His hospitality portfolio includes G-Rough, a ten-suite hotel housed in a 16th century building in Rome, and Palazzo Daniele – a master stroke of minimalist majesty in the village of Gagliano del Capo in Puglia. For him, art, design and history are a holy triumvirate. We spoke to Salini about the motivations and inspirations behind his redefinition of the Italian hospitality scene.
Palazzo Daniele is “inspired by the concept of absence” – could you elaborate?
When deciding on Palazzo Daniele’s fate from a visual redesign standpoint, Milanese architecture duo Ludovica Serafini and Roberto Palomba advised us to take things back to essentials – to “exalt the void”. This, we would come to understand, meant stripping back and exaggerating the grandeur of the place: monastically simple bedrooms highlighting vaulted ceilings, mirrored salons, exposed walls and a striking open-air courtyard that is Palazzo Daniele’s architectural centrepiece.
In doing this, we “freed” these spaces from their conventional functions, creating a dramatic canvas for the palazzo’s contemporary art collection. Palazzo Daniele now highlights the sanctity of absence, which allows artists to create new works, a sort of macro-scale atelier.
What, for you, makes the experience of visiting G-Rough so authentically “Roman”?
Firstly, G-Rough’s more than 400-year-old history provides guests a Roman experience in the truest sense. Originally built in the 1600s and renovated in the late 1800s, its architecture showcases the typical bourgeois style of the 17th Century. When you walk through its halls and sleep in its rooms, you’ll see exposed concrete, unearthed fragments of wall decoration with pencil sketches from years gone by, and the building’s original timber beams and terracotta floors.
Secondly, this used to be my family’s home. I’m a ninth-generation Roman, and I think it gives people peace of mind to know this place is run by someone who has spent his whole life in Rome, creating a hospitality concept that celebrates Italian art, design and our past. There is an undeniable history here.
What’s your own personal definition of luxury?
Simple but good food, warm conversation and a sense of belonging. Our credo, “questa casa non è un albergo” (“this house is not a hotel”), provides the idea behind our philosophy, hospitality and kitchens. My goal with launching [hotel portfolio] GS Collection is to find authentic places, interesting because of their stories – places that are gateways to the local community … A hotel is no longer a comfortable bed and a nice bathroom; it is still that in a way, but it must create an honest connection with the city you are visiting.
Where, and in what situations, do you get your best creative ideas?
I feel most creative when I’m in an informal environment, such as a bar, where I can have an open dialogue and share my ideas with my artistic circle of friends, while drinking a good glass of wine.
Are tastes changing in the world of luxury accommodation – and how so?
There will always be a set of iconic luxury hotels that will remain classic and continue to offer their guests anonymous luxury experiences. But I personally define luxury in terms of authenticity, and feel that there’s an influx of travellers who are now more interested in having a personal experience or connection to the place they are staying and the surrounding community. When creating our hotels, these are the kind of experiences GS Collection seeks to offer our guests.
Who has inspired you the most and how?
I have had so many interactions that have inspired me over the years, but if I had to choose my biggest inspiration, I would say it’s a statement from Buddha, who taught me that any of our actions can have important consequences that can last a lifetime – and in some cases beyond. This simple thought has lead me to acknowledge that there’s a choice behind all my actions, and taking responsibility for their consequences. This is why I try to be conscientious of the beauty around me and, simply put, I choose to surround myself with it.