By Tova Syrowicz
Il Salviatino, perched at the start of the gentle slope that winds its way up to Fiesole, on Florence’s peaceful outskirts, reopens March 17 after several months of refresh.
Not that the boutique property really needed it: Il Salviatino, a beautifully restored 15th-century villa once belonging to the wife of Lorenzo de’ Medici, first welcomed guests in late 2010.
It is also the first of Il Salviatino Collection. A second property opened in Verona, two more will come in Rome and Venice, and President and CEO Marcello Pigozzo, a veteran of the international hotel industry with 30 years at InterContinental under his belt, has had his eye on London for some time…just a matter of finding the right place.
In choosing to go off on his own, Pigozzo decided not only to flatten the management hierarchy, but also to “turn around the pyramid of command,” so that those at the top are very open to feedback from the people who make the guest experience day to day.
Pigozzo has done away with the traditional reception and concierge; instead, a service ambassador will be on hand to welcome you, make recommendations for your stay and basically act as your personal assistant. Pigozzo shares that while the 45-room Il Salviatino has certainly had repeats in its two and a half years of operation, even more notable are the referrals. Guests don’t just recommend Il Salviatino, they recommend (read: insist upon) specific service ambassadors for their friends and relatives. Which is exactly the effect Pigozzo had hoped for.
When speaking of other properties in the collection, Pigozzo emphasizes their commitment to delivering a hyper-local experience. Verona is completely different to Florence, he says, each with its own culture, its own food, its own local nuances. In Florence, the linens in the hotel are made by a local purveyor that no one has ever heard of, but when you get into bed at night, you’ll feel the difference, he promises. And among the bath amenities is a cream custom-made for the hotel by one of the most renowned noses in Italy—a special lotion you’ll literally find nowhere else.
A bespoke scent permeates Il Salviatino as well, because more than anything, Pigozzo intends to be sense-provoking. A swoon-worthy bouquet, a striking painting…whatever it might be that will engage the senses and thus leave an impression of a special experience. If you’ve spent any sort of time in Florence, you might connect the dots to Stendahl’s Syndrome, but Pigozzo speaks more to pleasing than overwhelming/knocking out the senses.
Philosophy aside, Il Salviatino is a truly charming property, a welcome respite to those who adore Florence but enjoy an escape from its madding crowds. It’s close enough to pop in for an art history tour or dinner at some chic new haunt south of the Arno, yet far enough to really get a sense for Tuscany. Michelangelo’s David will be there evermore; why not take that extra-long, vino-drenched lunch followed by a languid poolside afternoon?
Verona’s Palazzo Victoria, which opened last year, also resides in a historic building, as will Rome’s. When asked whether this is a trend for the boutique brand, Pigozzo says no, as the Venice property is actually a very modern hotel on the Grand Canal whose interiors were done by a big-name international designer. (He’s not sharing just yet, but we have a hunch; modern hotels aren’t exactly a dime a dozen among these canals!) In any event, it will be very interesting to watch the Salviatino spirit unfold in a more modern setting.