More than half a century at Hotel Il Pellicano
Hotel Il Pellicano is one of Italy’s fabled hotels. The Porto Ercole perched hotel has inspired more than just vacations. For over half a century, Il Pellicano has been muse to paintings, photographs, and stories. We sat down with owner Roberto Sciò to learn how he fell in love with Hotel Il Pellicano and what keeps him in love.
Meandering Porto Ercole and Monte Argentario
Just a few years after the 1965 opening of Il Pellicano by English aviator Michael Graham and American socialite Patsy Daszel, a 26- year-old Roberto Sciò found himself in Porto Ercole and stumbled into a great origin story. As Sciò tells us, friends were sailing from Canada to Monte Argentario and offered a casual invitation to meet up at Monte Argentario. Sciò wasn’t familiar with the area and immediately thought it was strange that his sailing friends were headed to a “mountain”. Always curious, and with zero interest in sleeping aboard the sailboat, Sciò meandered around Monte Argentario until coming across the tiny Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole. “Is this a hotel? Is this a house? I was surprised, because just in the arch, in the entrance of Il Pellicano, a nice gentleman was there. It was Charlie Chaplin,” Sciò recalls. At the time, Chaplin owned a cottage on the grounds, and Sciò was directed to Il Pellicano owner Michael Graham, who offered him a room in the “Italian quarters”, a designated four rooms specifically for Italian guests. Sciò stayed over night, danced with Chaplin’s young daughter Geraldine that night and woke up in love with Il Pellicano.
“I literally fell in the love with the spot. It was a kind of club. The queen of Netherlands used to come to visit friends. People from all over the world, especially from United States, Canada, British, used to come.” And Sciò, of course, who kept coming back, eventually buying a cottage of his own on the grounds in 1974.
From Guest to Owner
The 1970s came and Graham had lost interest in hotel management. He reached out to Sciò for advice who was quick to tell Graham that times were changing. “I said, ‘Michael, I think that you are dreaming. You are in Tuscany.” Michael immediately responded that he was ready to sell Il Pellicano, and after a few days mulling it over, Sciò made an offer and by 1979, he was the owner of Hotel Il Pellicano.
By 1994, Sciò was the owner of two iconic locations, Hotel Il Pellicano and the newly opened La Posta Vecchia, the gorgeous seaside villa once owned by J. Paul Getty in Palo Laziale. After a decade and a half in hospitality, Sciò was getting antsy and decided he wanted to make changes.
“First, I asked myself, “Do you really know how to manage a hotel? I don’t think so. I’ve been doing so many works, managing different companies, but I don’t know. I know I want to be a guest in the hotel, but how to manage, really, I don’t know. Better you go to school.” So Sciò headed to Ithaca, New York for a few months hitting the books and more at Cornell’s prestigious Hotel School. Upon his return, he had a whole new way of thinking which included a complete overhaul of the “mentality culture” at his hotels, as well as an enlargement of Il Pellicano.
Intuition and Energy
“It was all intuition. The culture was totally vertical and I was looking for horizontal.” By horizontal, Sciò wanted an “us” mentality instead of a lateral hierarchy. He wanted a team that worked together where each player felt comfortable sharing ideas and opinions – from management to housekeeping and kitchen. “It had to be “Us, and the hotel started to grow more and more. We give energy. We are energy. If people that work in this spot with happiness, knowing what is doing, caring for themselves, loving themselves, knowing in what they’re acting, they push out such a wonderful energy that people feel it. It’s “We,” this is the energy, very simple, no more simple than that.”
“The secret is the intangible. This energy of happy people, Oh you feel the energy. I have had great fun there, until there was time for me to…watch this creature growing . . .” the creation of a team and the arrival of his daughter Marie-Louise Scìo as Creative Director. Sciò spends a lot time between Il Pellicano and La Posta Vecchia. His instagram R.Scio is a love letter to his hotels.
“I was at Pellicano yesterday. I went to the Pellicano the day before yesterday. Whatever, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, I am in love with the spot. The place talks to me. And I think I send my energy. We nourish each other reciprocally. . . .”