Valentina De Santis
Best Hotelier of the year
My home is a hotel
Luminaries, Legends & Leaders Awards. A prestigious title for an award that usually comes after a fair number of years in the industry. Or decades, rather. Because to be defined “luminaries, legends or leaders” of any sector, you need to have plenty of expertise, competence, and savoir-faire. But there is someone who has obtained it at only 40 years of age, of which 12 spent in the long corridors of the building that then became their second home. And, indeed, Valentina De Santis speaks about the Grand Hotel Tremezzo with uncommon enthusiasm for the place that witnessed her growing up, first as daughter and mother, then as Sales & Marketing Manager, to her current role as CEO, which she shares with her father.
“The Virtuoso Awards are among the most prestigious in the world of travel, bestowed by over 20.000 travel operators in about 50 countries. What makes me very proud is above all the reason for the award, focused on the strong passion for hospitality and the ability to instil it in staff and clients. There is no greater satisfaction for someone who decides to live the hotel reality to the full, to make it an actual “house and shop”.
I have learned all that I know about being a hotelier from and my father and my mum. I owe this award to them too, to their lessons and the love that they were able to pass down to me day after day for a job that always requires a lot of energy.”
Everything started back in 2010, an important year for the Grand hotel Tremezzo. We were planning the celebrations for the hundredth anniversary of the hotel, and my father was pretty straightforward with me: he asked me what plans I had, if I wanted to join the company or continue my career outside (at Bain & Company, editor’s note). I was 27 years old, I had a degree in Economics, and I knew nothing about how to manage a hotel. However, I knew that I had taken my actual first steps in those rooms, that I had spent all of my summers there, and that I had to take on the challenge, and claim the family business. My grandfather bought the hotel in 1975, and it was the believing in the creation of a new company asset. But then, with my father and the Grand Hotel Como (today Sheraton Lake Como), hotellerie became the protagonist of our “family story”.
For some years, we’ve also had the Sheraton Lake Como, a city hotel meant mainly business stays; and in June of last year, we opened Passalacqua, our third estate on the Lake Como, created from a villa dating back from the late 18th century, immersed in a 5-hectare park. Three facilities overlooking the same body of water, but each one with their identity and vocation. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo, for example, has always been a “first-class” hotel and it is the only one set in a Belle-Époque palace that was built specifically to host a hotel. It was founded by two actual fin de siècle travelers, returning from their Grand Tour across half of Europe, who decided that Lake Como had to have a hotel to measure up to the international audience. And so it was”.
From “first class” hotel to icon of hospitality
To make that much desired improvement and transform the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in what, today, we recognise as a Made-in-Italy icon of hospitality, the De Santis family focused on the facilities themselves, starting from the Spa. A segment that over the last two decades has had a stronger and stronger foothold, making the actual difference between a good hotel and a top destination.
“The choice of the right partner was crucial. We already knew the Starpool brand, a company that, like ours, made of Italianness its strong point and pride. We identified in their values, as well as in a wide products offer that brought our quite ambitious ideas into reality. We carried out the works in multiple steps, with major investments: in 2009, we realised the indoor pool and the massage cabins; in 2012, the Spa Suite, a very exclusive place with hammam, sauna and large private whirlpools; while in 2016 we reconverted an entire building in a Spa, which immediately won the award Best Spa of The Year of Virtuoso.
We couldn’t wish for anything better for Villa Emilia, a 19th-century residence belonging to Countess Emilia Sommariva, who already owned the nearby Villa Carlotta. Tessellated floors, stuccoes and frescoes are now the frame to the 1,000-sqm of wellness that amaze both for the charm of the precious, vintage “case”, and for the overall cocooning atmosphere. Our pools “system” is spectacular, which evokes the outdoor pool floating on the lake, and the indoor sunken pool overlooking the lake. The sauna with a window framing our mountains, the Mediterranean bath, and the Hammam Suite, in white Lasa marble, are also beautiful.”
Made in Italy as faith
The family believes in the Made-in-Italy concept, even in the choice of the materials, like the rare Travertine and the marbles, as well as the suppliers in general. For the treatments, we have relied on a top italian brand in cosmetics, the Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella in Florence. The only exception is in the choice of the Dr. Barbara Sturm Skincare branc, focused on molecular cosmetics, chosen for the Spa in Passalacqua. Here, the wellness spaces have been built in the back of the “Palazz”, the brick-red historical building of magnificent appearance, thanks to the vaults of the relaxation area overlooking the garden, and the terraces that descend to the private deck. The collaboration with Starpool led us to the creation of something unique: the wet area, which includes Soul Sauna and Glamour Steam, is located at the entrance of the tunnel dug in the rock, which runs below the entire park. By 2024, the area will also feature an indoor pool…”. A continues work in progress there by the lake, the real wellness zone of the De Santis family.
Article by Lorenza Scalisi exclusively.com