Founder of Bar Palladio and Villa Palladio
On moving to India.
Being a Sagittarius, I have always had a passion for travel and a sense of adventure, for which I have made bold moves in love and life. I grew up in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where I met my ex-husband, and together we later moved to Asolo, Italy, a beautiful town near Venice. I spent 15 years there.
Sometime after my divorce, around 2005, I planned a sabbatical in Africa. But the monsoon season in February meant I had to change my plans, which is how I found myself in India. I became absolutely fascinated by Jaisalmer, and I unexpectedly fell in love with someone. While I did make it to Africa, I couldn't resist returning to India that same year—love makes us do crazy things, and somehow, India felt like home.
While Jaisalmer held my heart, Varanasi captured my imagination, and it was there that I really began to understand the heart of India. That city has some profound life-and-death philosophies, and it's not for the faint of heart! Instead of staying in a hotel, I stayed with a local family for several weeks, and I will never forget how gorgeous that location was. It was hidden down a small lane with a view out onto the Ganges, and there was a beautiful family temple in the courtyard. It was in that home that I was able to connect much deeper to India's spiritual heritage—a path-changing time for me.
By chance and through heartbreak, I found myself in Jaipur, and I discovered my 'niche' here. As a fashion and luxury production centre, I opened a small atelier and spent the first ten years handling productions for well-known Italian fashion houses.
However, by 2013 it was time for a change! And from that year began my Palladio story, first with the opening of Bar Palladio Jaipur.
On navigating the hospitality industry.
Though I found myself working in fashion, my background and education were in the world of luxury hotels. I completed my studies and training in St Moritz, home to some of the best hotels in the world, and would later work for Cipriani in Venice, which taught me everything I know.
When I arrived in Jaipur, the city was nothing like the one we see today. As an Italian, food is very important to me, and I found myself really, really missing my Italian food. While I'm not an excellent cook by any means, I'm a true foodie. So I decided to open a restaurant!
You could say my opening of Bar Palladio was a little self-indulgent, but my approach has always been to identify needs, and in 2013 Jaipur was on the cusp of change. I felt the city was ready for my Palladio concept, so I went for it. Aside from five-star hotels, at that time, Jaipur had limited spaces for socialising. I wanted to be reminded of how Italians socialise casually in a bar or leisurely over dinner. I envisioned a beautiful space, open to the public, amidst nature.
Thus, Bar Palladio was born.
Finding the perfect spot proved challenging, but eventually, I stumbled upon a palace hotel with an incredible yet neglected garden. I approached the landlords with hope, and surprisingly, they agreed to rent it to me, making the dream a reality.
The process began around June. And by the latter half of the summer, having finalised the agreements, we started the renovations before opening in December. So from start to finish, the entire process lasted approximately six months.
Every journey has its challenges. As a female foreigner in a patriarchal society, it is necessary to have a trustworthy ally, someone you can trust 150%. I am fortunate to have an incredibly supportive business partner. Alongside this, patience has been key, and adaptability. Much like navigating the Jaipur traffic, things move at a different pace here— it's chaotic, but there is a method to the madness.
People often assume our projects took a long time to come to life, but once we have an idea, we just run with it. Jaipur is famous for the quality of its artisans; the people we work with possess an impressive ability to turn my ideas into reality. I've learned to trust the process, and everything always works out in the end.
On creating Villa Palladio.
Much like Bar Palladio, and my whole India story, Villa Palladio was born by chance. Guests often suggested I open a hotel. And I thought about it for years, knowing the right opportunity would arise. But I knew it would have to be outside the city, again for self-indulgent reasons— I love the countryside around Jaipur and wanted an excuse to get into nature. And then we found it, the perfect place only 30 minutes from the city. Honestly, I think its proximity to my home and office sealed the deal!
I knew I wanted to open a smaller hotel from the beginning, so this property was perfect, with just nine rooms. I hoped to create something intimate, especially as I saw travellers seeking cosier hotels, opting for privacy and exclusivity over ostentation. At the time, in 2019, this small-scale concept was something a bit different for India, where most hotels are massive 'five stars' with 100+ rooms.
Again I looked at the beautiful hotels of Italy, the same hotels I began my career with— beautiful villas in the countryside. Nothing is more luxurious for me than a grand house in the country.
Owing to the pandemic, the project took two and a half years to complete. We started in November 2019 and opened our doors in September 2022. There were so many unforeseen challenges, but it was a blessing in disguise as we were able to really refine our vision. Again, patience and adaptability were vital.
On fusing Italian and Indian style.
There are so many similarities between Italy and India. The people share a similar temperament. They are lively, with so much laughter and a strong commitment to family. Moreover, both Italy and India appreciate art, craftsmanship, and aesthetic beauty. And South Italians love chilli!
These countries have a strong sense of maximalism, a love of colour and fearlessness in design. I have always loved old homes and palaces, and what makes Jaipur so special is that the old ways still exist. The craftsmanship and the sensibility of the artisans is just incredible, and remarkably, the techniques still survive.
When working with our designer Marie Oudejaans, who has been with us on all of our projects, we always look to India and Italy for inspiration. We let our minds go free and just dream. Both countries inspire dreams, so we allow them carry us away.
And the response has been astounding. I think everyone finds their own culture somewhere in the design—something that reminds them of home yet something that seems foreign.
On defining luxury.
I've noticed a shift in people's preferences lately in regard to luxury. Firstly, neither Villa Palladio nor Bar Palladio are 'luxury' properties. What they are, are beautiful places. I believe that luxury these days is about having a personal connection with beauty.
People want to feel at home and be free to express their needs and share their stories. For us, it's not just about formal kindness; it's about genuine listening and understanding. We take it as perceiving someone's needs without being overbearing. Clients want to feel cared for, but not necessarily in an extravagant way, say, with caviar and champagne. Simplicity is preferred.
It's an emotional connection, which is a luxury that people are craving.
On opening another hotel.