For most card-carrying members of the Italian cognoscenti, late July means installing oneself in an idyllic corner of Tuscany, the Tyrrhenian coast, or a Naples-adjacent resort town. Marie-Louise Sciò shuttles madly between all three. “There are cars, trains, boats, big boats … all of it!” she says with a laugh, detailing her unconventional commute while racing to avoid a parking ticket in Rome, where her company, Pellicano Hotels Group, is based. As C.E.O. and creative director of a trio of Europe’s most rarefied resorts—Porto Ercole’s Hotel Il Pellicano, Ladispoli’s La Posta Vecchia, and, as of just a few months ago, Ischia’s Mezzatorre Hotel & Thermal Spa—Sciò’s summer allows little time for summering, but no matter. This entrepreneur has more serious pursuits, such as perfecting her latest project. “The biggest luxury is time,” she explains. “In that time that [guests] spend in our hotels, I want it to be magic.”
After purchasing it last September, Sciò and her similarly detail-oriented team have spent the past six months renovating Mezzatorre, the boutique hotel and spa near the island’s village of Lacco Ameno. Surrounded by a 17-acre pine forest and perched on a terraced cliff, Mezzatorre is anchored by a coral-colored watchtower that dates to the 16th century. (The hotel’s name means “half-tower” in Italian.) “Mezzatorre is very flamboyant,” explains Sciò, who has a tendency to describe her hotels as living, breathing characters. “It’s got many kinds of different facets to it—like an interesting person would.” The property’s 57 guest rooms are charmingly decorated with an inspired mix of gilt-trimmed mirrors, crisp furnishings, and cheerful textiles that firmly nod to the island’s unabashedly eccentric vibe.
Mezzatorre is anchored by a coral-colored watchtower that dates to the 16th century.
The attitude has been well earned, for Ischia, the sister island of Capri, has led many lives. After being colonized by the Greeks, who established Pithekoussai around 770 B.C., it has served as epicenter of the ceramics trade, a political prison, and, finally, one of Southern Italy’s most treasured resorts. Pleasure-seekers like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and generations of Italians have flocked to Ischia’s quaint, whitewashed villages and bougainvillea-strewn gardens, just an hour’s ferry ride from Naples. (Luchino Visconti’s onetime summer residence, La Colombaia, is a short hike from Mezzatorre.) Ischia hosts a glitzy annual cinema festival, but filmmakers have been equally seduced by its wild beauty—The Talented Mr. Ripley and, more recently, My Brilliant Friend were filmed on the island. Elena Ferrante’s protagonist memorably loses her virginity on one of its beaches as the Moon hangs languidly overhead.
And who can blame them? Ischia’s waters have been storied since ancient times, when the Romans flocked there in search of various cures. Ever since Mezzatorre opened, in 1981, its thermal pools have been drawing a loyal base of wellness types. “We’ve inherited old guests who have been coming forever, for 10 or 15 days [at a time],” says Sciò. “I don’t go to spas myself, but obviously at the Mezzatorre I had to try it, and it was amazingly beneficial. It cleans out the garbage in the most natural way possible!”
To celebrate the hotel’s opening weekend, Sciò filled the rooms with an eclectic mix of friends such as Haider Ackermann, Angela Missoni, and Giorgio Guidotti.
“It was like a university reunion,” says Sciò. “Only rarely do you go on holiday with one hundred people, and everyone kind of knows one another.” —Ashley Baker