Italian hospitality was ingrained in Marie-Louise Sciò from a young age, as she watched her father, Robert Sciò — who she says has had a lifelong affair with beauty — transform a former Tuscany hotel into the now iconic Il Pellicano and a private residence in Rome into the now gorgeous La Posta Vecchia. Her life has certainly been somewhat charmed in the sense that she was able to call both these places her family homes. “I grew up at La Posta Vecchia, playing hide and seek in the vast corridors of rooms, celebrating birthdays by candlelight above the sea [and] summer holidays at Il Pellicano were full of playful mischief,” she recalls. “One year my brother and I ‘liberated’ the lobsters into the saltwater pool!” It wasn’t until years later that they discovered Mezzatorre, a hidden place of rare beauty, on the enchanted island of Ischia, which they thought was irresistible. Today, Marie-Louise is the CEO and creative director of the Pellicano Hotels Group combining her good taste and visionary genius to take this traditional Italian hospitality brand into the future, all without losing its sense of self, authenticity, and well, magic.
However, her path to her current role wasn’t linear. After finishing boarding school in Switzerland, she attended Rhode Island School of Design, where she planned to study painting and filmmaking, but her father encouraged her to pursue a more pragmatic field, so she landed on architecture. “It proved an extraordinary base that you can apply to anything,” she says. “It teaches you how to think critically, to question, to come up with solutions, to put the pieces together.” She began her career working for New York architect Costas Kondylis before returning to Italy to practice interior design. One day, she was at Il Pellicano and her father asked her to redo a bathroom — a challenge she was thrilled to accept. “Not long thereafter, he asked me to redo the hotel, and the rest is history!”
Over time, Marie-Louise has expertly honed her craft and managed to walk that fine line between retro Italian tropes and modern élan, a balancing act that is masterfully captured in the spirit of each place. “As hoteliers, we have one of people’s most precious possessions: their time,” Marie-Louise explains. “What I try to do is bring them into the world of each of our hotels, share the story of these unique places.” When it comes to design and the guest experience, she says, you have to make it about the place and release the ego. All three hotels have their own individual stories — “If you listen on an emotional and sensorial level to what each of these places has to say, to what is left in the walls, I think [you’ll find] that the walls talk.”
Her approach at Il Pellicano was based on her personal experience: she grew up there and remembers the feeling, what everything looked like, how the people were — “I try to translate that feeling into the design.” Meanwhile, Mezzatorre has so much personality already; it’s whimsical and dramatic. “I thought of Luchino Visconti when designing it: Auteur, dilettante, connoisseur, acclaimed writer and director; he was charmed when he first visited Ischia in the 1940’s and discovered an oasis practically untouched by the outside world,” she says. “He eventually lived in Villa Colombaia, right next door to the Mezzatorre. He was a flamboyant man with the most sophisticated and elegant taste — something that you can see in his movies. I tried to bring these elements in some way to Mezzatorre.” Both Mezzatorre and Il Pellicano are light and full of understated elegance — “I always think of Il Pellicano as the older sister to Mezzatorre.” La Posta Vecchia, on the other hand, which belonged to Jean Paul Getty before her father bought it, has a more masculine spirit and that is something you can really feel, she says. For Marie-Louise, ultimately — if improbably — modern design is about timelessness, not about following trends. “We want our hotels to work for a 28-year-old or an 80-year-old.”
Beyond design, Marie-Louise has been instrumental in giving her hotel brand life outside the hotels themselves, creating an aspirational world outside the walls by capturing the spirit in modern and innovative ways. “I wanted to create a bridge between the past and the future and continue what my father started by keeping it current,” she says. “There are many aspects of hospitality that are about lifestyle. When I started, hotels were a really closed world and I like to think that we did our bit to change the hospitality game.” She certainly did, achieving this through various partnerships, like their collaboration with Birkenstock to launch the “Dolce Far Niente”, a collection which brought a touch of Italanità and Pellicano style to the beloved German shoe brand to an ongoing collaboration with Matchesfashion to curate different collections that evoke Italian holidays. “I wanted to bring the hotel to life outside the hotel walls, and I thought, how can I put everything that is part of the sensorial experience of the hotel into one container?” This thought led to her biggest feat, when two years ago, she decided to launch ISSIMO, the digital retail extension of her family’s hotels, where shoppers can shop high quality Italian brands, including bespoke collaborations, as well as hotel merchandise to get a taste of the Il Pellicano world shipped to their home.
The platform is part e-commerce, part editorial. Visitors can also use it as a guide to the Italian regions, following local tips and advice from interesting and cultured Italian personalities in Marie-Louise’s world that share knowledge of their hometowns. “ISSIMO brings to the digital world the aesthetic and subtlety of our Pellicano world, and reflects our philosophy,” she says. “It is curated with the same approach and I use the same sensibilities I do with the hotel designs, layering quality and excellence.” As a matter of fact, the name ISSIMO represents the ‘best’ as it’s the suffix added to Italian words to emphasize them. While Marie-Louise is reluctant to share what we can expect from the brand this summer, she urges us to watch this space. No matter what, we’re sure it’ll be buonissimo.
The iconic yellow and white beach towels of Hotel Il Pellicano served as the inspiration for Carolina's Fortissimo Il Pellicano FORTE Beads Bracelet, created exclusively for ISSIMO. The collection also includes: Bluissimo and Fortissimo Mezzatorre FORTE Beads Bracelets.