Apr 4th, 2019
Andrea is sitting in the San Pietro gardens soaking up the last rays of afternoon sun. His left foot is extended, encased in a soft, booted cast. He had an unfortunate fall on the steps to his house some weeks back and fractured his ankle.
‘Don’t worry,’ he assures me, ‘the cast will be removed the day before the hotel opens.’ That’s a couple of days away. Just in time.
‘On an average day at the San Pietro, I walk a minimum of 14 to 16 kilometers,’ he says. This means that, as hotel manager, the use of both of his feet are not just essential, but crucial. Andrea started out as San Pietro’s Food and Beverage Manager over eight years ago, before becoming Hotel Manager. His friendly face can be seen everywhere, always charming and affable, available to the guests’ every need and request. Today he is relaxed and sanguine--not that I have ever known him to be otherwise, but I think this will probably be the last time l see him sitting down for the next 7 months.
The Spring air is balmy and like the blooming trees and plants, Il San Pietro is about to open, refreshed from its winter hiatus. But for now, the hotel is silent, empty of all but essential staff finishing up the last preparations for opening day. ‘You wouldn’t guess seeing it now,’ Andrea says, ‘just how much work has been done over the last five months.’ Indeed, the work at San Pietro never ends when the hotel shuts its doors for the winter, it simply transforms. Waiters, housekeepers, maintenance staff, cooks and bartenders swap places with laborers, architects, engineers and electricians. When the hotel reopens each Spring, it is always with a fresh face and new features for the guests’ added pleasure and enjoyment. ‘So,’ I ask Andrea. ‘What have you all been up to this winter? What’s new this year at the San Pietro?’ ‘Well, as you know, each year we have been completely renovating the rooms floor by floor. This year we completed the final six, including the iconic room 59 suite by the pool. It is now a two-room luxury apartment. Of course, each room has been individually designed by Fausta Gaetani, but I think the apartment has turned out really special, with a playful sea theme.’ I saw the suite in question while it was still a work in progress; the hand-painted ceramic floor tiles in swirling blues and an under the sea ceramic headboard mural above the king-sized bed. But my favourite feature of all is the large, open shower overlooking the sea, surrounded by tropical plants that give the sensation of bathing outdoors.
‘Oh and we have got a new head bartender, Michelangelo. I think you’ve met him?’
‘Yes.’ Michelangelo is nothing if not passionate about his craft. He enthusiastically explained his plethora of infusions and specially conceived concoctions sure to give this year’s cocktail menu a unique twist.
‘Well, Michelangelo will also be holding a Cocktail Masterclass for anyone who wants to learn a few drinks to impress at their next party. And of course, you get to drink whatever cocktails you make.’ Andrea winks cheekily. Clearly, he knows me well.
‘Together with our new bartender, we also have a new bar, L’alcova, between the Zass restaurant and the lobby. It will be a place for clients who wish to hang out at Zass a bit longer after dinner, or where management, like myself and Vito Cinque, can meet with guests for a drink. It’s also where Michelangelo will introduce his Cocktail Masterclass in the afternoons. Then, of course, Zass restaurant itself has had a complete makeover. The salmon tablecloths and napkins have been replaced with elegant mint green and the large, open space made cosier by smaller enclosures, including a tea room.’ As he talks, I turn and see Julia, Andrea’s daughter, running up the path towards us. ‘Ciao Papa! We’ve come to pick you up. Mama’s just parking the car, are you ready?’
‘Ciao Julia, just about.’ He tells her and she bends over to pat my Jack Russell, Mela, who is also waiting for us to finish chatting so she can go home.
Andrea turns to me. ‘This year we also have new activities and amenities for our guests, to make their stay even more interesting and comfortable.’
‘What kind of activities?’
‘Well, apart from the Cocktail Masterclass, there are complimentary yoga and pilates classes at the beach every morning, and guests can also take a guided tour through the gardens where we grow all the fresh produce for our restaurants. Then there’s an hour-long Italian lesson over drinks for those who want to learn a few useful phrases for getting around and ordering at restaurants or shopping.
‘Sounds like a fun option for the odd rainy day when people prefer to stay indoors.’ ‘Oh yes, I almost forgot, something I’m sure guests will be very happy about. From May, we’ll be offering a complimentary water shuttle service to and from Positano 4 times a day.’
‘That is genius. Sometimes you feel like going for dinner in town, but you don’t feel like walking far in heels or working up a sweat getting there.’ ‘Exactly. There are so many more things I could name, like new gym equipment, complimentary designer beach slippers…’
‘Let’s leave some things as a surprise. Besides, I think Julia and Mela are growing impatient.’ One is tugging on Andrea’s arm, and the other is nudging my leg with her nose. The sun has disappeared behind the jagged coastline and the lights of Positano village glitter in the semi-darkness. I will never get tired of this view, I think.
Just two more sunsets till paradise opens its gates.