THE GREEN HEART OF BELMOND IN ITALY AND MAJORCA
Interview with Francesco Frontera
Overlooking the Lagoon in Venice, basking in the baking heat of the Amalfi coast, nestling in the heart of a cypress forest or lightly dusted by the ashes of Mount Etna… each Belmond Italia hotel garden is in a unique setting with its own distinctive character.
These botanical treasures, some of which have official cultural heritage protection, are entrusted to the expert hands of Luigi Frontera and his family, whose Florence‐based landscape gardening firm Frontera Giardini was founded in the 1980s. Specialised in looking after the parks and gardens of villas, resorts and boutique hotels, the Frontera team are
now proud to be the regional landscape managers for Belmond in Italy and Spain, after years of dedicated service starting at Belmond Villa in 1998.
But what is it really like to nurture these very special gardens, where history goes hand in hand with the unique character of the local area and the demands of the high class hotel industry? To find out, we interviewed the firm’s Development & Marketing Manager, Francesco Frontera.
Tell us about the joys and challenges of managing the gardens of such important, historic hotels.
The real joy, and certainly the biggest satisfaction for us, is that each day we have something new and different to deal with. It’s exciting and really brings out our strengths. The best moment of all is the new season. After months of long, careful preparation during the winter, the annual reopening of each hotel is when we can enjoy the guests’ amazement as they smile, take photos and ask us questions about our work.
These gardens are unique, because of their type and size. How many plants are there in the Belmond Italy and Majorca hotels, what are the statistics behind all this beauty and harmony?
We have a nursery section specifically for Belmond hotels. The flowering plants are selected and planned at the start of each year. The selection varies from hotel to hotel. It depends on many factors such as location, temperature, seasonality, opening and closing dates, events and special requirements.
For example, in 2016, 40,000 plants were used at Belmond’s hotels in Florence, Venice and Portofino. That’s 200 different varieties. This year, for the new season at Belmond Villa San Michele we planted more than 3,000 tulips. At Belmond Hotel Splendido there are more than 1,500 geraniums on the sun terraces, at Belmond Hotel Cipriani we have 1,200 chrysanthemums and around 2,000 aromatic plants in the botanical gardens alone. All the herbs are carefully selected and used in the bars and restaurants, including the award‐winning Oro Restaurant.
The gardens at all the hotels share the same philosophy and speak the same botanical language ‐ yet they are all unique. How does that influence your work?
There’s no doubt that each hotel has its own special character. Perhaps two of the best examples might be Venice and Florence. Belmond Hotel Cipriani, on the Venetian Lagoon, requires special attention partly because of the logistics ‐ everything has to be brought in by boat. The season in Venice starts earlier than the other hotels, and the flowers have to be in bloom earlier, despite the low springtime temperatures on the Lagoon. Thanks to our careful nurturing of greenhouse plants, the Cipriani has one of the earliest flowering gardens in Italy!
Belmond Villa San Michele, on the other hand, is an open‐air museum where you’ll always discover something new.
This last winter, as we were setting up the new garden bar, we discovered an ancient wall, covered with dense vegetation. As we uncovered it, we found an old basin dating from 1741. We have a special bond with this garden. It has a very strong personality. We say it has to be “tamed”, in the true sense of the word. Sometimes it takes as many as 10‐15 people to bring it into line, to give it a sense of order and to renew the flowers. As the hotel is a venue for high profile weddings, we often work at night to set everything up.
Are there any memorable experiences you’ve had during your time with Belmond?
Let’s say it’s a neverending challenge! Of course there have been special moments. One example was September 2014, the wedding of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin. Belmond Hotel Cipriani was used exclusively for the event, and as usual we had prepared everything with painstaking attention to detail. A few days before the wedding,
the unexpected happened. A hailstorm descended, battering all the flowers in the garden just as the wedding of the year was about to take place! Time was incredibly short, but with enormous effort we managed to replant all the flowers in the garden at record speed.
What flower would you associate with Belmond hotels?
It depends. Each hotel is unique, and makes me think of a special flower. Belmond Villa San Michele I would associate with the hydrangea, it has huge numbers of them and they look beautiful when in bloom.
For Belmond Hotel Cipriani it would be the rose, because the Casanova garden contains a huge variety of carefullyselected historic varieties. Portofino would be the Paris rose geranium, which is always found on its terraces; Belmond La Residencia would be the Cuban rose and ancient olive tree; Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo and Villa Sant’Andrea the orange, tangerine, lemon and olive trees, while there’s no doubt that it would have to be the Amalfi lemon tree for Belmond Hotel Caruso.
What does contact with nature mean to you?
It’s certainly the best part of our work. We create beauty with the colours of nature. Plants are living things, they need attention, they need to be looked after and planted in the right place. Our relationship with them really is unique. Another important thing for us as gardeners is the environmental impact. We always work with an eco‐friendly
Notes to Editors
For more information please contact:
Laura Di Bert
Regional Director of PR Italy & Mallorca
Assistant Regional Director of PR Italy & Mallorca
For high‐res images: www.belmondpress.it and www.belmond.com/media‐centre
About Belmond Ltd.
Belmond Ltd. is a global collection of exceptional hotel and luxury travel adventures in some of the world’s most inspiring and enriching destinations. Established almost 40 years ago with the acquisition of Hotel Cipriani in Venice, the Company owns and operates 47 unique and distinctive hotel, rail and river cruise experiences in many of the
world’s most celebrated destinations. From city landmarks to intimate resorts, the collection includes Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, St. Petersburg; Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro; Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa, Riviera Maya; and Belmond El Encanto, Santa Barbara. Belmond also encompasses safaris, six luxury tourist trains including the Venice Simplon‐Orient‐Express, three river cruises and ‘21’, one of New York’s most storied restaurants.
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