AHL INSIDER

Gabriele Salini

Owner of Italian hotel group "GS Collection"

Gabriele Salini

6.17.21

In perfect harmony with its ancient beauty and contemporary edge, Palazzo Daniele in Puglia, Italy is a design masterpiece. To delve into its beauty AHL’s Design Editor Ruby Kean caught up with the brilliant Gabriele Salini, owner and creative driving force behind “GS Collection.” Gabriele’s vision traverses beyond the exceptional aesthetic of the property, which was originally built in 1861 and reopened as a 9-suite guest house in 2019.. The core principles of the hotel center around a desire to make their visitors “feel like intimate guests of a family palazzo,” to feel they are surrounded by a strong sense of community and what Salini describes as “hyper-localism.” One gets the sense that there is a level of theater at play, a fully immersive environment offering “unparalleled access to local Italian life with all of its subtleties and indulgences.”. When developing this environment, Gabriele began by commissioning Milanese architectural duo Ludovica Serafini and Roberto Palomba for the project, who in response to Gabriele’s core values, introduced a compatible central visual theme.

Written in the hotel’s creative DNA is the celebration of the bones of the property, exaggerating the grandeur and the history, described by the duo as an endeavor to “exalt the void” monastic and simple bedrooms, and to highlight the vaulted ceilings, exposed walls, and mirrored salons. “In doing this, we ‘freed’ these spaces from their conventional functions, creating a dramatic canvas for our contemporary art collection and modern furnishings,” says Gabriele. The careful juxtaposing of grand with welcoming; the simple with the theatrical, makes for an exquisite and captivating hotel that envelopes you.

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Palazzo Daniele
Palazzo Daniele

Ruby Kean: Tell us about how you found this property — what’s the story behind the building? 

Gabriele Salini: Puglia is a second home for me. I spent most of my summers in a family house we own a few kilometers away from Palazzo Daniele, on the spectacular Adriatic Sea. On one of these summers, I met Francesco Petrucci, whose family has owned the palazzo for many years, and this began the story of GS Collection’s transformation of the property. What we aimed for with the reshaping was to create a sense of “contemporary nostalgia” — that is, blending centuries-old architecture and old-world luxury from the building’s 158-year-old past, with a curated selection of contemporary artwork, avant-garde furniture, and site-specific installations. 

Ruby: When restoring the property and rebirthing it as a hotel, what architectural features were saved, were there any that captured your imagination in particular?

Gabriele: When it came to the architecture of the 1861 Palazzo, our top priority was preserving the structure’s integrity, which we achieved by restoring the 19th century ornate frescoes and original mosaic flooring. As said, we wanted to give a center stage to these original elements by taking away whatever could distract the attention and the view, so that our visitors could relax in the void and enjoy this simple beauty. Someone defined the feeling of Palazzo Daniele as “minimalism meets majesty,” a definition I like because it contains both simplicity and timeless beauty. Of course we added some modern functions that were not present: a central and lively kitchen, the pool area and its access to the outdoors, an honest bar inside a little deconsecrated altar …

Palazzo Daniele bedroom
Palazzo Daniele bedroom
Palazzo Daniele bathroom
Palazzo Daniele bathroom

Ruby: What key features build the experience of Palazzo Daniele beyond the confines of a traditional hotel guest relationship and help guests feel as though they live in the space?

Gabriele: Simple regional good food, warm conversation, and a sense of belonging. Our credo, “questa casa non è un albergo” (“this house is not a hotel”), is our philosophy and hospitality approach, as the guest experience at Palazzo Daniele is intended to feel like a private home more than a classic hotel. Our staff stops at nothing to ensure that each of our guests are not only comfortable, but are also able to have access to the true local life, whether that’s seasonal activities that have been curated by us, or joining our cook in one of our ever-popular pasta making classes.

Ruby: Which is your favorite room in the hotel?

Gabriele: We have meticulously curated each of our nine suites with exceptional art and guest amenities that place quality at the frontlines. In both of my properties, I make it a point to give each suite something that differentiates one from the next, but never to outshine each other. Every space and aspect of the hotel is constantly working with one another, not against it.

Ruby: How did you curate the art collection for the hotel?

Gabriele: Art is always a crucial component of any hotel that I take on. This is because I love art and working with artists. I invite artists to our properties and ask them to be part of the creation of our concepts. The art collection within Palazzo Daniele is one that is modern by nature and allows the architecture and art to function as a unit, constantly in conversation with one another. My friend Francesco Petrucci is an art philanthropist and has been the art director of Capo d’Arte, an art show that takes place every summer inside the Palazzo walls. We are both avid art collectors but, even more so, love the production phase, and continue to invite artists so we agreed that this event would stay and continue to host different artists for residencies. Our art collection is a natural consequence of our common passion.

Ruby: What is the most unique feature of Palazzo Daniele?

Gabriele: The grand shower of the Royal Junior Suite, made by the Italian artist Andrea Sala. It is a living art installation in which a rain shower falls from a 6-meter-high ceiling onto a basin; a perfect example of how art can become functional. On the other hand, contrasting the aesthetic and the sophisticated minimalism, I have to admit that the most popular meeting point is our vibrant and inviting kitchen — I realize that it incorporates the crucial difference between a hotel and a home feeling, and each of our guests like to spend time in this warm heart of the aristocratic Palazzo.

Ruby: Do you have a favorite art piece?

Gabriele: Some of my favorites are the light boxes by Simon d’Exea that serve as lighting in most of our suites. I am a great admirer of photography in general because it is a form of art that reminds me of my first love of architecture. I also like the black and white large scale pieces from South African artist Alexandra Karakashian as well as the very small colorful paintings by the Roman artist Giani Politi. The last pieces to be added to the collection are the incredible breathing vases and sculpture by Studio GGSV (the French duo Gaelle Gabillet and Stephane Villard).

Palazzo Daniele bedroom
Palazzo Daniele bedroom

Ruby: What do you love most about the setting of the hotel and the village of Gagliano del Capo?

Gabriele: Gagliano del Capo, one of the many villages in the province of Salento, offers an endless journey of discovery around the area. The neighborhood provides our guests with a plethora of local institutions, allowing for exploration through its unique cuisine and local vendors. For first time visitors, I always recommend bar Farmacia Balboa for the very best aperitivo and restaurant Taverna del Porto for amazing cuisine in an equally beautiful location (Tricase), and a walk to Il Ciolo beach, where guests can enjoy the surroundings with a swim in the Adriatic Sea.

Ruby: What should guests bring with them when checking in to Palazzo Daniele?

Gabriele: The capacity for wonder.

Ruby: Do you have any other exciting projects on the horizon?

Gabriele: I am currently working on a local project here in my hometown Rome that I would define as an “urban retreat,” a central location with all the fundamental elements for a daily escape. In times like these, having the chance to easily recharge and take a break from everyday chaos can make a difference in our wellbeing. Casa Caracalla, as I will name it, will offer all this in a magic setting of a 1930s villa located in the area where the ancient Romans invented thermal baths as a concept of wellness. GS Collection will be enriched by this new opening, continuing on the path of creating a collection of unique, authentic and original Italian destinations … Stay tuned!

Palazzo Daniele pool
Palazzo Daniele pool
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