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Independent Minds: Andrea Spalletti, Villa Spalletti Trivelli

When it comes to hotels with heritage, Villa Spalletti Trivelli is a historic Roman residence quite unlike any other. Its aristocratic origins as a family home with ties to Italian royalty can still be felt in the home-from-home ethos championed by its fifth generation owner, Andrea Spalletti. Protecting the legacy of their trailblazing great, great grandmother, the Spalletti spirit is as determined as ever to restore the Eternal City to its former glory.

What does being ‘Independently Minded’ as an hotel owner mean to you?

We try to keep honesty and transparency at the heart of everything we do, as there is nothing more independent than being honest in a world which has lost its honesty. Instilling a sense of loyalty and integrity in our staff is key, alongside holding a deep respect for the people we host and work with. Our guests who choose Villa Spalletti, and choose to keep coming back to us, are all independently minded themselves, all from interesting walks of life with creativity at their core.

My great, great grandmother, Countess Gabriella Rasponi Spalletti, is the perfect example of what being independently minded means to me. In 1897, she purchased the land across from the gardens of the Quirinal Palace, where the house of Tito Pomponio Attico, editor and friend of Cicero, once stood. She entrusted the task of building Villa Spalletti Trivelli to renowned architect Domenico Avenali, and when completed, quickly became an important political and cultural meeting place thanks to Gabriella’s influential place within the Italian royal circles as lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Italy and position as President of the National Council of Italian Women. Sadly, my great, great grandfather never saw the completion of the villa, but in a way this allowed Gabriella to step into the shoes of the ‘man of the house’.

Countess Gabriella Rasponi Spalletti, widow of Count Venceslao Spalletti Trivelli, Senator of the Kingdom of Italy, niece of Gioacchino Murat and Carolina Bonaparte (Napoleon’s sister).

She was an incredible, forward-thinking woman for her era, and indeed any era, as one of the first Italian suffragettes and founder of the first Italian women’s association in Lucciano, creating a place of refuge for women suffering from domestic abuse, setting up the country’s first private pension fund to protect women’s salaries, and providing underprivileged women with an education and means to live independently in a patriarchal society. By giving the female voice the freedom it so deserves, she left an inspirational legacy to both my family and the women of Italy. She would be the one member of my family I would love to have met, even just sitting with her for a few hours would have been so special.

What was the inspiration behind the hotel, and where do you continue to find sources of inspiration?

My great, great grandmother’s inspiration and heritage has never left our villa, the energy she created here is still tangible to those who visit today, you can still feel her presence within the walls. I still feel inspired thinking about how she elevated some bricks and four walls to become a safe haven for women, authors, artists, and creatives of all social extractions and origins, which in the 19th century was no small feat.

Andrea Spalletti photographed at the villa with his father, Giangiacomo Spalletti Trivelli, mother, Susanna D’Inzeo, and sister, Raimonda Spalletti Trivelli.

Continuing the family tradition, it was a natural transition from the villa as our private family home to a hotel – my sister and I lived the villa, experienced the villa with our parents and grandparents, my father was born and raised in the villa. Today, we give guests a chance to be part of our family.

How do you think your hotel stands apart from other boutique hotels?

We are not a boutique hotel, we are a boutique home which works as a hotel. Homely hospitality is very different from other luxury services and experiences – if you need to feel at home, the last thing you want is an entourage of staff surrounding you, constantly asking if you’re ok, or if you need another glass of wine. At Villa Spalletti we pride ourselves on providing a completely non-intrusive service which makes you feel at home, making the moments feel as though you are staying at your family summer house enjoying a glass of wine, talking about the fish you saw snorkelling, or the round of golf you just played that afternoon. While there is no such thing as home-away-from-home, we try to recreate that at-home feeling.

“We are not a boutique hotel, we are a boutique home which works as a hotel.”

Food and home are two things in one, we all have certain dishes which make us feel at home – for me, the lemon meatballs recipe from my great grandmother’s cook from the 1950s is a taste of home. When I eat a meatball, no matter where I eat them in the world, my first thought is ‘home.’ If we had a Michelin-star chef, we would be betraying what we are all about at Villa Spalletti. When you eat at home, the key things are simplicity, flavour, and dosage – if you serve a friend some pasta at home, you’re not going to serve them 50 grams. It has to be generous, nothing too fancy, or overcomplicated. My great grandmother’s long-suffering chef Paolo used to write down a daily menu and present her with incredibly lavish dishes – to which she used to say, “What is this? If I wanted this, I would go out to a restaurant.”

If you only had 24 hours to get a taste for your hotel experience, what would you recommend a guest must do?

I would recommend waking up in the Regola Suite, the room I slept in as a child when I lived at the villa. Breakfast is there to be enjoyed, so take your time. Before the pandemic, this was a full buffet spread, but all the same dishes are now available à la carte. This will take you into mid-morning, where you can sit outside in the sunshine, or under the gazebo in the gardens. Stroll around the Monti neighbourhood which is still owned and run by the Romans for the Romans, avoiding all the busy, tourist-packed areas of the city.

Come back to the villa for a late meatball lunch with home-produced wines in Umbria, followed by a dip in our rooftop Jacuzzi with a gin and tonic in hand. Sweat out the gin and tonic in our Turkish bath and sauna, before enjoying a relaxing 90-minute spa treatment. Then it’s ravioli time.

After dinner, sit beneath the tapestries and our Roubens painting as you pour yourself a drink from our 24-hour, complimentary self-service bar. No need to wait for a bar-tender so you can enjoy your evening on your own time.

How would you describe your own perfect luxury experience?

A luxury experience is all about creating physical, mental, and personal space. Having spent a lot of time in Asia, I have seen first-hand how unobtrusive the hospitality is there compared to the service in Europe and the Americas. In Asia, you learn what taking care of people really means, and how genuinely happy the staff are to see me. When you step out of the chaos of an airport into the tranquillity of a Thai sanctuary or Maldives retreat, and you’re greeted with a cool drink and flower garland – this is my idea of perfect.

“I also believe that you can’t just let the scenery of a destination do the talking, unfortunately views don’t fill my soul. You can have the most incredible views in the world, but these shouldn’t define your luxury experience.”

Do you have a vision for the future of the hotel?

Whilst it’s difficult for a heritage building to be completely eco-friendly, we are taking small steps to be more sustainable – from reducing paper and plastic use and the changing of bed linen, to turning off the Turkish bath when not required.

We also have a wonderful community, working with the likes of the Association of Historical Villas & Houses whom we have hosted annually for quite some time now for a special evening where visitors are invited to share their feedback on how the villa is being maintained from a heritage perspective. We would also like to continue being a part of local projects like Retake Rome, a charitable organisation dedicated to improving Rome in any way that it can, from cleaning up the streets to school outreach educational programmes. We recently joined their clean up of the Kings’ Gardens, which had been closed for three years and neglected by the city’s gardeners. Some of our villa’s bedrooms have garden views, which are now pristine thanks to the work of our staff and Retake Rome’s volunteers.

Our long term vision is for the villa to become the home of our repeater guests, to strengthen the relationship with our villa lovers, and eventually to create a members only experience for our most loyal clients. We’d like to make their experience with us so personalised, that we become their Roman concierge for the whole year, not just when they stay with us.