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, abetted today by the synergy between Le Sirenuse and two of its close cousins: Carla Sersale’s fashion and lifestyle brand Emporio Sirenuse, and the Eau d’Italie fragrance and skincare line established by Marina Sersale and Sebastián Alvarez Murena.
In 2015, the Artists at Le Sirenuse contemporary art programme was launched by Antonio and Carla Sersale in collaboration with British curator Silka Rittson-Thomas to celebrate Positano’s long connection with creativity, and to continue in a more modern vein the passion for collecting that bubbled over in Antonio’s father Franco – but which in reality has shaped the hotel since the beginning. Each year, a living artist is invited to create a site-specific work within the hotel, in dialogue with the surroundings and the spirit of place. To date, works by Martin Creed, Stanley Whitney, Alex Israel, Matt Connors, Rita Ackermann and Caragh Thuring have been unveiled, blowing like a fresh new breeze through Le Sirenuse’s elegant historic palimpsest.
“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.