Valentina De Santis, Owner and CEO, Grand Hotel Tremezzo
With over 100 years of history as the first hotel on Lake Como, the iconic Grand Hotel Tremezzo is set in an elegant Art Nouveau palazzo surrounded by a private park and offering spectacular views over the lake and Grigne Mountains from its 90 rooms. Grand Hotel Tremezzo is also home to the majestic Villa Sola Cabiati. A stunning example of original 16th century architecture and design.
What does your current position involve?
I have been grown up spending every summer of my life at the hotel since I was a baby, so my role goes beyond any official position can describe. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo is my home, and what I would like written on my business cards would be just ‘the hostess with the mostest’. I try to take care of everything that at the hotel is involved with the stay of our lovely guests, from the tiniest details to the most important procedures, and I dedicate a lot of my time to promote my little paradise around the world together with my Sales & Marketing team. To have an always beautiful and impeccable property is not my only dream, since I also want to spread the word of it being a special place to include in your travel wish list.
What do you enjoy most about what your role?
I enjoy everything about my job, starting from the fact that every day is different and it is mathematically impossible to get bored of it, to the simple thing that we take care of the joy of every single guest. Having to deal with people that are staying with us just to make a once-in-a-lifetime experience and to collect unforgettable memories with their beloved ones is the most amazing job I could dream of. And on top of that there is the fact that every day I have the opportunity to meet amazing people who share part of their life with me.
What will your properties have to do to stay one step ahead of its competition, especially in the luxury hospitality sector?
We are and we have always been a family Hotel, which makes the style and the hospitality we offer so unique and different from the other hotels on the lake. Our service is delivered by a wonderful team that feels deeply in the heart the sense of belonging to a big family, and this is always recognised by our guests, that is for all of us the biggest acknowledgement we could receive.
What are your properties Unique Selling Points?
As a family-run business for over a century of history we offer the warmest of welcomes and the impeccable hospitality Italy is famed for.
I also always point out the exclusivity of our location: the indescribably beautiful views over the water to Bellagio against the rose-tinted backdrop of the Grigne mountains make the Grand Hotel Tremezzo the most enviable and awe-inspiring location on Lake Como.
And last but not least, the authentic décor dating back to the Belle Époque of our Art Nouveau palace, for a unique-of-a-kind stay.
What does luxury mean to you?
I strongly believe that luxury should not be just measured by expensive goods or exclusive upscale services. I think that we should rather shift its meaning to a more thorough sight. I would then translate real Luxury into something much more personal and intimate, the awareness of the value of quality, attention to details, uniqueness of history, love of culture and authenticity that make up unique experiences able to give us real emotions that will last for a lifetime.
What are the personality traits that define a successful and happy hotel proprietor, in your opinion?
I am sure that once your heart is devoted to hospitality you will always be the happiest hotel proprietor. It is something you have in your blood or you don’t have: the passion of welcoming guests and sharing your place with them at its full. And of course it helps a lot to be happy if you can also count on a fantastic team that shares with you the same vision and helps you in making this happen every day.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotels in Italy compared other European countries?
Italy is no doubt the destination that still keeps on focusing on independently owned hotels versus international chains. Hoteliers in our country still give huge importance to the regional diversity of Italy and then to the uniqueness of each territory and its peculiarities, reflecting these crucial values into their hospitality. It is something I think we can be very proud of. As Italians we are able to share so much of our culture, cuisine, tradition and taste through our beautiful hotels, without feeling the pressure of standardising our properties affiliating then to international chains. This is one of the reasons why I think Italy is the country with the highest number of family owned properties, and I am quite sure it will remain like this for a very long while!
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?
The biggest trend I am noticing worldwide is that more and more often star-architects and designers are now involved in hotels new openings. It is a trend that is opposite once again to what happens in Italy, where hotels are most of the times the result of the vision and the dream of individuals and families, whose desire is to strongly imprint their properties with their own personality and taste.
How important do you feel hotel design has become when launching a new hotel?
Hotels are more and more becoming crucial part of a travel experience as a whole. I am quite confident to say that design is of course very important when a new hotel launch is involved but it cannot be alone the key of success of a property. Design needs to be supported by location, service, and facilities.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
I am truly in love with my country as the “Bel Paese” offers so many amazing landscapes besides and an incredible cultural heritage. If I must choose place above all the others in Italy, I adore the Amalfi coast: with its picturesque villages, breathtaking sceneries and amazing views, it remembers me so much of Lake Como, of course with a more Mediterranean charm!
But it is very hard for me to mention the three best places I have ever stayed at all. The world is so beautiful just because it is so diverse and every place I visit surprises me and enters my soul. It is almost impossible to make a list of three, it would even hard to make a list of the top hundred!
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
Peru and India are very high on my wish list. These are two trips I was planning in 2015, and the arrival of my son moved them quickly to a waiting list that I can’t wait to clear soon!
Let’s finish with the issue of personal and work life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
The balance between personal and work life is a very delicate matter in my case, as my work is my life. My husband works with me, my parents work with me, so I am fortunate to say that my job is so beautiful that makes my life beautiful too.