The creative director of Pellicano Hotels and founder of Issimo is on a journey to spread her personal brand of Italianness, with a high sprinkling of sprezzatura. Here, she opens her little black book and shares with us some of her favorite spots around the country

Marie Louise Sciò is the CEO and creative director of Pellicano Hotels Group, which include a trio of impossibly chic destinations dotted in unique locations across Tuscany, Rome and on the volcanic island of Ischia, north of Naples.

The original hotel, Hotel Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole, Tuscany, has been hosting the jet-set – writers and artists, movie stars and fashionistas – since the 1960s. Its allure is encapsulated and frozen in time through the lens of Slim Aarons and later Juergen Tiller.

An architect by training, in 2005 Sciò began working with her family’s business to restore and renovate the hotel concept, successfully repositioning the properties to be some of the most desired hotels around the world.

Three years ago, Sciò founded her lifestyle brand Issimo, where she makes it her daily mission to spread the joy of her very own brand of Italian style. You could say it’s a way of life that may not exist in reality, but is too gorgeous not to fall in love with.

Curious, we asked Sciò her favorite spots to eat, drink, swim, and her take on la dolce vita.

Having studied fine art and architecture and design in the US, how did you come to take charge of Il Pellicano?

It wasn’t planned. After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, I began my career in the studio of Costas Kondylis in New York, then returned to Italy to work as an interior designer.

One day, I was at Hotel Il Pellicano and my dad [the owner Roberto Sciò] asked me to redo a hotel bathroom. I went ahead and took on this challenge. Not long thereafter, he asked me to redo the entire hotel – and the rest is history! The hotel is an institution; it just needed a few modifications before it could shine as the true gem it is today.

Since the 1960s, Il Pellicano has hosted the jet set, socialites and movie stars. How do you maintain this sense of charm and reinvent the magic you must have witnessed as a child?

Curating Il Pellicano is based on my personal experience. I grew up there. I remember what it always looked like, what it felt like, sounded like, how the people were – elegant, easy, extremely interesting.

It has always been really light and had an understated elegance. I try to translate it all into the design, the music, the food. It’s an orchestration that caters to all the senses and brings our guests into the world of Il Pellicano, to share its stories, which are all unique and irreplicable.

Italy may be a diverse nation, different worlds within a world, yet it shares a powerful belief in a way of life. What does this concept of dolce vita mean to you?

It means living life easy, surrounded by quality and beauty.

What’s interesting about your hotels is that they are not in obvious tourist locations, why?

Because we don’t do obvious.

Banner image: Mezzatorre Hotel and Thermal Spa on Ischia. Above, clockwise from top left: View from Mezzatorre Hotel and Thermal Spa, Marie-Louise Sciò, Valle dei Calanchi Civita di Bagnoregio, Baratti beach

The hotels are full of original art and artifacts, and each has carefully compiled playlists. How do you choose all these artworks, objects and music?

I look for beauty, for tradition and for innovation. As for the music, it has to be of excellent quality, and give an emotion.

And what role does food and wine play in amplifying the mood?

Food and wine certainly play on the senses and we serve local foods and use high-quality local produce and ingredients. Quality – that is the underlying theme in all our properties and on Issimo.

Where would be your favorite place to wine and dine in your hometown, Rome?

Hands down, Da Enzo al 29.

Is there a beach you would recommend on the Tuscan coast near Il Pellicano that is not on the tourist trail?

The Spiaggia di Baratti. The Baratti beach is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches of the Etruscan Coast. Located a few kilometers from Piombino, it is a timeless place, with its Etruscan necropolis, its brilliant beaches and unspoiled nature.

What is the food and wine scene like on Ischia, where you have the Mezzatorre hotel?

It is extraordinary. You get a real taste of Italian island life and Ischia has an amazingly rich food and wine scene that is one of the most authentic along the Amalfi coast. The food is composed of extremely good and high-quality produce and the wine choices are equally excellent.

As a matter of fact, viniculture is an activity at the very heart of Ischitan life and dates back to ancient times when the island was discovered around 700BC. The mild Mediterranean climate, the volcanic soil, the tufa stone and the sea breeze have always favored the production of high-quality wines in Ischia, and the island also has its own indigenous and high-quality grapes.

Is there a particular historic building, a gallery, or a cultural spot in Italy that inspires you?

I am truly, truly inspired by all of it!

And is there a landscape, a scene in nature, that has left a magical note?

The Calanchi Valley in Tuscia – it is an unusual landscape of eroded clay hills, situated almost half-way between Orvieto and Viterbo.

What are your future plans for Pellicano Hotels?

We have many plans – just cannot spill the beans yet!

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