Art, Artisanship, Design
He enriched Le Sirenuse with hundreds of beautiful objects, and always knew exactly where to place them (often this would be a guest room – for Franco, these were just as important as the ‘public’ parts of the hotel). Much of the furniture or art he assembled is firmly in the 17th and 18th century Neapolitan and southern Italian tradition that is the bedrock of Le Sirenuse’s aesthetic. But Franco had eclectic tastes, and there are plenty of neo-Moorish items too – not to mention an important collection of Central Asian suzani rugs.
“Franco Sersale… enriched Le Sirenuse with hundreds of beautiful objects, and always knew exactly where to place them.”
At the same time, Franco enthusiastically embraced the Sersale family tradition of working closely with skilled Italian artisans – local ones for preference – to restore but also to embellish and extend the fabric of a hotel that grew up around an ancient Amalfi Coast villa with its traditional cross-vaulted rooms. For Le Sirenuse’s floor tiles or stucco panelling, for its flowerpots, rattan chairs, marble bathroom tops and a host of other fittings, furnishings, tableware and amenities, Franco sought out firms and individual artisans who combine a respect for tradition with dedication to quality and creative verve. No detail, whether it be a cocktail glass, a bedspread or a room key, was too small to escape his attention.
The Sersale family has continued in his footsteps. While expanding the hotel’s work with artisans, Franco’s son Antonio and daughter-in-law Carla have also brought contemporary art to Le Sirenuse via the site-specific Artists at Le Sirenuse programme. Carla Sersale’s Emporio Sirenuse fashion and lifestyle brand exports the family’s love of beautiful things and southern Italian taste worldwide, including in its range a series of variations on Franco’s beloved Suzani wall hangings. And the desire to distil the spirit of Le Sirenuse and Positano into a scent led Franco’s niece Marina Sersale and her husband Sebastián Alvarez Murena to found the fragrance and body care line Eau d’Italie in 2014.
The Sersales’ love of beautiful things finds offshore expression in the family’s two vintage boats. Riva speedboats are highly coveted collectors’ items. No more than thirty of these sleek mahogany and steel runabouts emerged from the Riva boatyard on Lake Iseo each year. Built in 1973, Le Sirenuse’s Riva is an Aquarama Special, its name a playful nod to the widescreen ‘Cinerama’ movie format of the early 1960s, echoed in the glamorous wraparound windshield. The hotel’s other boat, the Sant’Antonio, is a traditional Sorrentine gozzo or fishing vessel that was the pride and joy of our playboy zio, Aldo Sersale. Both are lovingly restored, and both can be enjoyed by guests. Morning and sunset excursions on the Sant’Antonio are included in our weekly activity programme, while couples who book a suite for at least three nights are treated to a champagne cruise on the Riva.
“Contemporary art… blows like a fresh new breeze through Le Sirenuse’s elegant historic palimpsest.”
There’s one more part of the story still to tell, and it’s a vital one. Le Sirenuse doesn’t have a hotel garden, because it is a garden. Plants are everywhere, on the terraces, in the rooms, in the lobby, lounges, bars and corridors. The bougainvillea that climbs the walls of La Sponda restaurant is justly famous, as are the lemon trees, immortalised in numberless Instagram posts, that flank the pool or stand as solitary sentinels, in ornate terracotta pots emblazoned with the Sersale family crest, on the lobby terrace or at the centre of Franco’s Bar.
The Strelitzia nicolai or Bird of Paradise plant at the entrance to Aldo’s Cocktail Bar & Seafood Grill has even been immortalised in paint – by US artist Alex Israel, whose trompe l’oeil mural Amalfi Dr., 2017 takes the palm on a graceful dance up the stairs that lead to the lobby. The planting scheme, curated by landscape architect Isabella Casali di Monticelli, is inspired by the walled gardens and terraces of old Positano houses, while day to day care of the plants, and the many adjustments that each season brings, falls to a team of gardeners overseen by Giulia Sersale.