How Marie-Louise Scio transformed Italy’s iconic Pellicano hotels into a global lifestyle brand
It was late afternoon in Rome at the start of a long, hot summer in the Eternal City, and the fashionable Marie-Louise Sciò was barely sweating from her 15th-century apartment near the Castle of St. Angel, near the Tiber. River. One of the most stylish and fabulous hoteliers I have ever met, this single mother runs an empire overseeing the Pellicano group of hotels, which includes the iconic Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole, La Posta Vecchia in Ladispoli and The Mezzatorre in Ischia. All boutique hotels with a rabid following of fans eager to experience the luxurious yet simple details of its stunning properties.
Marie-Louise is more than the Creative Director and CEO of Pellicano Hotels; she is a true creator of taste and has contributed to the evolution of the hotel group towards a lifestyle brand with ISSIMO, the digital extension of the hotels. His decadent, forward-thinking approach to life was inspired by the pandemic lockdown that has us all dreaming of the great escape. “It’s really about discovering Italy, the non-obvious Italy,” she says of her online store, which offers the best Made in Italy items. “What makes it so unique? It’s a country with so much excellence and so many different fields. Architectural design, fashion, food. It’s a container for it all.”
Marie-Louise was inspired to curate a conversation about the finer things in life, from accessories, including her famous striped Pellicano towels, to other high-quality Italian-made products that fans of Italy (and of its hotels) would like. It is, as they call it, “a love affair with Italian beauty”. What I love about ISSIMO is that it also features Marie-Louise’s travel tips with decadent destinations as well as fashion, decorating and advice on how to live the Italian lifestyle ultimate, bringing me ever closer to the country I love so much.
I first heard about Pellicano Hotels from a close friend and decided I had to explore them on my own. Thanks to my magical summer stay on the island of Ischia, I really discovered why the Pellicano brand was so special and why Travel & Leisure recently awarded the destination the best island in the world.
After an easy one hour ferry ride from Naples, I arrived at this stunning property on the island of Ischia, surrounded by the warm Tyrrhenian Sea. The beaches are popular with Italian and international tourists, as Americans usually venture to the glitzy neighboring island of Capri.
Ischia is an authentic Italian paradise filled with luxurious thermal hot springs and winding cobbled streets brightened by bougainvillea, attracting increasing numbers of the jet set arriving by private yacht. I first noticed the island as the filming location for one of my favorite films, ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’, filmed at the main port, Ischia Porto, with its bustling piazza dominated by the 12th century Aragonese castle century and along the sandy beach of Bagno Antonio. .
With the arrival of the 5-star Mezzatorre Hotel & Thermal Spa, the island has become even more popular, with the jet set enjoying the seclusion of a resort offering its own private bay and beach. The 57-room hotel is steeped in old-fashioned elegance with retro fishing umbrellas, surrounded by 17 acres of pine forests and beneath a 16th-century watchtower. You’d almost expect to see Truman Capote lying in the saltwater pool hanging from the cliff as Elizabeth Taylor regaled him with scandalous tales from her filming of ‘Cleopatra’ on the island.
The resort offers suites in the watchtower and private low-rise bungalows, ranging from large two-bedroom cottages and double rooms with sea views. Pierre Frey fabrics fill the open space, and the bedrooms and terraces ventilated are numerous. “My favorite room is in the tower, room 124, with a view of a distant Mount Vesuvius, the sea and the whole complex,” explains Marie-Louise.
There are two restaurants in the complex, La Baia by the pool, where I had some of the best pasta I have ever eaten, and La Torre on a terrace overlooking the sea, for breakfast and a gourmet dinner. There’s also the most fabulous open-air Torre bar with live piano performances while you sip your martinis. Guests can easily venture into numerous dining options, including a visit to the charming, quaint fishing village of Sant’ Angelo and charming Ristorante Casa Celestino near the marina and right on the water.
I spent hours enjoying the beautiful thermal spa and mud treatments where you can sample mineral water and sea water, the very hot Kneipp pools and the hammam for a true experience of welfare.
Hotel Il Pellicano is located on a cliff above the Tuscan coast of Monte Argentario, near the town of Porto Ercole, Italy, just 90 minutes from Rome airport. The Sciò family has owned and operated the property since 1979, where celebrities and fashionistas have flocked for years, and now Roberto Sciò has passed the baton to Marie-Louise.
The property has long attracted the jet set from celebrities to royalty. Most of the large rooms have terraces with sea views, 50 rooms in the main building and 27 others spread over six cottages. The Argentario Two Bedroom Suite with Private Pool is also my favorite.
“I’ve got my hands on every room since I started,” says Marie-Louise. “I would say the two new huge master suites are my favourite. But I also have a soft spot for room 14. I love the location in the main building and the view is amazing. You are higher up and you can see if there are people at the bar, and you have a view of the sea and the swimming pool.”
There are two restaurants, including Peligrill, for casual dining and Il Pellicano, a Michelin-starred option run by chef Michelino Gioia. As the resort effortlessly puts it, “piano music drifts through the night air as it brushes elegantly dressed shoulders, the moon rises in an impossibly large orange orb, fisherman’s lights twinkle across the bay of ‘ink underneath looking for something fresh for the next day.’ The Il Pellicano experience is entirely elegant.
La Posta Vecchi was built in 1640 on top of an imperial Roman villa and for centuries was used by aristocratic families and their esteemed guests en route to Rome. The former home of John Paul Getty is just 20 minutes from Rome airport.
The former Renaissance palace is full of treasures of Italian art and superb tapestries from the 17th century. With just 19 suites, it’s as intimate and stylish as it gets. There are eight suites, including the Getty Master Suite overlooking the sea furnished with a 16th-century Venetian chest, a 17th-century northern Italian armchair, Meissen porcelain on the walls and richly woven rugs on floors; the Medici Master Suite, while three extravagant suites overlooking the sea or the gardens.
“We have a lot of parties here, which is always a lot of fun,” says Marie-Louise. “There’s a villa of Roman emperors in the basement with amazing floor mosaics, so the property has this strong masculine energy.”
Below the terrace, the sea overlaps the walls of the palace and the Cesar restaurant, run by chef Antonio Magliulo, offers the freshest local ingredients from the hotel gardens. There’s a spa, beach club, and stunning indoor stone pool.
“We have one of the most important private collections of Renaissance furniture,” says Marie-Louise. “My dad bought it from Getty and bought the house exactly as it is today. So all the furniture, tapestries, and fabrics are from that time when Getty had it furnished from Connecticut.”
And the room choices are equally diverse and historic. “My favorite room here would be the Red Room,” she adds. “There’s this amazing bathroom, which is marble and mirrored. I love the Park Room, which is a small room, but there’s this replica of Raphael’s Madonna and Child, which is everything. simply amazing. And then we have the enormous Medici suite with sea view with this amazing marble bathtub.”