it in a personalized and fun holder. This goodbye gift acts as a long-lasting memory of their experience with us at the Villa. Recently, a couple was so emotional that they shed a tear when we handed them their gift!

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INSPIRED BY A LEADER IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY FEATURED HERE? CONTACT YOUR SMARTFLYER TRAVEL ADVISOR TO START PLANNING YOUR NEXT STAY.

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