Marie-Louise Sciò

Il Pellicano Hotels CEO and Creative Director

Marie-Louise Sciò

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Spending childhood summers at her family’s legendary Hotel Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole, Italy, hospitality has always been in Marie-Louise Sciò‘s DNA. And one day, after she graduated in architecture at Rhode Island School of Design, her father asked her to redesign one of the property’s bathrooms, and her creativity was then truly unleashed. Today she is the CEO and Creative Director of Pellicano Group’s three hotels, the Mezzatorre on Ischia, La Posta Vecchia in Ladispoli and Il Pellicano, in Porto Ercole. She’s also founder of the Italian lifestyle and e-commerce platform ISSIMO, which launched last year as the digital extension of the Pellicano world. Sciò virtually caught up with AHL’s founder Ben Pundole to talk about music, cocktails, and the recipe for great hospitality.

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Ben Pundole: Hotels, restaurants, bars, travel and hospitality have been particularly badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. What changes do you see coming out of this post-corona?

Marie-Louise Sciò: I think there’s going to be a big surge in quality. I think people will travel probably less, or they’ll do more domestic travel for a bit, but I think people will want quality. Being all quarantined in lockdown gives us a lot of time to think, and certainly, it gives you a lot of time to realize the value of the really simple things. The quality is in the really simple things, if it’s a smile, if it’s a gesture, if it’s a good tomato, if it’s something really simple. I’m a big sustainer of quality — it will prevail in some way. In hospitality, we just need to take care of our guests even better. That really needs to be aced, and it really has to come from the heart. I think people who work in hospitality are people who have a lot of passion for it. I mean, it’s not a job that you do for any other reason and I think it’s a time for us to really pull out everything we’ve got and really make the time of the guests amazing. 

Marie-Louise Sciò
Marie-Louise Sciò

Ben Pundole: The hotel industry is historically a very male dominated environment. How do you not only navigate that, but how do you succeed and thrive in this environment?

Marie-Louise Sciò: I think you just do what you believe in doing, and then you just have to stick with it. In our offices we have 14 girls and one guy. I’m a big believer in women. It is an industry that would certainly need more women.

Ben Pundole: I agree, certainly in senior positions.

Marie-Louise Sciò: Yes, and I think especially in Italy. Abroad there’s more women involved, but in Italy, it seems like it’s quite male-centric. That will change.

Ben Pundole: Any advice for people who want to make it in the hotel industry?

Marie-Louise Sciò: That’s a really big question. I never studied hospitality. I grew up in it, so a bit of it is innate. You have to be someone who likes people, that’s key. The basic fact is you really need to be a people person. The way I got into the family business — which was the last thing I was planning on doing — was just bringing a lot of my own interests in the experience. If you are true to who you are and you can bring that into your job, that is what I could advise: just bring yourself.

Ben Pundole: What are some of those interests that you brought into the hotel world?

Marie-Louise Sciò: Film, art and music. It’s about being a conductor of an orchestra. You have to make everything play together. The hotel experience is a sensorial experience, so all of those senses have to be on the same page. I brought all of that together to make the famous pasta sauce, a little bit of salt and pepper and da-da-da-da-da, and put it all together.

Ben Pundole: It’s not something you can write down. There is no recipe.

Marie-Louise Sciò: No. There’s an idea maybe on what you want someone to feel. It’s like when someone comes to your own home, how you want them to feel, what you want them to smell, what you want them to eat. It is — excuse the word, because I find it overused — curating that sensory experience that you do at home and doing it in a hotel. I only do in a hotel. My house is a mess. I do the opposite.

Marie-Louise at La Posta Vecchia hotel in Ladispoli
Marie-Louise at La Posta Vecchia hotel in Ladispoli

Ben Pundole: In fact, you are also known for your excellent taste in music. Have you made any special playlists in quarantine?

Marie-Louise Sciò: I’ve done one, actually, of Italian music. At the beginning of this quarantine, everyone was singing out the windows, and so I’ve done that on Spotify. Again, I just started listening to these incredible Italian musicians like Mina, Lucio Dalla, Battisti. I know Yolanda loves Battisti. I have that. If anyone wants to get into Italian music, I have that on. 

Ben Pundole: Favorite cocktail?

Marie-Louise Sciò: Vodka tonic. Actually, what I’d really like is a cocktail from our barman, Federico. I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s been to the Pellicano, but we have this barman who I’m really tied to. He’s really part of the DNA of the Pellicano, and he makes these great cocktails. I want his Patsy Spritzer.


This interview was edited from Episode 1 of AHL Live Podcast with Ben Pundole and Marie-Louise Sciò. You can listen to the full conversation here.

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