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At the helm of Six Senses Rome, Francesca Tozzi is raising the bar in Rome's booming hospitality and making the capital a key international luxury destination


At the helm of Six Senses Rome, Francesca Tozzi is raising the bar in Rome's booming hospitality and making the capital a key international luxury destination

Category: Europe - Italy - Interviews and portraits - Interviews - Industry leaders
Interview made by Vanessa Guerrier-Buisine on 2023-08-04

For over 30 years, Francesca Tozzi has been living her passion. With the opening of new hotels, the arrival of guests, meeting new teams, working with architects and artists engaged alongside her… so many experiences and key moments that make her love her job.

A recent graduate of John Cabot University in Rome, Francesca Tozzi joined Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts in 1992. First in Milan, before flying to New York, where she spent three years working in various departments. From reception to housekeeping management, this experience shaped her vision of luxury hospitality.

Her return to Italy meant a switch to family-run hotel groups, starting with the Villa d'Este group, where she spent more than nine years. At Villa d'Este, set against the sublime backdrop of Lake Como, she displayed her talents in accommodation, before moving to Florence and Tuscany to take on her first role as General Manager at Villa Massa. She then joined the Pellicano Hotels Group, where she spent over four years at the helm of Il Pellicano, on the Monte Argentario peninsula. These were hotels with a strong identity, Italian charm and a rich history, where she was able to deploy her expertise, tinged with a pronounced attachment to human connections, both with her guests and with her teams.

The Italian leaves Tuscany for a major project, joining the Capri Tiberio Palace. There she assumed management of a hotel that was “not in great shape”, turning it into a jewel of the Capri hospitality industry. Ten years of work, accompanied by the owners and the architect Giampiero Panepinto, enabled her to restore the image of this property, to make it a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, and to link it to the most prestigious luxury travel agency networks. Involved in the renovation, the repositioning of the hotel, the recruitment choices and the sales efforts, she is naturally proud of the success of this project.

However, she felt the need to make a fresh start, to return to her roots, and a project in Rome opened its arms to her in 2021. She embraced this new adventure, before giving in to the siren calls of Six Senses, which chose the Eternal City to set up an urban hotel.

For the Journal des Palaces, Francesca Tozzi has a look at this new adventure, which is taking her to the firmament of luxury hotels.

Journal des Palaces: Why did you choose luxury hospitality as a career?

Francesca Tozzi: I have fallen in love with this vitality industry since my very beginning. I have been one of those lucky 21–22 years old who was involved in the opening of a hotel, in with a very important brand (Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, note from the editor), that was opening for the first time in Italy and this was Milan.
Since then, I basically fell in love with the action, mostly, that the hotel gives you. It's always so dynamic, as a job. I've always been happy to communicate and to be with people.

How would you define the luxury hospitality?

Luxury hospitality nowadays is about the sensation that the guest has and the expectation that he has, to be in a very beautiful, luxurious, which needs to be a personal choice. Luxury is a sense of atmosphere and stay that you want to have, according to the person you are.

Six Senses will never be Bulgari. We are so different, and so beautiful at the same time. There will be guests that will choose us for a certain type of vibe and design style, versus other guests.

It’s a combination of ingredients. The guest expects to be surprised, but most of all, it's the human touch that makes a difference in luxurious vitality.

Why did you join Six Senses?

I'm originally from Rome and decided that it was time to come back. I managed to come back to Rome, to follow new projects that I was supposed to start, and then Six Senses came in June 2021, that's how it started.
I couldn't let this opportunity pass by, I knew the company from its reputation. I loved the idea that they were opening their first urban hotel in Italy, in Rome, in my hometown. I love the culture and the pillars of the company, mostly the sustainability and the Wellness, but most of all, the emotional hospitality. It's very much in my DNA as well.

I've always been that kind of manager, the kind of leader that wanted to be inclusive to the team and be able to set up goals and to reach whatever the objective together.

We're thinking both for creating experiences with guests, creating that momentum, which combines the reconnecting with yourself as well. And that is done, thanks to the philosophy, the fun, and quirkiness, the emotional hospitality, that the whole team transmits.

We are all pushed to be able to give this sense of balance in a very efficient, smart, but relaxed, in the sense of environment, in the sense of luxury. It’s not too stiff, it's not white gloves. It's a relaxed, sustainable, understated luxury.

We care about making the guests feel connected with themselves first, then with the world around, and with the people around. This is what defines successes to me, and to many guests.

After a year and a half of preparation, we finally opened in March 2023. It's very exciting, I love the brand, I love the company, the people that I'm working with, and so far, it's been a great journey.

Could you describe what the Six Senses Roma offers its guests?

The DNA is about eating healthy and well, eating quality, seasonal and very local products. It is also about the spa or having a wonderful ritual as well, upon arrival or before going to bed, like blackouts or “sleep with Six Senses” programme.

Six Senses gives guests a very design luxurious in terms of product quality, of products very upscale. This property is a 16,000 square feet (ca. 1,486 m²) palazzo, with 5,000 square feet (464.52 m²) of travertine, which has been placed in a very different way.

Patricia Urquiola, our designer, has made an outstanding project where you have this sense of place, a very suiting type of atmosphere. You feel it from the very moment you enter from the busy hustle and bustle of the downtown centre. You have this very quiet daylight lobby, bar, and restaurant area. It's like a getaway from the craziness of the outside.

We have a small courtyard outside, and there is this gallery, a long corridor of windows which give natural light to the whole restaurant, which is an open space, where guests can mingle by eating, by meeting, by taking a coffee. Then The Palazzo has five floors, with a gorgeous rooftop, the Notos, which is another of our key selling points. This is a fantastic spot, one of our hotel strengths, which not only offers amazing treatments and wellness, but also a Roman bath experience in the minus one, in what used to be the vault because the building used to be a bank.

You're back in Rome, your hometown, to manage Six Senses. Why is Rome so dear to your heart?

I was born and raised until I was maybe 22–23 years old, and then I left.

Rome is a beautiful South city, and, especially living in this area, it gives you even more sense of the history, of the strength, of what many centuries of history have done. The architecture, the art, and every history behind, from the Romans to the noble families that have created Romance and have created palaces like this, that have enhanced the glory of the city, which still stands.

Even if it's crowded, full of traffic and dirty, it still has a wonderful weather, breathtaking sunsets, gorgeous discoveries that I still discover, and I didn't know about, not only the Vatican and the Coliseum, but visiting some new exhibitions like in Palazzo Colonna or Palazzo Pamphilj, and restaurants, bars, etc.
There's so much depth that you can go into, there is much wisdom here.

It is also a very green city on top of it. Something being so big and so old, you wouldn't expect, but it has a lot of green.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges and opportunities facing the luxury hospitality industry in Rome, and in Italy?

There are more brands and more luxury property, which were not as many present before. Many of the top hotels in Italy were elsewhere than Rome. This is what's changing in Rome, and it's going to be, in the next five years, an improvement of the quality of offer, of hospitality for the city. Which, I am confident, is also going to elevate the quality of the service because we will be so many, requesting to the administrations to be able to provide service of taxis, making sure that it's cleaner, etc.

All the major groups will be coming between this part, the centre and the Via Veneto, and we're talking all the big names, Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Rosewood, and so on. This will be challenging to have the business, but at the same time, it will give a lot of focus on Rome, which, hopefully, will bring interest for many other nationalities to come and visit. At the end of the day, you go to Paris at least twice a year. Paris is a city that you keep on visiting over and over, so is London or New York. Why shouldn't Rome?

What unique experiences do you offer your guests?

Experiences with art, of course, and sights, and then one of the things that we do here that has been really successful, is that we are totally open, with all our services as well for local guests. We have been having a very great response from the Romans or the locals that are also foreigners living in Rome, and joining us for our restaurants for our bar for our spa.

Going back to the special experiences, I think the sound healing experience is one of the most successful.

At Six Senses Rome, you have an Earth Laboratory within the hotel. This demonstrates your commitment to eco-responsibility. What concrete steps have you taken in this direction?

Indeed, every Six Senses hotel has an Earth laboratory, with its sustainability manager. He helps, teaching both guests and hosts (our employee). It becomes a space of workshops, of partnerships.

We also do partnership to protect the health, for example. We created a mascot that we're selling, and all the devolution of the selling goes into a fund.

In total, 0.5% of our revenue is put into a sustainability fund, which we can use for a sustainability project every year. Our first one this year was about refurbishing the façade of the nearby church that is next to our entrance.

Guests can know small things like how to make bee wraps or how to make candles, or learn how things can be recycled.

We do a sustainability tour showing the guests what kind of materials recycling waste project we have in place and also the beauty of a baptismal fountain that is underneath our pavements in the lobby, from the 4th century after Christ. It has to do with nature, but it also has to do with art because it’s about legacy.

Italians move to other countries to work. How do you retain talent? Do you have any concrete examples of this?

I feel it's a general world, not only in Italy. Everybody is having a problem finding talents to work in hospitality because of COVID-19 and with also a younger generation.

Work in the hospitality is a passion. It's a business that is open 24/7/365, with shifts, night shifts. It never stops. It's not as easy because many just say “I don't want to work weekends, I don't want to work overnights, or I'd rather not be on shift because I want to be in nine to five, Saturday and Sunday off”.

Internally, we try to offer benefits. This means physical things, like we provide foods for lunch or dinner, we provide a possibility of discounts for using in the service of retail, training, etc. We provide self development. And most of all, we try to transmit an atmosphere of comfort for the employees to work with. There is always a person who is ready to hear you, the GM and all the executive team that is ready to make the environment positive and endeavour to make the environment fun. Not only the busy working condition. It's a fine-tuning constantly to understand the right profile that is going to fit with us.

And then once they are together, attempt to find the good leaders that will be able to lead the people and make them feel important, that there will be room for improvement and grow in their positions. That is really the best we're trying to do.

We're really young, that's also a good factor for us, but we'll see a year from now where we will be.

Can you name a few professional encounters that have made a lasting impression on you? Do you have any mentors and if so, what role have they played in your career?

I had in particular three people, one is a family friend who was in the business, even if I have never worked with him, he inspired me.

I would also name Claudio Ceccherelli, CEO Shedir Hotel Collection, or Ezio Indiani, General Manager at Hotel Principe di Savoia, two great GM, that I started my career with. Both of them helped me move forward and mentored me. They gave me the empowerment, they gave me the opportunity.

What advice would you give to a young person looking for a career in the luxury hospitality industry?

Try to work besides studying. All the theory is great, it's important, but try to do stages or working periods, in as many departments as possible, without having any preconceived.

Because that's where you find your own passion and nature in the hospitality. Once you find it, it's going to be your lover for the rest of your life.

We have so many interns that all want to do front desk, but why not finance? Why not F&B or housekeeping? Get into the system because everything is connected, and maybe you will realize that being an executive housekeeper and having that knowledge and that responsibility is what you wish to do in the first five years of your career.
Open your mind. Hospitality is about people at all level, so if you like people, it doesn't have to be just the guest that you check in. That's the switch because many young people just think that.

More about...
Six Senses Rome
Piazza di San Marcello
00187 Rome
Groupe : Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas
Number of rooms and suites: 96

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About the author

As a journalist and luxury hotel expert inspired by the men and women who embody it, Vanessa aspires to enhance and sublimate the beauty and elegance of palaces through her writing. "In a palace, simplicity serves the quest for excellence" she admires.

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