That afternoon I was very excited! Sitting in the lobby of the Locarno Hotel I observed all the little details around me: the piano, the stained glass windows, the very fine porcelain and the refined upholstery. A blast from the past of the Roman Belle époque. The hotel was in fact founded in 1925 and immediately became a meeting place for artists, writers and travelers.
Today the owner is Caterina Cantarelli Valente and here she comes to meet me: white shirt, linen trousers, low shoe, an example of casual elegance, like a true host. I follow her through the beautiful interior garden, then the restaurant, the lounge bar and then through another entrance up to the tea room, all strictly 20s style and perfectly preserved. On the central table, splendid peonies met a ray of sunshine, while an austere pendulum clock marked the time.
At 3:00 pm we began our pleasant chat. We talked of so many things and I was immediately fascinated by her confidence, by her gentle manners and by her personal story. Caterina is a tenacious woman with a strong personality who has dedicated her whole life to the Locarno Hotel. A passion that her mother passed on to her and which she now transmits to her team.
The story of this great love affair with the Locarno Hotel began when Caterina was a child: “I shared my mother’s entrepreneurial courage from an early age. I started from the bottom, because as she taught me, if you don’t know how to do things, you don’t know how to command. “
Very early on, Caterina developed her entrepreneurial nature, as a teenager she read “Il sole 24 ore”, an economy and finance newspaper, while her friends went dancing. Despite her spirit of leadership she has a very human relationship with all her staff. She does not like hierarchies as an end to themselves and everyone must feel part of her hotel, as in a common project.
And Caterina has many plans for the future. One of these is the preservation of the historic identity of the Locarno Hotel: “My mother kept everything, I learned from her that reusing objects is an art.” In fact Caterina jealously preserves everything from the bell, to the original hinges of the doors, because in her hotel every object has its own history, which can never be reproduced. When special restorations are needed, she turns to master craftsmen who still work with traditional methods and fortunately still exist in Rome.
Caterina loves Rome very much: “I’m madly in love with this city, there is a blaze of passionate folly, energy and sympathy that changes your day.” Chatting with her I rediscovered places of a Rome from the past like the “Latteria” of Campo dei Fiori or the candy store of Corso Rinascimento or the “Pasticceria 5 Lune”. And when I ask her what a Roman woman is like, she smiles, amused, telling me: “She is an unclassifiable woman, she is whimsical and funny!
By now it was late and, accompanying me to the exit, I asked her what her future challenge would be: “My future challenge is for Locarno to become once again a reference point for the residents of this splendid city. A place where at any time, like in the great capitals of the world, you can eat a dish of ravioli or an excellent Matriciana, which is my favorite dish!”