When summer returns, the lucky among us will be enjoying it in Italy—ideally by the sea, and enviably at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento, the unofficial gateway to the Amalfi Coast. More than a hotel, the Excelsior Vittoria is a temple of the opulent, old-world glamour for which Italy is famous. Its impeccable location—nestled amidst five acres of gardens on a cliff overlooking the Bay of Naples—and service are rivalled only by its storied history.
Founded in 1834 by the Fiorentino family, the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria has welcomed numerous distinguished guests, celebrities, artists, monarchs, and countless other luminaries. Every detail, arch, or ornament of the structure tells a story. For Guido Fiorentino, president and CEO, the business of hospitality runs in his blood. The fifth-generation hotelier grew up in the hotel and, today, is artfully balancing heritage with modern penchants. “When I was a child here, we were many cousins, and the rule was we cannot be inside in the hotel after 5 o’clock in the afternoon,” recounts Fiorentino of his childhood experiences at the Excelsior Vittoria. “We were very curious. What’s going on in the hotel after 5? And so we would sneak by the back office to watch.”
Huddled by the door, the bambini would peep and marvel at “all the ladies with dresses, all the men with jackets, and all the waiters with white gloves serving,” details Fiorentino. A long-lost epoch of travel and wide-eyed wonder at the world: “It was very classic, and by today’s standards, too much classic, but that’s how it was at the time. Years go on and you see people travelling in a different way.”
Staying relevant in today’s digital landscape is key for a long-standing hotel like the Excelsior Vittoria. “It’s an honour for me to represent the family, running the business, but at the same time, it is a big task,” says Fiorentino. He faces the challenges of carrying on the family’s mantle in an increasingly competitive environment, and adapting to rapidly changing technology. Over the generations, the Fiorentinos have managed their property with a home-is-where-the-heart-is approach. “We want to give to the people coming here the feeling that you’re coming to a place that was not built to impress but was built to feel like home.” The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria is a mix of beauty and ease—world-class Italian hospitality in every aspect. “I know this place has a soul,” affirms Fiorentino.
In a family-owned hotel lies the autonomy of decision. As Fiorentino explains, “a general manager must bring positive results to the hotel chain he works for; instead, an owner can sometimes afford to make less profitable investments to achieve certain goals. I can buy a valuable painting and decide to hang it in a room because it enhances it. My parents did this. They furnished each room as if it were their bedroom.” The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria and “the atmosphere you breathe are distinctive. And it’s all the result of the passion of a family who dedicated their life to the hotel.”
Each of the rooms is elegantly furnished with antiques collected over the years. No two rooms are the same. Fiorentino’s mother, Signora Lidia, continues antiquing, visiting Arezzo and Parma (known to host the best antique fairs in the country). When she finds a piece she likes, “she buys it and we put it in the hotel,” says Fiorentino, grinning, “we rotate furniture”.
Although Fiorentino grew up in the hotel business, his late father told him to “do something else, and maybe, if you have the chance to come back and work in the family business, you do.” His sentiment is the same for his two sons.
The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria is Fiorentino’s home away from home (which is in Naples), and whether you encounter him, Ornella, his wife, Luca or Peter, his sons, in the garden, on the terrace, in one of the restaurants, or in the halls, the ever-gracious family take the time to pause, listen, and say grazie—to staff and guests. No bambini peeping from the back office though—at least not yet.
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