He is one of Venice’s most recognizable faces… the person who welcomes everyone to the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, and after 30 years, he still says “Every day here feels like paradise”.
Join us as we discover the story of Roberto Senigaglia, and the pride he takes in making every guest feel special.
Meet Roberto Senigaglia
GLH: Roberto. It’s an absolute pleasure to be meeting you again. Thank you for your time and agreeing to answer some of our questions. Your story, working here at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, is legendary, but tell us, what was your first job here?
Roberto: My first job here was on the shuttle boat of the hotel. Actually, before joining the Cipriani, I did many small jobs, and one of them was delivery to many hotels in Venice, including the Cipriani. And one time, I stopped someone here and asked them if they needed a driver with any kind of license.
And they said not right now, but maybe in the future. And one day they called me, and this is how I started to drive the shuttle boat here. It was amazing. I felt like a captain.
And after 2 years, the GM at the time approached me and offered me the position of night concierge. At the time, I said no, because I had 3 daughters and I couldn’t afford to work nights that often. He said “Don’t worry”, and after 10 years where I kept driving the shuttle boat, I became in charge of the boat.
Then one day, the doorman at the Cipriani was retiring after 40 years, and they again approached me to see if I was happy being the chief of the boat or I wanted more. I sensed they needed something, and I asked “What do you need? What can I do for you?”.
And they offered me the job, even if I knew nothing about being a concierge, and here I am.
GLH: According to you, what do you think makes the Cipriani such a special address in Venice?
Roberto: Ah, that’s a very good question, and I always love explaining that. The Cipriani is a hotel, but the way we make you feel, we are not standard. We really care about the service and we really personalize the service.
You don’t hear in my voice, in my words, never “client”. But for me, there is only the client…only the guest. And this is something that makes a difference. You know sometimes, when people arrive here, like for the first time, they are a little shy, because of what happened here, because the Cipriani…the name carries a lot of weight and all, and my job, in my position, is to help these people feel like home.
It’s not easy but I love to make people, all kinds of people who come here, feel fantastic, relaxed and at home. Sometimes it happens guests only come here for lunch. They come on the boat and they tell me “We are here for lunch but we are not guests of the hotel”, and I tell them “No, you are guests of the hotel. When you step here, you become guests of the hotel.” And the people relax and go “Thank you very much”.
And this is the main difference of the Cipriani; Here, we really work for our guests with a soul.
GLH: In all your years working here, is there a particular story that stays with you, or a moment you’re very proud of?
Roberto: I remember this one time there was a guest in a wheelchair, and a wheelchair is a big problem around here. So I helped him get in the boat and everything, but he wasn’t very friendly…even a bit rude.
What happened the next day is he requested a boat for a tour, and this happened some 15 years ago so, at that time, there was only one taxi in Venice with an elevator. It’s almost impossible to get it. I called the guy and repeatedly asked him to come to the hotel because I wanted to surprise this guest, you know.
The next morning, the taxi comes and the guest goes “No, what are you doing? This is too high for me.” I said “Don’t worry sir”, and the taxi guy opened the lift and it came up. The guest was so surprised, and he was smiling.
He didn’t apologise for the previous day, but he was smiling, and that was enough for me. When someone is rude to me, I don’t return the rudeness; I simply smile and say “Sorry, maybe I did something you didn’t appreciate.” And this gives me the possibility to help you understand me better.
GLH: And does it get tiring, to always be so present and available to the guests? Do you sometimes feel like you need a break?
Roberto: Yes, absolutely. When I finish all my work here, sometimes I take my holidays because I need to recharge my batteries. Because here, really, I don’t do anything for me. I give my all to my guests. I work and work, and sometimes it really happens that I wake up in the middle of the night and think “Oh tomorrow, I have to do something for this guest”. I never stop working, season after season, and when the hotel closes, I feel the need to cut off and really recharge.
GLH: We hear you have pictures with many of the guests who come here, is that true?
Roberto: Yes. All the guests who come to the Cipriani are very, very nice. And sometimes, what happens is, I see children who become parents, and I have pictures of those journeys.
At the Cipriani, we have a lot of returning guests.
GLH: And is there a part of the hotel that’s your favorite?
Roberto: My favorite part of the hotel has been the same for 30 years: The gate on the pier that leads to my office. When I arrive in the morning, I see guests having breakfast.
But everywhere you look, the Cipriani is very beautiful. The view from Cip’s is fantastic, and the swimming pool is very very nice.
GLH: If someone asks you “Roberto, why should I stay at the Cipriani”, what would you say?
Roberto: I think because our offering is very genuine, the history, the feeling, and the area where the hotel is…it is a completely different environment. We are no show holders, but the culture, the bow, the welcome and how we take care of the guest, that’s unique.
Then this hotel has a past…a unique story, and this keeps us rooted in the service we offer.
GLH: And finally, is there a place in Venice that you often recommend to guests?
Roberto: I think Harry’s Bar. It’s amazing and I love it. When you go there, you feel the same thing as here. The people are smiling and friendly, they have a big menu, and as soon as you sit down, someone comes and asks “Can I help you?”.
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