Heart-to-heart with with an Hotel owner
Charm and fun, sea and culture, exclusive beaches, tranquility and nightlife, excellent food!
These are just a few of the privileges that the Romagna Riviera offers.
A territory with a thousand faces, that has, for decades, been one of the favorite destinations of Italians. Lively and attractive for young people, quiet and safe for families, an ideal destination for all ages.
But what is the really like to own a hotel on the Romagna Riviera today?
During a heart-to-heart conversation I asked my dear friend Bernardetta Buda, of Hotel Eliseo.
This was her response!
A Face-To-Face Conversation with an Hotel owner in Romagna
thank you for agreeing to participate to this interview.
First of all I would like you to introduce yourself and present the Hotel you own and manage!
Hotel Eliseo is a historic hotel, not surprisingly, last year, we celebrated 70 years of activity.
Its history is closely linked to the development of tourism in Bellaria Igea Marina, a story made of work (lots of hard work!), bills and debts to be paid, big dreams, an innate capacity for hospitality which, combined with sincere friendship and the genuineness of the essence of Romagna people, meant that the Guest was first of all a great friend and, then, a source of income.
Since I was little, I have always felt a great respect for both Italian or foreign customers; people were not only room numbers, but each client came with his own story, truly beautiful stories, so very different from ours.
It was another world, back then, so far from the world where we were living in, it didn’t belong to us, but this distance has never been experienced or perceived as a border but as an enrichment; indeed, we were able to offer just what the guests were looking for: human warmth!
And it is precisely from human warmth that, I can honestly say, keeping my head high, tourism development in Romagna begun!
Tell us about when you took over the hotel reins and what this commitment meant to you.
Well, one day, after many years and many vicissitudes, I found myself officially taking over the reins of the family hotel. I practically continued to do what I had already been doing for years, but with an extra responsibility: to be the captain who must lead his boat to new islands, protecting it from the storms of life and seeking favourable winds to make it sail with swollen sails. This is a metaphor that I have always liked and even in its simplicity, I think it respects my state of mind and all my work. The boat is Hotel Eliseo and the favourable winds are the tourists who allow me to keep it sailing and to remain firmly afloat, therefore to stay on the market!
What distinguishes Hotel Eliseo from the other hotels on the Adriatic coast?
Hotel Eliseo has something different from any other Hotel on the Riviera in Romagna: it has a heart!
Having a heart does not mean having all renovated rooms or silver cutlery; having a heart means having the ability to love the guest who chooses you among many, to listen to him/her, to understand his/her expectations, to make him/her feel important, I would say unique. And to do this you need a pure heart, far from the calculations of convenience and opportunity. Economically, perhaps it does not repay much, but from the human point of view, it is a positive energy that is contagious.
Tell us a couple of important historical anecdotes about the life of this special hotel!
There are so many memories; so many people have honoured us with their presence. They are beautiful people with stories that have left their mark; I think every customer gives us something special, unique!
What is your philosophy at work?
I don’t have a philosophy and I don’t like to use the word philosophy relating to my work. I try to be myself, to take pleasure in the things I do and to rejoice whenever a client tells me:” we had a great time here!”. Or when they tell me: “in this hotel you can breathe a different air, you feel great here, there is something here which we cannot find in other hotels!”
What distinguishes hotels of the previous generation from the one in which you are working today? What has changed compared to before?
What has changed compared to before? A lot, I would say!
The hotellerie generation of my grandparents was a do it yourself kind of management, a continuous learning in the field, genuine and sincere; that of my parents has seen great changes, from the fixed menu to the à la carte menu, from the bowl of mixed vegetables on the table to rich buffets of vegetables and appetizers all accompanied by a decent selection of wines and not just local ones.
Hotels today? In my opinion, we were very good at imitating certain extra-territorial realities and raising them to the highest levels of importance, without taking into account our territory and the people who live there.
To be clear: lets’ take a buffet-style service. I find it right in a tourist village, where the holiday is a container of everything: fun, sports activities, entertainment, large self service buffets, drinks and draft wines without limitations. You have everything: everything on display and everything planned. Tourist villages that are often outside the built-up area or not easily reachable except by your own means of transport: in this case the formula “village” has reason to exist!
But for us, small or medium-sized companies in Romagna, it is wrong!
We have other things to offer and not just the sea! Our tourist reality comes from a town, from local people and not from real estate companies; tourism here was born from the will of women in the first place (the Romagna azdores are so famous) and by the men who live and work in the territory, a territory, among other things, very rich in history, traditions, folklore and, above all, great culinary excellence. “Not just the sea”, this should be our slogan, to make ourselves known to many and our task is not so much to compete with “all-inclusive” tourism, but to propose an emotional holiday, unique and inimitable!
And instead what have we done in recent years? We were only able to copy other realities, thinking it was the magic wand for the revival of Romagna, forgetting the beautiful, good and certain treasure we have.
Then one day you wake up in Dublin (referring to one of my last trips abroad) and see that all the buses are carpeted with images of Puglia, maritime towns, historical centres, territory, olive groves, craft beers, slow lifestyle and real ordinary people.
But didn’t Romagna become a tourist destination, known to so many in the 70s, precisely because of these realities??
Come on, let’s give value to our people, let’s value our cuisine, our wines, our land, our fine sand beach, safe and equipped and, above all, let’s give value to that warm and sincere hospitality which, for years, distinguished and made us famous for.
There is so much more to say, to tell, problems related to the acquisition of motivated staff, price policy, bureaucracy, constraints that weigh like big boulders on management choices … and much more! But let’s keep it for another time.
How do you see Igea Marina and Romagna today and what has changed compared to when you started this job?
Igea Marina and Romagna must believe more in themselves, in their tourist offer and in their uniqueness. It’s time to stop feeling the Cinderella of the day: if you think you are that, then you are already a loser.
To compete with other cities or more famous tourist destinations, we have to think big!
What do you think are the difficulties of hotels today? And what are those factors that depend “on the outside”?
The difficulty of Romagna hotels is to make potential customers understand the human value of a holiday in our hotels. Then there are also structural limits born precisely from the historicity of the houses, limits that translate into fact, with limited receptivity and with an increasingly shorter seasonality. Increasing the rooms is not always possible due to structural constraints, reducing to create more spacious rooms is very risky, because under a certain number of rooms the company is no longer profitable.
Let’s not forget about the seasonality, which is always shorter and uncertain due to the weather conditions. If we proposed a vacation not only of summer sea; if we did a serious and innovative marketing campaign in our area, not only nationally, I am sure that Romagna would have many cards in its favour to play and, above all it, would play them with pride.
Hotel Eliseo is part of the Association of Small Hoteliers: to whom is this appointment given? What does it mean to be part of the Association?
For some years I had been looking for an association that, in addition to representing me and protecting me as a hotelier, could also share my thoughts of hospitality, a hospitality capable of bringing the guest closer and surprising them and making them experience great emotions.
When I talk about hospitality my thoughts turn to the whole hotel, from the structure to its collaborators. Every gesture, every smile, every environment, simple or refurbished, must talk about us, our “Houses”, our tradition, our daily commitment so that each guest can breathe the warm atmosphere of familiarity and simplicity that distinguishes the our land of Romagna.
Then, one day I discovered the Consortium Small Quality Hotels and since 2009 the Hotel Eliseo has become part of it! Joining the Consortium was not a goal but a beginning of a great commitment, especially towards our Guests, a commitment that we try to fulfil day after day with professionalism and above all with a lot of love and passion for our work.
Why should a foreign tourist come absolutely to Romagna and in particular to the Romagna Riviera?
Based on my experience the foreign tourist is looking for the typicality of the place and above all the human contact with the people who live there. Obviously the choice of a location, with respect to another, also arises from his personal needs and from what he is actually looking for. For example, a German family with children wants to spend a holiday in Italy, at the seaside, what’s better than Romagna?
But the new foreign tourist doe not only want a territory that offers specific services, he is also in search of the people who live there, wants to live a vacation as a protagonist and return home with so many emotions and scents to tell.
Ours is a coast where everything is close at hand, services, sea, equipped beach, entertainment, connections, theme parks, villages, cities of art, music and folklore. The gentle hills gently degrade to the sea, everywhere colour prevails just like a painter’s palette: the green of the meadows, the red of the poppies among the ears of wheat, the yellow of the sunflowers, the pink and white of the fruit trees, the blue of our sky and the blue of the sea. And in the air, in this “bel air”, driven by the sea breeze, the poems of Pascoli, Moretti, Panzini and Tonino Guerra take shape
“…Romagna solatia, dolce paese in cui regnarono i Guidi e i Malatesta, cui tenne pure il Passator cortese re della strada e della foresta – Romagna of the sun, a sweet country where the Guidi and the Malatesta reigned, which the Passator also loved, a courteous king of the road and of the forest”.
Recommend a couple of places not to be missed for those who decide to spend their holiday in Igea Marina.
If you come to Igea Marina I suggest a walk at dawn, by the sea.
You will only meet few people, around you there will be only the sea, the seagulls and a great sun that is about rise. It is nice to walk barefoot on the sand and if you are lucky you can also find some nice seashell. I advise you to reach the Porto Canale and once you get on the eastern pier you reach the lighthouse and look at the horizon and the expanse of water: it is the sea, our sea, apparently calm, sincere, friendly. Take a deep breath, fill your lungs with iodine and turn your face to the rising sun: a caress of heat will fill you with positive energy!
Another very pleasant walk is along the river Uso until the old slaughterhouse for a visit to the maritime museum.
Very interesting is the visit to the museum that also tells the tourist development of our town. On the way back a visit also to the Saracen tower nearby. And if you are passionate about cycling I suggest you take the cycle path along the river Uso to reach Villa Torlonia in San Mauro Pascoli. It is a path immersed in vegetation, thick reeds, al types of bridges, small waterfalls, the Church of Bellaria Monte with its triangular bell tower shows you the time, the cultivated fields of the gardeners make you appreciate the quality of the products of the territory.
When then the effort makes itself felt, like a miracle it appears to you Villa Torlonia: a row of poplars accompanies you to the rear entrance, you turn the corner and you will find the farmer’s house, Giovanni Pascoli’s father and in front of it a small church. And there let History fill you in, from the past and in front of you the splendid view of San Marino.
Dear Monica, I did my homework for you. Writing about my land, I realized I loved her a lot and how little I am doing to make it known to others.
I hope you and your readers will enjoy reading about it!