Last month, while I was zapping channels, I came across a programme where Maria Sole Tognazzi , director of the film Viaggio sola, was explaining how the film had come about; the movie deals with the personal and professional life of a mystery guest (Margherita Buy) during her visits/inspections of hotels.
Maria Sole Tognazzi spoke about the difficulties encountered in producing the movie, above all in finding the filming locations where the actress would have to appear in her inspector capacities. She said that, after many failed attempts, she thought of contacting “Leading Hotels of the World “ in New York, and in a week’s time she was able to arrange what had not been possible in months of direct contacts in Italy.
Feeling curious, I went to see the movie, which is quite pleasant (without being a masterpiece): it has the quality of good colour postcards, it takes place in unique establishments (de Crillon in Parigi, Palace in Gstaad, La Mamounia in Marrakech, Adlon in Berlin, Fontaverde in San Casciano, Borgo Ignazia in Puglia) and it is a joy to watch for those who love hotels.
In the course of the story, the protagonist meets a lady at Hotel Adlon , who, while conversing in the bar, speaks to her about her view of luxury hotels; she feels they are artificial places, overly pompous and removed from real life (as soon as she arrived, she gave a gift to her assigned butler for him not to turn up again with his solicitous, annoying presence), and proposes that, the day after, they go together to the Turkish quarter in town to have lunch in a restaurant where they can eat well for 10 euros, in the midst of real people.
This meal in fact never takes place (I won’t tell you why, not to spoil the surprise of those who will see the movie) but the comments made encourage reflection on the essence of luxury in hospitality.
In brief, this is the question: is luxury the sum total of all that is most beautiful, costly, splendid and precious, or is it a balance of good taste and authenticity?
The answer is not easy, depending, as it does, on individual preferences and situations that often cut across different approaches.
My own feelings are based on unique experiences, lived in accordance with the specific nature of different places and the emotions conveyed by particular circumstances, rather than on luxury in itself. If I think of recent times, I can picture looking at Rome in the sunset, while the city lights are turning on, through the windows of the Rome Cavalieri (we should not forget, however, that there you can admire paintings and artworks that would be the joy of many museums), or the heart-rending sound of a saxophone on the terrace of Giardino di Costanzo in Mazara del Vallo on a warm, starry Sicilian night.
But hospitality is a business that – at each level – addresses a specific target; therefore it is important to be consistent with the target market and, if I should express my opinion, I would say that luxury is what makes guests feel good, and there are many who, in addition to good taste and authenticity, also seek splendour and perceptible costliness, with all due respect to the Adlon lady!
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