Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, as Marie-Louise Sciò discovered during the Covid-19 lockdown. When Italy became the first European country to be hit by the pandemic, the Rome-based CEO and design director of Pellicano Hotels scooped up her family and took refuge in their hotel, La Posta Vecchia, on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Sciò, who had spent part of her childhood living in the 17th century villa. Following two months in residence, she has decided to share it with others as a private villa, rather than reopen it as a hotel for the season. Her earliest memories of La Posta Vecchia are of a magical place full of nooks, crannies and lots of staircases: “I had the run of the house. I was like the fictional Eloise in New York’s Plaza Hotel but with a dusting of la dolce vita.” Finding herself back after 30 years with her son (who celebrated his 18th birthday in lockdown), father, siblings and cousins was an unforeseen blessing.
“We planted a huge vegetable garden that could supply most of Italy,” laughs Sciò. “We will continue to go back and forth and use it as our family home when it is not rented.”
The house is no stranger to being a home. Built by Prince Orsini in 1640, it sits on the ruins of a water villa from the second century BC, in what was part of ancient Alsium, formerly an Etruscan port city. In the 1960s, billionaire John Paul Getty bought the crumbling palace from the noble Odescalchi family and set about recreating a private residence of historical perfection. Artefacts that were uncovered during the renovation are still on view in the villa’s 15 acres of gardens and the small museum in the basement. In 1980, he sold it to Roberto Sciò, Marie-Louise’s father.
Today, it has 15 bedrooms, a spa, indoor pool, tennis court, pebble beach, helipad, a full staff and, of course, the vegetable garden. In a time when we all crave space and privacy, it ticks all the boxes. Were there modifications made in preparation for exclusive use? “None,” says Sciò, “except moving the small restaurant tables out and once again making the magnificent marble table (that comfortably seats 22) the focal point of the palatial vaulted dining room.”
With Carrara marble bathrooms and fireplaces, busts of Roman statesmen Vespasian and Agrippa, canopied four-poster beds and sea-view terraces, the place has a timeless appeal.
Unsurprisingly, the privilege to call this palace home comes with a hefty price tag. “While the pandemic pushed the decision to reopen as a private palazzo rather than as a hotel,” says Sciò, “I am excited to see how it works.”
• The greatest hotels for an Italian summer holiday
Changing the hotel’s use was not the only outcome of Sciò’s lockdown. Another project that kept her busy was creating Issimo (issimoissimo.com), an e-commerce and lifestyle platform that celebrates Italian excellence. Caught up in the remarkable spirit of national pride that characterised Italy’s pandemic, Sciò decided that now was the right time to champion her country’s design, culture, food, travel, fashion and style.
In a country known for its passion and creativity, it seems that one woman’s homecoming has channelled that flair to create something positive – and rather wonderful.
• La Posta Vecchia can be rented through Italy specialists Bellini Travel. From €50,000 (£45,100) per week.
See here for more hotels reopening in Europe for the summer, including Italy