News & Reviews Europe Italy Review: Hotel Il Pellicano, Italy

Hotel Il Pellicano evokes poignant memories of my beloved, sweet, remarkably caring, witty, astoundingly compassionate and recently departed Nan.  Not the good bits – I’m talking about her tormenting, crippling, soul-battering and death-inducing dementia.  Physically present, yes, but mentally on an extended holiday somewhere else entirely.  Emptiness now, but once teeming with life.

Think White Lotus, with more misery.

An austere, uninspiring building, devoid of character and charm, greets guests with its lifeless facade.  Its monotonous design manages to perfectly encapsulate the experience that awaits you.  The colours may quickly turn bright, but the impression is cold and soulless.  Even the Overlook Hotel hotel in The Shining had a soul.  Sure, it was a bit bloodthirsty and a little bit stabby, but it made you feel something.  Hotel Il Pellicano left me feeling numb, like I was on a date with a cardboard cut out of my mother.

Yet, it’s easy to see how you can fall under its spell.  The property has something quite beautiful: an appeal that shines through, an Italian charm, epic surroundings, immaculate gardens, a sense of place and uninterrupted ocean views.  Praise be to the owners, as they were given the gift of great foresight to know that sixty years later, people would call it Instagrammable.  The problem – just like Nan’s last few days – is it’s long gone.  All that allure quickly evaporates.

Yes, there’s something quite beautiful about Hotel Il Pellicano, but also unremarkable.  An unremarkable entrance with an unremarkable welcome and an unremarkable room with unremarkable facilities backed up unremarkable people.  It was a challenge to find any availability, so kudos to the remarkable marketing team.

Ok, let’s not praise their skills too much.

My story began much as it would continue: with an absolute indifference.  I received no communication before arrival, which is highly unusual.  Hotels usually at least want to know when you’ll arrive so they can pretend they will have the room ready.  I figured I’d reach out to ensure I hadn’t booked another Hotel Il Pellicano, like the famous one off the M25 service stations.  They organised my collection, and someone was there to meet me, so all’s well that ends well.  Oh, that was only the beginning?  Shame.

The stay list was, in part, attempted, but the generic welcome amenities of coffee (I don’t drink it), wine (don’t drink that either), and some olive oil (only something I drink when I’ve run out of chugging Ivermectin) showcased the minimum thought and effort that further awaited me.

The room, a Master Suite, one of their highest room categories, felt like I had gatecrashed the last conscious thoughts of a once sane, unremarkable interior designer.  Other Italian properties indeed suffer this fate, including Hotel Caruso, Villa Feltrinelli and, to a lesser extent, Palazzo Avino.  Plus lots of other properties I tend to avoid.  This Meditterean style acts so purest that the very idea of modernising is like drawing penises on the Sistine Chapel. It’s not all bad, though, as Hotel Caruso demonstrated.  You can create a sense of place and cultivate an atmosphere of heritage whilst still implementing luxury.  Here, it felt cheap, out-of-date, old-fashioned, run-down, and depressing, an atmosphere so soul-crushingly bleak that charm seemed to have fled the premises permanently.

The shower looked like somewhere they sent disobedient Victorian kids; the rooms were so bare they resembled an abandoned storage locker.  Outside, the large terrace, with two chairs, a table and two loungers, overlooks the ocean but mostly looks down on the restaurant below.  The soundproofing was as weak as a paper umbrella in a hurricane.  It meant come 10 pm I had to listen to jazz.  Jazz!  Someone has to go to jail.

There are no plug sockets beside the bed, no blackouts, a TV with a call-to-order DVD collection and some channels which did nothing when I tried to watch some sports.  At least there’s air conditioning.  The minibar offered complimentary soft drinks but contained two small bottles of water, with none present elsewhere in the room – uncaring, unbothered, unrelentingly rubbish.

With only 47 rooms, Hotel Il Pellicano should feel intimate and private, but it felt more like a festival based on how crowded it got in the evenings.  The only thing separating my room from the neighbours was a plant pot, meaning privacy probably ranks outside their top nine hundred priorities.  A gardener climbed onto my balcony whilst I was in my room – a service I couldn’t find in any of their literature.  The room size is ok for the price, but the room is so unbelievably plain you could have stayed in a room made from a mudslide and equally enjoyed it.

Other parts of the hotel are no better.  Some are truly hideous.  My constant fight with the wet, squishy, vile red carpet in the hallways was just one element of this hotel that served as a reminder of the horrors humanity is capable of.

But first, the positives.  A tennis court must be the most used I’ve ever seen in a resort.  Perhaps it’s so people can distract themselves from their misery by launching fluffy but deadly projectiles at their spouse for dragging them here.  They have a new gym with the latest TechnoGym gear.  Their boutique is beautiful.  They have three bars and two restaurants, including a Michelin star.  Sometimes, the jazz stops.  Sometimes a pianist plays.  The gardens are beautiful, as are the views.  Parts of the property look like they hired an interior designer with more than fifteen minutes experience.  You can sit beside the ocean.

Now, my rebuttal.

Whenever I entered the gym, it was set to 24C – torturous, like elsewhere.  They restrict the hours you can use the treadmill, as they don’t want you disturbing other guests – considerate, but equally idiotic to not account for this when fitting the year-old gym.  The ceilings are so low they don’t have a pull-up bar, which must violate my human rights.  The boutique is only beautiful as you need to walk through it to get to the tiny spa.  There are much better views and gardens in many Italian properties.  The concrete waterfront area gets overly crowded and looks like it belongs at an all-inclusive resort in Spain.  Yes, you get to tell all your friends you went to Italy and not that lowbrow Greece, but the fake beach at Porto Zante is better in every conceivable way.

Yet, for all this, I can live with the issues if the service exceeds or even matches expectations.  It does not.

I cannot recall staying in a hotel in recent years where you only get turndown if you request it.  All in the name of the environment, though.  Next year, they should up their environment credentials.  Here’s my suggestion: cut the water supply after 6 pm, lights out by 8 pm and burn all the cars in the parking lot at 10 pm.

Once the clock strikes midnight, hunt the guests.  Nothing cuts carbon quicker than mass slaughter and population control.

It felt like the hotel had just opened, not that we were approaching the end of the season.  Like they had hired robots that had not been uploaded with the emotion app.  I did not feel that people here didn’t care, only that you must ask them to care.  They would do the bare minimum required.  The difference between Bulgari Rome and Hotel Il Pellicano was stark, from the arrival, where my only introduction was receiving the wrong luggage, to my departure, where I received a warm goodbye via a computer requesting feedback.  Everything else in between felt like a transaction of strangers putting up with each other.

I was forever asked my room number, forever asked preferences and allergies and saw as many managers as the square root of zilch.  At one point, I decided to come to the pool to see what might happen.  After 30 minutes of waiting around without any signs of life, I got my answer.  A snail could build a civilisation faster than I could get offered a drink.  Throughout the stay, I was conflicted by how much they personalised their interactions from my preferences, as from moment to moment, it alternated so drastically –  like a drunk man sprouting racism and sporadically dispensing morsels of wisdom.

I will only commend them for being slightly less useless than British Airways, as they helped rearrange my car after my flight was cancelled.

Dining is spread between their two restaurants: Pelligrill, which offers the same menu for lunch and dinner, and Restaurant Il Pellicano, where breakfast and dinner are served.  I say spread out, but the two restaurants are about 10 metres apart.  It always felt too busy to have that special feeling about the place that it seems to warrant.  There is an atmosphere, particularly at night, but not one I care for – like that of your mother-in-law coming to stay.

With lunch offering the same menu as dinner, I would starve here were I here for a few days.  Well, not starve as each portion is the size of a large child, but at the least, get bored.

Breakfast is a buffet with an a la carte selection consisting of eggs.  The buffet offered some rather tasty pastries mixed in with some cereal that tasted like compressed cardboard, and they somehow managed to concoct inedible scrambled eggs.  They did, however, have something that they described as “solid Nutella”, which was, somehow, even better than it sounds.

Breakfast seemed to be a calling signal to the wasps.  There were so many outside that I made the profoundly logical decision to come inside, even though all the doors were open, just to be greeted by their mates.  Why they didn’t even cover up the food is due to the property’s deep-rooted problem: it would require effort.  The pastries were like a wasp orgie party.  Maybe they’re trying a new solution to the obesity crisis.  How much do you want that tasty snack?  Imagine how quickly you could change behaviour if you had to fight a horde of insects anytime you wanted a treat.

The menu at both restaurants is very seafood-based, which makes sense when you’re on the coast.  Not much else makes sense here, though, but that did.  I ate at both and struggled to understand how it seemed they knew some preferences but chose to ignore others entirely.  Put an olive need me, and it’s a declaration of war.  Between them, I had great starters and average to poor main courses.

I will praise the speed of the food.  It could be because I was always one of the first at the restaurant, or it could be because I looked like someone they wanted to evict and not ruin the dinners of the distinguished patrons.  I get it, when your school gets inspected, you hope the kid that licks eyeballs and brands kids’ foreheads isn’t present that day.  I also asked if they’d make me a sample of a desert because it had alcohol in it, and I didn’t want to risk not liking it, and they did. That’s 20% of a course at 0% of the price.  How far can I push that in future?  25%?  50%?  150%?

What is so surprising about Hotel Il Pellicano is the clientele.  The private nature of the property doesn’t feel pretentious or a “place to be seen”, but everyone, and I mean everyone, was dressed up like they were being honoured at some award ceremony for “most likely to succeed at being a smug twat”.  It wasn’t a requirement to be here, but the vibe was that dressing up like you’re from a Charles Dickens novel, having swum out of a shit-riddled sewage canal, was not the way to go.  Which made me feel right out of place as that’s my look. It’s a place where everyone looks like they were a model a few decades and surgeries ago.

Why are they all here?  I can only assume we humans don’t want to look like imbeciles, so take the word of our imbecilic friends that it was good.  We must obey.  Then we go home and can’t look our friends in the eye anymore, but we also don’t want to make new friends, so we tell them it was great.  Then we must keep up the appearance by telling everyone else it was also great.  Before we know it, the entire world has been here, suckered into the longest drug-fueled mind-fuck since Tenet.  And everyone is miserable.  Just absolutely miserable.  Just like those who watched Tenet.  

I hear the faint passing sound of momentary delight from fellow guests, and it occurs to me: it’s not the hotel eliciting these sparks of joy, it’s not being in your mundane, miserable existence back home.  You’re no longer bored by your tedious kids or the never-ending kitchen renovations that have somehow become your sole source of excitement.  Instead, you’re here in Italy at a property your friends told you is great, so it will be as if you’re incapable of your own thoughts.

I read another review from a major national newspaper where they praised the toiletries and the free bag.  Great.  ALDI will give you a free bag, too, shall I clean out an aisle, and we’ll have a sleepover?

Come back next week as I further descend into madness.

The misery continued.  Swarms of insects, not just the wasps, now I was being bitten with increasing regularity by whatever bile this resort was mass producing.  My skin knew this feeling well, but not whilst in Europe.  I could feel them all around me every time I went outside.  And for once, it wasn’t hallucinations.  Those guys locked up in the hotel in Saudi Arabia had it good – they never had to feel guilt about staying in their rooms.  Was I being so boring sticking to my room, or was it that all that awaited me outside was a constant buzzing of absolute shite monsters?  The wasps and flies, that is.  I didn’t think the stay could get much worse, but then it rained and rained and rained.  Which only attracted more of the shit-eaters.  The bugs, that is.

I’m not someone who needs to see the GM to feel validated in life, but this place needs it – it lacks the service and charm necessary and befitting of it.  It is somewhere a great GM could shine and breathe life back into the property.

I decided to fill in their feedback form and give them the lowest marks.  They put their top people on the job – an automated email.  It came back with a generic response. That’s all this place is:  on autopilot, doing the bare minimum.

The Good

  • It’s in Italy
  • Easy to get to from Rome

The Bad

  • You and your friends keeping this place going.
  • Rooms
  • Service

The Luxurious

  • Setting and views

Rating

Bad

Conclusion

I know I can sometimes be a bit vague on my thoughts, so I guess we’ll just have to put this one down as a “maybe”?

This is not a good hotel, but like so many properties I attend, it’s not hard to turn it into one.  It just requires this skill called caring, which looked to have gone missing sometime in the 1960s.

Hotel Il Pellicano makes me question if I’ll ever feel happy ever again.

Room type: Master Suite When: September 2023 Rates: from €3,700/n

In Summary

  • Location

    Tuscany, Italy

Suites at Hotel Il Pellicano start from €2,800 per night

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 26th Sep '23

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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