Continuing her family’s 30-year legacy within the hospitality sphere, Sara Maestrelli joined her Aunt Elena in operating their luxury five-star hotels across Italy, referred to as Collezione Em, after straying entirely from her initial career vision related to philosophy and neuroscience. Today, Sara embodies the effortless sophistication and Italian glamour that these luxe boutique hotels in Florence, Forte dei Marmi, and Venice naturally exude.
We sat down with Sara Maestrelli of Collezione Em to discuss the hospitality brand’s vision and its highly-anticipated hotel opening in Venice, Violino d’Oro, which will debut in November 2023.
Can you tell us about Collezione Em and the brand’s story? How did it become a family business?
“The Collezione Em brand started a little over one year ago, but hospitality in my family dates back over three decades. My grandfather bought Grand Hotel Minerva, a historic hotel in the heart of Florence, as an investment 30 years ago—and soon the Collezione Em flagship property—before purchasing Villa Roma Imperiale in Forte dei Marmi. Hospitality was not originally my family’s core business, but it stems almost entirely from my Aunt Elena. She turned Collezione Em into reality and guided me, my younger cousin Gaia, and our female familial lineage within the hospitality space. The name Collezione Em comes from my grandfather’s initials—Egiziano Maestrelli. Coincidentally, they are the initials of my aunt.”
What ties together the Collezione Em hotels? How does Violino d’Oro differentiate itself?
“What unites our hotels is their differences. We believe hotels are a central part of traveling, and they can completely change your experience. Once you’ve traveled to the other side of the world, in a country like Italy, which has such a critical art history and culture, it’s a pity to go to bed in a place that looks like Hong Kong or Paris. Our idea is that when you’re in Florence, you know you’re in Florence, even in the bathroom. The same thing happens in Venice; the pavement is all Terrazzo pavement, hand-crafted by the Venetian family, who still does it by hand. Then you have Villa Roma Imperiale in Forte dei Marmi, which is very special because it emanates La Dolce Vita lifestyle.”
Can you describe some of the design aspects of creating Violino d’Oro?
“Imagine you had a Venetian friend who was an art collector; Violino d’Oro is probably what their home would look like. It’s particular to the eclectic art influences that define Venice for what it is today. It’s an entirely Italian-made project comprising Italian craftsmanship, mainly Venetian and Florentine. All the fabrics are tailor-made from Rubelli in Venice, and the chandeliers come from Venini.
Who creates the intricate illustrations for Violino d’Oro and the Collezione Em hotels?
“Since we don’t use renderings, we needed to find something else to create the website images, which is where the illustrations by Isabella Cotier come from. I chose Isabella because she and I were in junior school together, and she has this great gift of expressing human emotion in her illustrations.”
What’s it been like collaborating with your Aunt Elena on Violino d’Oro?
“It was my first experience working with her in this sense. We became interior designers. We worked every day with an architect in her office designing, going to artisans, and now I have skills I would’ve never had. We have an excellent relationship, and she’s always very patient with me.”
Aside from opening Violino d’Oro, are any other projects coming up for the brand?
“We plan to open Pensione America in Forte dei Marmi in the summer of 2024. It’s one of the first villas ever built in Forte dei Marmi. In Italian, “pensione” is a vintage word that describes hotels where people would enjoy luxurious vacations for the entire summer during the 20th century. Now, “pensione” refers to a smaller three-star hotel, not a luxury one. We’re reopening Pensione America as a five-star boutique hotel—a bit contradictory regarding the terms—and it will be very authentic, private, with no social media, perhaps, that sort of exclusive Forte dei Marmi experience.”