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Redefining Luxury

Q&A with leading luxury hospitality consultant,

Michele Sambaldi on the meaning of luxury travel today.


June, 2024

Aerial view of Ischia Island
Sambaldi recommends visiting Ischia island near Naples

LFI: As a hospitality consultant with experience in international luxury chains such as Bulgari Hotels and Resorts, what are some key factors that travellers should consider when selecting luxury accommodations in Italy to ensure a truly exceptional experience?

M.S: Today, in the hospitality business, luxury is becoming a huge space where international and national brands are strongly trying to jump in. There is a long string of luxury hotels opening in the near future. Hopefully, all these hotels will bring along  and develop the proper hospitality luxury culture. I think travellers should consider accommodations as a combination of solid reputation, powerful commitment to the guests and a track record of “going beyond expectations”.

Italy is renowned for its culinary offerings. Could you provide insight into how travellers can best experience the finest Italian cuisine and wine during their stay, especially within the context of luxury hospitality?

M.S: From a food perspective I think that the keyword is ‘simplicity’. In the luxury hospitality business, simplicity and luxury do not seem to share the same value proposition:indeed, they do.

Simplicity is about intense taste, incredible ingredients and less processing. I hope we will see more and more Italian luxury hotels that will try to offer “the best spaghetti al pomodoro of the territory” in their menu. Obviously with a great service. Talking about wine, Italy has such an incredible variety of local products: apart from famous and recognized brands, there is a great opportunity of proposing amazing and not very well known local wines. The role of an expert sommelier will therefore be crucial.

Given your expertise in business projects within the luxury hospitality sector, what unique opportunities exist for luxury travellers looking to engage in exclusive experiences or events while visiting Italy

M.S: I would suggest to go “local”. When I think of a luxury traveller, my mind goes to experiences that are full of beauty, pure emotions and discovery. Luxury is not only about looking for expensive accommodations and amazing service, luxury is also a “food for your soul journey.”

My suggestions is to choose new territories and look for an intimate connection with them: Rome, Venice, Florence and Capri are iconic but I think that Italy is full of less known and yet beautiful destinations that deserve to be discovered.

What advice would you give to travellers seeking to strike a balance between exploring Italy’s iconic tourist destinations and discovering hidden gems off the beaten path that offer a more exclusive and personalized experience?

M.S: I know that Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples, Capri and Costiera Amalfitana are the place to be. But it’s also true that they are often overcrowded. So let me suggest three destinations: my beloved and amazing Ischia, an isle off the coast of Naples, where you can experience a great combination of special food and wine, thermal water, amazing beaches and relaxing hiking to Monte Epomeo. It’s a territory full of history and traditions. Bolzano and the Dolomites. Bolzano is a small town in Trentino Alto-Adige, in the north-east of Italy. It is the perfect gate to access to the Dolomites mountains: Dolomites offer a breathtaking landscape, you can ski in winter and rest your soul during the summer.  Last but not least the east/south east of Sardinia for sun and beaches and the opportunity of enjoying great food and wine.

Italy is home to a rich cultural heritage. How can luxury travellers best immerse themselves in the art, history, and traditions of Italy while still enjoying the comfort and service expected from luxury accommodations?

M.S: I see that luxury travel advisors are already looking for less common territories to offer to their clients. It means that there is a strong demand coming from their network. During their local scouting in Italy, advisors are testing new locations and connections with local professional guides that could become partners in this project. Hotels are moving in the same direction as well.

Many hospitality brands have understood this great opportunity and are trying to open luxury hotels in these less known areas that are still full of art, history and traditions.


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