Article by Susan Michals
Sisters Lydia and Irene Forte are not only ready to take on the challenges of the family business, they are determined to take it to the next level. The Chelsea-born and raised Forte sisters are the daughters of Sir Rocco Forte, owner of Rocco Forte Hotels, which boasts some of the most tony hospitality locales in the world, including the Hotel Savoy in Florence, and Browns in London. While Lydia and Irene will one day inherit the company, these two go-getters have determined that time is of the essence, and are already making a name for themselves in the industry with their seminal and innovative ideas. Over email, the sisters corresponded with Destination Luxury on what their plans are for the future of the brand.
Destination Luxury: Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea of incorporating the health and wellness aspect into the Forte Collection?
Irene Forte: Like my father, I’m a bit of a fitness fanatic and quite health conscious, so exercise and healthy eating have always been a passion of mine. Nowadays, I feel there are many more people like me, who want to be healthy when on holiday or on a work trip, or who simply who want to learn new health-enhancing tips. We really wanted to cater for the growing demand of health-conscious guests. With our Rocco Forte Spas concept, guests can ‘be healthy’ at every touch point in our hotels, whether in room, in the outlets, in the spa or in the gym. We want guests to be able to continue their existing healthy routines, and maybe learn and take home great new habits. The concept brings four notions together under one umbrella: Rocco Forte Rituals, Rocco Forte Nourish, Rocco Forte Fitness and Rocco Forte Health (the latter is just available at Verdura Resort).
Destination Luxury: Why start with Verdura?
Irene Forte: Verdura Spa in Sicily is our flagship spa. Verdura is our only resort across the company, so we can offer even more than we might be able to offer in a city hotel, especially as it has the most amazing facilities. Housed in pavilions grouped around an open-air courtyard, the 4,000 square meter Verdura Spa has 4 outdoor thalassotherapy pools, a double height steam room, finish sauna, a 20m indoor lap pool, a hair and beauty salon, gym and fitness studio and a great spa bar with a view out to the mountains.
Across our 230 hectare estate, we have an organic vegetable garden spans over 2,600m2 of land, where aromatic herbs and organic vegetables are grown, such as artichokes, eggplant, tomatoes, melons and much more. We have thousands of Olive, orange and almond trees, among many others. All of these ingredients are used in our restaurants at the resort, making the resort very self sufficient. Verdura is set in a wonderful landscape, on the sea, but also looking inland to the rugged Sicilian landscape. This terrain makes for impressive jogging, trekking and cycling trails that meander through the resort’s olive, orange and lemon trees. But most importantly, at Verdura, we have created trekking routes outside of the resort, allowing guests to uncover Sicily’s rich culture and nature.
Destination Luxury: How hands on have you been throughout the process?
Irene Forte: I have been extremely hands on – it’s my baby! As I came up with the concept, as I mention above, I have really seen the whole process from start to finish and been completely involved in every stage. So much so that when deciding on which ingredients to use in our Forte Organics products, I wandered the vegetable gardens of Verdura side by side with Dr Ferri (owner of EffegiLab who make the products) selecting the best vegetables, fruits, flowers and nuts to include.
Destination Luxury: Do you have a favorite treatment?
Irene Forte: I think if you’re traveling with a partner, definitely the Couple’s Facial and Body Ritual. Nevertheless, all the rituals are very special and carried out with our Forte Organics product line. I also love the Jet M Facial available at Verdura Resort. It’s really effective, using air pressure to target scars, spots and impurities – your skin is left feeling totally rejuvenated and firm.
Destination Luxury: Where are you expanding or doing next?
Lydia Forte: We’ve got a hotel opening in Jeddah in September 2016 & another on in Shanghai in 2018.
Irene Forte: In addition, we will be continuing to work on the spa concept across the entire Forte Collection, for example:
1/Finalizing all Rocco Forte Nourish outlet menus with healthy chefs/ nutritionists. We’ve launched: Just Forte You at Hotel Astoria; Madeleine Shaw at Brown’s; Mark Beaumont at The Balmoral. Madeleine Shaw is launching at Hotel de Rome + Villa Kennedy now. We’re in discussions with some exciting personalities for Brussels, Florence + Rome and Sicily respectively.
2/Continuing to build upon the Forte Organics brand. I’m looking to launch a Forte Organics sun cream line in the next six months, as well as to add a few more pieces to our existing line.
3/Launching our Back Label for Rocco Forte Fitness organic sports clothing line. This is only for females, so next step will be to develop the men’s line.
4/Doing some renovation work to some of our existing spas (more will be revealed in due course)!
Destination Luxury: This might be verboten, but what other hotels do you like to visit, beside the Forte Collection?
Lydia Forte: I love The Bristol in Paris, if only for breakfast of the perfect croissant with butter and marmalade on the rose strewn terrace. They have the best silverware and I love a crisp, white tablecloth for breakfast too.
Destination Luxury: What’s next in your master sister plan besides the health/wellness angle?
Lydia Forte: Generally continue with Rocco Forte Nourish and collaborate with lots of amazing nutritionists on healthy menus, so that every hotel has a fantastic healthy eating option.
Destination Luxury: What’s the best thing about working with your sister? What’s the worst?
Lydia Forte: The best for me is that we can be honest with each other. Its always great to trust a person as a sounding board who you know will be honest with you and also to be able to say what you want to say without worrying about office politics. Irene also always stimulates me to push forward with new projects as she gets so excited about them and has such a great work ethic that it rubs off.
Irene Forte: I’m not copying Lydia, but the best thing is honesty- she’s a great sounding board for anything I’m working on so I always go to her first. She’s also incredibly bright, so I completely value her opinion! The worst- well there’s nothing bad about working with my sister!!
For more information on the Forte sisters, and the various Rocco Forte properties, click here.