When Marco Cilia left finance for the risky arena of hospitality, some might have seen his move as a defeat. But as a brilliant general once said, “We are not retreating, we are advancing in another direction.” Cilia has indeed advanced, and with such clear-eyed determination that the Italian has pulled off a stunning victory—both in hospitality and in life.
The secret to success for Cilia—who lives in Rome and London but is often jetting off to India or Africa—is one part good fortune and two parts paying attention to those around him who have forged creative and original paths of their own.
My father had a hotel in Tuscany and it was going through a rough time. So he asked me if I wanted to take a break from finance. After two years, I knew I wanted to stay in hospitality. But I had much to learn. So I went to work for Anouska Hempel at Blakes in London. She was my mentor, a pioneer in boutique hotels, After four years, I had an entirely new perspective on luxury.
No. Carlos Couturier and Moisés Micha of Grupo Habita approached me about helping them to open Hôtel Americano in New York. They target a younger audience than Blakes, building and nurturing a hotel’s community. So I knew there’d be a great learning curve working with them. Not only do they discover brilliant new talent in design and architecture, but they do the same with artists. I learned a great deal about the lifestyle element of a hotel, about how clients interact with design and with the local community.
Absolutely. I wanted to start my own brand in Italy, one with soul. I wanted something that was young, inclusive, glamorous, and gritty! I understood that it needed to be authentic and original. So I wanted a designer with an international outlook who was up-and-coming. Tristan Du Plessis, of Studio A, has a great international mindset. I just love his view of things and thought he was perfect.
The hotel is set in an historical part of Rome that was once filled with artisans. My idea was to find a look that incorporates the materials that, say, a blacksmith or metalworker used here—and mix that with something luxurious. So industrial metals and exposed brick play off luxurious fabrics and fine marble. I also brought my passion for art—installations from local and international artists sit beside street art and graffiti.
I think hotels are about the experience. You can have amazing design, great service, and all of that, but if the property itself doesn’t have life or a soul, then you have failed.
I am going through a stage now where I’m drawn to people who give back. The more you give back, the more I find that things come back to you. Helping others is a way to help yourself. It’s a beautiful thing!