29 June, 2020
A tale of two brothers
With the passing of Carlino in 1984, Virginia and her brother Salvatore formed the "second generation" managing Il San Pietro. Salvatore had been with the hotel from its construction to the inauguration and throughout the years that followed. He was unconditionally fond of the San Pietro to the point of transferring his permanent residence to the only room in the hotel with access to a private floor. He was known for his Mediterranean savoir faire and flexible, informal nature; as much at ease speaking with an intern as with big personalities like Gregory Peck or Barbara Streisand. He was also passionate about cooking, a penchant matched by Carlino before and Vito after him. During the temporary absence of one of the restaurant chefs, he happily stepped in to fill this role for his guests.
Salvatore embodied the fashionable, cosmopolitan spirit of the San Pietro as well as an enlightened and charismatic institutional figurehead. In 1990 he decided to run for mayor of Positano, wanting to give back to the town that had given him so much. In the mornings he would go to City Hall, returning to the hotel in the afternoon. After browsing through the daily correspondence, he would dedicate himself entirely to his guests. With a large chunk of his time dedicated to civil duties, Salvatore asked his nephews, Carlo and Vito, to help with the day to day logistics of running the hotel.
Now young men, the two brothers had grown up breathing the San Pietro air, often mingling with the guests and helping their uncle and mother during their summer holidays. They had travelled a similar road, albeit in different lanes, as both cultivated their individual skills and studies.
Carlo, a graduate in Economics and Commerce, took over the accounting and fiscal responsibilities as Administrative Director. Practical by nature, his ability to know how to read between the numbers would play a fundamental role in crucial aspects of the financial management of the company, the sustainable development of the hotel and the administrative aspect of human resources. As former president of the Positano Red Cross, Carlo is sensitive to the hotel, guest and staff safety. He is also a great music lover, writing the lyrics for numerous compositions, including a collaboration with Welsh composer Karl Jenkins for whom he wrote Capriccio d'Amore (Capricious Love!) which was inserted in the album Kiri Sings Karl: Songs of Mystery & Enchantment, sung by New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa with the London Symphony Orchestra, and directed by Jenkins.
Vito, on the other hand, attended the Ecole hôtelière in Geneva and acquired significant experience working abroad in the luxury hotel industry. This classic training coupled with two years as an officer of the Carabinieri, would help shape his professional career and prove key to his disciplined approach in reshaping, streamlining and modernizing the San Pietro over the years.
Despite their differences in character and interests, the two brothers had always been a team. Sharing duties came second nature to them from the boat given them by Uncle Carlino, to the car they received from their father, the house they rented together and the money earned over the years. Now at the age of 25 and 28, they found themselves taking over the reins of the hotel when their uncle was elected as mayor. Carlo got “behind the desk”, instinctively taking on the administrative-bureaucratic and financial aspects, leaving Vito to become the effective hotel director, bringing his experiences from abroad into the halls, rooms and restaurant of the San Pietro.
Salvatore’s political career would last only one term; his love for the San Pietro absorbed him so much that he decided to return full time, until his untimely death a year later in 1996. Ten years on, a boardroom in Positano’s Town Hall would be named after him.
With the death of her brother, Virginia handed over the complete management of the San Pietro to her sons, Carlo and Vito. The two brothers made a pact they would honour above wives, girlfriends, problems or differences, “Since many family run organizations fall into decline as a result of internal arguments, let’s you, mum and I make a promise to remain united and find an agreement even when we disagree.” It is a promise they have kept to this day.
Now firmly at the San Pietro helm, the brothers began to stamp their tangible imprint on the hotel, launching it on a new path towards a radical internal transformation and enrichment of services that would augment its prestigious profile. As the San Pietro was fast becoming a destination unto itself, investment in the property focused on its metamorphosis from hotel to resort, where guests could find everything they expected from a holiday on the Amalfi Coast without ever leaving the premises.
The hotel’s 30th anniversary at the turn of the millennium was celebrated with a sumptuous party, but perhaps more importantly, it marked the conception of enthusiastic plans for the total makeover and renovation of the San Pietro. In collaboration with the studio of architect Fausta Gaetani, Vito would expertly ferry the San Pietro from the classic image that made it famous over the years to the modern and refined design of today, without affecting its charm and links to the territory and its roots.
It would not be a simple modernization, but a total rebuilding and remodeling of each room, structure and surface, giving absolute priority to space--one of the most exclusive luxuries on the Amalfi Coast.
Passionate about cooking, Vito launched the San Pietro on a path towards culinary excellence, starting with the Michelin-starred restaurant, Zass—the first hotel in southern Italy and first restaurant in Positano to receive a star--and continuing with the opening of the Carlino directly on the sea in 2008. This reputation for excellence was further enhanced by the construction of a new, avant-garde kitchen in 2016, awarded the most environmentally friendly and technologically advanced in the world.
In just half a century the San Pietro has become one of the great icons of Italian hospitality and among the most appreciated in the world. According to its many regular guests, this success can be traced to a very intense attraction that the hotel arouses in those who stay or simply visit. A mixture of feelings that gather in enthusiasm before arriving, an inebriation of the place’s beauty upon arrival, feeling part of something magical during their stay, a sweet melancholy that pervades when they leave and the acute desire to return when they are far away.
Over time, the San Pietro family has grown to 160 staff members, making it the largest business enterprise in Positano. It is safe to say, the hospitality that began with Carlino, Salvatore and Virginia remains unchanged today under the management of Carlo and Vito, and will continue with future generations, trusting in the nature of a place that speaks to sensitive souls who know how to listen to it.
If you come to Positano, stop at the lookout on the bend just before Il San Pietro. It is Virginia’s favorite spot from where she can view everything dear to her, the same view that Carlino saw: the sea straight ahead, Positano on the right and Praiano on the left. Nestled in the centre of this ethereal tableau, stands Il San Pietro, the hotel of dreamers.