Behind the scenes at Verona’s five-star hotel is an ever-present figure, the manager, who is the pillar of the whole place. Here he guides us on a journey through past and present, tells us about his profession with anecdotes and stories about the Due Torri Hotel.
Yes, as if it was yesterday. It was March 4 2013 and it was a huge thrill. I was aware of the responsibility involved in being manager of a hotel that is historically important for Verona in particular and for the Italian hospitality industry in general. The Due Torri has been a reference point since it was reopened in 1958 by Enrico Wallner, and it represents a benchmark for the quality of Italian hospitality.
What are the most important lessons you have learned during your career?
I’ve learned respect for this place
, indeed for this monument because that is what this palazzo is, a monument. Still today, whenever I walk round the hotel, I notice features that impress me for how innovative and refined
they are. I’m always enchanted, for example, by the variety of furnishing styles
and how well they blend in with each other … Biedermeier, 19th-century Venetian, Baroque, Louis Philippe, Charles X and even the British colonial style with all its exotic inspirations. The hotel corridors conserve a truly amazing page in the history of Verona. After the last great Adige flood
in 1882, the city decided to protect itself from the fury of the water by raising the embankments. It was therefore necessary to demolish the many patrician palazzi
that looked onto the river, their facades richly frescoed as a sign of their prestige. Before knocking down the buildings, they attempted to salvage the frescoes, detaching them where possible, and some of them are now on display at the Museo Cavalcaselle
. In any case, all the frescoes were copied to preserve their memory and the original prints
of the drawings are hanging on the walls of the Due Torri. We are very proud of this association with the historical memory
of Verona and feel part of the city’s heritage.
Which is our favourite room or space in the hotel?
I’d say without a shadow of a doubt the Arena Casarini
, the most emblematic, identifying space in the hotel. It’s something of a visiting card for us. It was realised in 1959 by Pino Casarini, one of the great fresco painters of the last century, and its structure recalls that of a circus big top. It’s illustrated with acrobats, jugglers, clowns, ballerinas and animals, and conjures up a powerfully evocative atmosphere. I also love the Suite Maria Callas
, named after the great artiste who stayed at our hotel on numerous occasions, our spectacular Lounge
, decorated by Casarini with a fresco, The Brandenburg Knights’ Tournament, and the panoramic terrace
from which it is possible to admire the whole city, perfect for an aperitif or a romantic dinner or, why not?, a breakfast with a view. All these ambiences could stand together on the podium of my favourites but I’d put the Arena Casarini in first place.
What’s your favourite memory?
There are so many of them, it’s hard to pick put one in particular. But I do have fond memories of some celebrities. One is Sting, who was really kind with the fans and all the hotel staff. It was a meeting I still cherish. I like to be able to grasp the sensibility and personality of every guest. If a person is self-effacing and reserved, we continue to dedicate them the utmost attention but we become invisible. If the opposite is true, our approach changes, though we still stay discreet.
In the course of the years, of the many famous people have stayed at the hotel, who has impressed you most?
The are many stories to tell about the guests at our hotel. And they all concern figures from the past. Even Garibaldi stayed here, on an official visit in 1867. He roused the people’s spirits making a speech from the balcony in favour of Italian unity. We still have the notes for the speech. It’s an exceptional document in that it reveals that people were planted in the crowd. They were put there to make pre-established interventions that served as a cue for Garibaldi to reply and give life to apparently spontaneous exchanges. We even have a copy of the menu for the meal Garibaldi ate here on that occasion. By today’s standards, it was quite a feast.
In recent times, we have had many celebrities as guests. From Bruce Springsteen to Paul McCartney to Richard Gere, whose many special requests we promptly met. Helpfulness and, sometimes, a healthy dose of creativity enable us to comply with everyone’s wishes.
Describe us a typical day in the life of the manager of the Due Torri Hotel?
One half of the time is given over to planning and routine, the other to handling unforeseen events. Every morning when I get in, I check how things have gone the evening and the night before and make a tour to inspect every area. Any business that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is inevitably based on the concept of delegation, which is one of the reasons why it’s always necessary to be watchful and attentive. The hotel is like a large mechanism and it’s vital for every cog to be well-oiled and perfectly functioning. I never fail to hold a daily briefing with the various service supervisors to cater for special requests from the guests. It’s necessary to periodically take stock of bookings and reservations, competitors’ moves, pricing policies and so on. Every day I also have to devote time to answering correspondence and so-called office work. The rest of the day is taken up by meetings with everyone – the chef, the maître, the housekeeper and reception staff – and I also chat with guests to have constant feedback.
The Due Torri Hotel is a focal point in Verona. How do you see its role in the city? What relationship does it have with citizens?
The Due Torri Hotel is a reference point for the institutions. They are here regularly and they know it as one of the pillars of hospitality in the city. As for the Veronesi themselves, they view the palazzo with admiration and awe because it is, by definition, the hotel of VIPs and celebrities not just of the present and also of the past, the likes of Goethe, Mozart, Radetzky and European nobility. My aim, indeed my mission, is to attract people to the place, which is part of their cultural and architectural heritage. We are slowly doing this by exploiting our unique panoramic terrace: there’s no place to compare with it in Verona, where the citizens are rediscovering it and appreciating it as a location for informal events, aperitifs and dinners.
When you’re travelling, what do you note the most in hotels elsewhere?
For someone who does my job, it’s hard to “travel light”, without carrying my professional baggage with me. Sometimes I have to force myself to avoid paying too much attention to details. I’m not a very demanding traveller and I’m prepared to put up with virtually anything. And I’m also understanding, precisely because I know how much commitment it takes to be on the other side. Having managed different types of hotel, I know that each is organised differently. Only if they ask me do I offer my feedback. It’s important for me to separate my everyday life from my holiday, which I like to be as carefree as possible.