La Moda Italia with Lady Olga Polizzi

Trey Ross talks design secrets with Lady Olga Polizzi, the visionary behind some of our favorite hotels in Italy and beyond.

Anyone who’s ever stepped foot in a Rocco Forte Hotel knows it’s special. Each one has its own distinct sense of place—and what the style and design convey is an elegant, abundant and comfortable atmosphere. And it’s all thanks to Lady Olga Polizzi, deputy chairman and director of design at Rocco Forte Hotels. Having learned the hospitality ropes from her father Lord Forte, Lady Olga and her brother Sir Rocco create properties that are the destination‚ like Indagare favorites Brown’s Hotel in London, Hotel de Russie, Hotel de la Ville and Rocco Forte House in Rome, Hotel Savoy in Florence, Sicily properties Villa Igiea and Verdura Resort, along with Masseria Torre Maizza in Puglia. In the next two years, the highly anticipated Italian openings are The Carlton in Milan and the new Liscia di Vacca resort on Costa Smeralda in Sardinia. Here, Lady Olga shares some of her favorite design inspirations, how to make a space your own and more.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer for assistance planning a trip to a Rocco Forte property. Our team can match you with the hotels that are right for you, as well as advise on all our favorite activities and must-see sites.

How does the location of your hotels inspire your design choices?

“The location and the look of the building are of utmost importance. A resort by the sea—people go on holiday, and it’s more relaxed.... And, every city calls out for its own design. If it’s Berlin, it’s harder, younger, more vibrant. If it’s Rome, it’s a grand lady, and it has to be quite serious and very Italian... We’re doing Milan with Paolo Moschino again (we did Villa Igiea with him and that’s been a great success). It was beautiful to start with, but it had really gone to rack and ruin... now it feels as if it’s what it should be—rather romantic, just a very beautiful design. We put back a lot of what should have been there... and it looks as if we’ve done nothing. In fact, we’ve done the hotel from top to bottom.”Related: Melissa's Favorite New Finds in Florence

For the Milan opening, is there a particular design element that you’re especially excited about?

“We’ve got an interesting building. On one side, the main entrance is on Via Senato, which is quite a bustling street, but we’ve got a garden backing onto it. On the other side it’s Via de la Spiga, which is the best shopping street in Milan....We took out some of the floor from the first floor, so we’ve got a double height now in the entrance with huge columns and a reception desk in between—and that immediately gives a sense of grandeur. We’ve got a living wall behind glass that goes on to a new bar area. We’ve put a taller glass roof—and that’s like an inside-outside space. Then we’ve majored on the garden with a lot of trellising and an outside bar and seating area. So the ground floor will be quite buzzy and exciting, and people will see each other. We’ve tried to make it as Milanese as possible. It’s very different from Rome and Florence. Florence is sort of the pretty younger sister. It’s more flirty, more fun probably. Milan is quite serious, and Rome is somewhere in between.”

What’s the special sauce in mastering how it feels when you walk into a Rocco Forte property?

“Well, if I’m doing the job, I always mix. Italy is known for its modern contemporary designs—I love buying old pieces and adding them in. Very few big companies do that. But I love mixing—whether it’s a tapestry or a table for the entrance.... For rooms in Rome I’m buying old wooden-framed sofas in England. We re-upholster them in contemporary fabrics. It just gives rooms another look."Related: What’s New in Rome: Where to Stay, Eat, Shop & Explore in the Eternal City

Any tips for making a space feel truly your own?

“It is better to overscale. Even if you’ve got a small room, it’s nice to have one big piece. Otherwise, the room looks smaller. And have one expensive piece—whether it’s a lovely mirror, a really nice picture, a beautiful sofa. Then even if the rest of your furniture is not expensive, the room looks good. And be bold with color. I’ve got bolder as I’ve got older. Halls can be a strong dark color because you’re walking through them. It’s quite nice to have an impact when you walk in. Then maybe a softer, calmer color where you are sitting all day. Don’t skimp on curtains. With a chair it’s fun to do a plain color on the back and a pattern color down the middle. Maybe add a painted shade on one of the lamps.... A little bit of fun in the room captures the eyes and gives people a bit of interest.”

Extra: Two for the Road

Top Shops in Rome and Florence

“The best Max Mara is in Florence. And I love necklaces. So Angela Caputi does all these marvelous plastic necklaces—but it’s really fun. And I always come back with three of those if I go to Florence. Angela Caputi is now also in Rome [and Milan], which is rather a pity because you have to go to Florence to find her. And she’s a woman of a certain age. She only has women working for her. I love her as a person—and I must have 50 or 60 of her necklaces. I’m always buying them when I go.”

Favorite Drinks

“I love an Aperol spritz. I also love a Campari soda like my father did. And a Negroni.”

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer for assistance planning a trip to a Rocco Forte property. Our team can match you with the hotels that are right for you, as well as advise on all our favorite activities and must-see sites.

Published onNovember 10, 2023

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