For the past 35 years, while we all looked on in awe, our beautiful friend Valeriano Antonioli has been building a truly remarkable career in luxury.
Following in the footsteps of Ferragamo’s famous founder, Salvatore Ferragamo, the Lungarno Collection CEO returned to live and work in Florence following a stint in the US, where he was previously Managing Director of InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa, and General Manager of W Los Angeles-Westwood. He has put his multi-lingual skills to good use in managerial positions in Italy, Germany, Russia, and England with leading hotel groups including the Sheraton Diana Majestic and the Dorchester Collection’s Principe di Savoia in Milan, and Belmond’s Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg.
Created in 1995 by Leonardo Ferragamo, the son of Salvatore, Valeriano now presides over Italy’s prestigious Lungarno Collection, including; Hotel Lungarno, Gallery Hotel Art, and Continentale in Florence; Villa Le Rose in Tuscany; Portrait Roma in Rome; Resort Baia Scarlino Yacht Club & Residences and Nautor’s Swan Yacht in Tuscany; three restaurants in Florence – Borgo San Jacopo, Fusion Bar & Restaurant and Caffè dell’Oro; and the newest member of the Lungarno family, Portrait Firenze, which sits on the most romantic stretch of the River Arno in Florence and was launched at ILTM in Cannes in 2014.
Here’s what Valeriano had to say about the current preoccupations of a leader in luxury travel when we caught up with him this week…
“The best decision I ever made was to follow my dreams and became an hotelier. Travel unifies. Travel enables people to understand cultures a bit better, and I feel extremely fortunate to welcome wayfaring strangers to our city with open arms, creating an undeniably fantastic experience that they will hold with them forever.
As one of the world’s largest economic sectors, the Travel & Tourism industry drives exports, generates prosperity across the world, and creates 1 out of every 11 jobs, generating a much higher turnover than – for example – the automotive industry and other industries that are better represented and lobbied on a political level. Our industry is still very segmented and often players in the same city see each other as competitors instead of an allies. If they only think about their individual properties, it becomes difficult to collaborate and promote their common destination. In Florence, we think that dialogue between hotels is extremely important. That’s why we are part of “Firenze, yes Please”, an exclusive partnership between eleven 5-star hotels working together to promote the city to international travellers in a unique way.
It is important that the travel industry works to play a part in issues of sustainability and the environment, when their geographical location permits them to. Currently, all our properties are located in the historical centres of Rome and Florence where, unfortunately, the legislation understandably prefers to protect the historical and artistic values of the buildings rather than – for example – implement solar panels as the new way to produce energy at a low impact. Through our restaurants we can embrace local sustainability. Local food support and responsible land development will only enhance our environment. By purchasing local, we enrich our social community – we create a more intimate relationship with our neighbourhood suppliers – and permit to always offer fresh and high quality ingredients to our guests.
Globally, the challenge is to keep up with the high level of technology which is reshaping the travel industry. The opportunity for us is the development of the Portrait Brand which represents a very high level of personalisation. We believe that future means “human”; human personalization, human connection, human authenticity.
I keep the world moving by sharing personal experiences on my social networks. I have a lot of fun doing it and, somehow, I feel closer to my friends on the other side of the ocean. We live in uncertain times but the only thing we know for sure is that we will all die one day, meanwhile we should enjoy our life to the fullest and take advantages of all possibilities to travel, experience and share the good moments with others. My tips for a successful ILTM are to maintain a positive attitude and genuinely be happy to meet old friends and make new ones along the way. Always travel with good and funny stories to share. This, I believe, will somehow extend our life.”