How Marie-Louise Scio Turned The Iconic Italian Pellicano Hotels Into A Global Lifestyle Brand
It was late afternoon in Rome at the beginning of a long, hot summer in the Eternal City, and the very fashionable Marie-Louise Sciò was barely breaking a sweat from her 15th-century apartment near the Castel Sant’Angelo, close to the Tiber River. One of the most stylish and fabulous hoteliers I have ever met, this single mom runs an empire overseeing the Pellicano Group of hotels, which include 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 her stunning properties.
Marie-Louise is more than the Creative Director and CEO of Pellicano Hotels; she is a true tastemaker and has been instrumental in evolving the hotel group into a lifestyle brand with ISSIMO, the digital extension of the hotels. Her trendsetting, decadent take on life was inspired by the pandemic lockdown that had us all dreaming of the great escape. “It’s really about discovering Italy, the non-obvious Italy,” she says of her online shop, 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 all of that.”
Marie-Louise was inspired to curate a conversation about the best things in life, from accessories including her famed striped Pellicano towels to other high-quality Italian-made products that fans of Italy (and her hotels) would desire. It is, as they call it, “A love affair with Italian beauty.” What I love about ISSIMO is that it also offers up Marie- Louise’s travel tips with decadent destinations as well as fashion, decor, and advice on how to live the ultimate Italian lifestyle, bringing me ever so close to the country I love so dearly.
I first heard of Pellicano Hotels through a close friend and decided I needed to explore them for myself. Through my magical summer sojourn to the island of Ischia, I truly discovered why the Pellicano brand was so special and why Travel & Leisure recently awarded the destination as the Best Island in the World.
Mezzatorre Hotel & Thermal Spa
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 cobblestone streets brightened by bougainvillea, all attracting a growing number of the jet set arriving by private yacht. I first noticed the island as the location for one of my favorite movies, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” filmed at the main port, Ischia Porto, with its bustling square towered over by the 12th century Aragonese Castle and along the sandy 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 private bay and beach. The 57-room hotel is drenched in old-school elegance with its retro peach umbrellas, surrounded by 17 acres of pine forests and under a 16th-century watchtower. You would almost expect to see Truman Capote reclining at the cliff-hanging salt-water swimming pool as Elizabeth Taylor regaled him with scandalous stories of her filming “Cleopatra” on the island.
The resort offers suites in the watchtower and low-rise privately positioned bungalows, ranging from large two-bedroom cottages and double bedrooms with views across the sea. Pierre Frey fabrics fill the open, and breezy rooms and terraces are plentiful. “My favorite room is in the tower, room 124, with views of a distant Mount Vesuvius, the sea, and the entire resort,” says Marie-Louise.
There are two restaurants at the resort, the poolside La Baia, where I enjoyed some of the best pasta I have ever had, and La Torre on a terrace overlooking the sea, for breakfast and a fine dining dinner experience. There is also the most fabulous outdoor Torre bar with live piano entertainment while you sip your martinis. Guests can easily venture out for many dining options, including a visit to the charming, picturesque fishing village of Sant’ Angelo and the lovely Ristorante Casa Celestino near the marina and directly on the water.
I spent hours enjoying the magnificent thermal spa and mud treatments where you can try out mineral-rich water and seawater, very hot Kneipp pools, and a steam room for a proper well-being experience.
Hotel Il Pellicano
Hotel Il Pellicano is on a cliff above the Tuscan coastline of Monte Argentario, near the town of Porto Ercole, Italy, only 90 minutes from Rome airport. The Sciò family has owned and operated the property since 1979, where celebrities and fashionistas have been flocking 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. Many of the large rooms have terraces with sea views, 50 rooms in the main building, and 27 more scattered through six cottages. The two-bedroom Argentario Suite with a private pool is also my favorite.
“I put my hands on every single bedroom since I started,” says Marie-Louise. “I would say the two new enormous master suites are my favorite. But I also have a soft spot for room 14. I love the location in the main building, and the view is extraordinary. You’re higher up, and you can see if there are people at the bar, and you have the view of the sea and the pool.”
There are two restaurants, including Peligrill, for casual dining and Il Pellicano, a Michelin-starred option headed by Chef Michelino Gioia. As the resort effortlessly states, “Piano music drifts through the night air brushing elegant shoulders in evening dress, the moon rises into an impossibly large orange orb, fishermen’s lights flicker on the inky bay below seeking out something fresh for the morrow.” The Il Pellicano experience is entirely elegant.
La Posta Vecchia
La Posta Vecchi was built in 1640 above an imperial Roman villa and, for centuries, was used by aristocratic families and their esteemed guests en route to Rome. The former home of Jean Paul Getty is just 20 minutes from Rome airport.
The former Renaissance palazzo is filled with Italian art treasures and stunning 17th Century tapestries. With only 19 suites, it is as intimate and elegant as possible. There are eight suites, including the Getty Master Suite overlooking the sea furnished with a 16th-century Venetian chest, a 17th-century armchair from Northern Italy, Meissen porcelain on the walls, and rich woven carpets on the floors; the Medici Master Suite, while three extravagant suites overlooking the sea or gardens.
“We have a lot of parties here, which is always really fun,” says Marie-Louise. “There’s a Roman Emperors villa in the basement with incredible mosaics on the floor. So the property has this strong masculine energy.”
Beneath the terrace, the sea laps the palazzo walls, and the Cesar Restaurant, headed by Chef Antonio Magliulo, offers the freshest of local ingredients from the hotel’s gardens. There is a spa, beach club, and a stunning indoor stone pool.
“We have one of the biggest private collections of Renaissance furniture,” says Marie-Louise. “My father bought it from Getty and bought the house exactly as it is today. So, all of the furniture, tapestries, and fabrics are from that period when Getty had it furnished from Connecticut.”
And the choices of rooms are equally as diverse and historic. “My favorite room here would be the red room,” she adds. “It’s got this unbelievable bathroom, which is marble and mirror. I love the Park Room, which is a small room, but it’s got this replica of the Madonna and child of Raphael, which is just unbelievable. And then we have the massive Medici suite overlooking the sea with this unbelievable marble bathtub.”