Silvio Ursini is not just an eagle-eyed creator of Bulgari’s leading hotels and resorts, but on a quest to seamlessly blend the aesthetics of the jewellery house with bespoke hospitality.
Silvio Ursini is Bulgari Group Executive Vice President, and oversees Bulgari Hotel & Resorts, recently introducing another jewel in the Maison’s crown with Bulgari Resort and Residences Dubai. Working with the brand for 25 years, Ursini understands the heart and soul of the house and since 2002 he has been instrumental in delivering their vision, from jewellery to luxury hospitality across the world, including London, Bali and now Dubai. With every property reflecting the personality of the country and exquisite attention to detail, they offer an at-home high-end environment which you will immediately fall in love with and find very difficult to leave.
Here, we examine the unique Bulgari approach to the hospitality market, why Dubai had to be part of the family, and Silvio’s personal passion for exploring and bee keeping.
As a brand we have been present in Dubai for over 20 years with jewellery, so we have seen how much has changed. It has evolved from a small regional market to one of the most interesting cities in the world. The government has a clear vision which has been executed in a spectacular way, and it’s a worldwide destination. What fascinates me is the combination between the local community, the expat community, and the tourist, so you have different layers which makes it an interesting place.
In Dubai’s luxury hotel market, what value does Bulgari Resort add?
We have the vision to be different to so called normal luxury hotels, and we believe that our product is not in Dubai today. Even in markets where they are extraordinary luxury hotels, when we go with our own approach we bring something different.
What does luxury mean to you?
We take a different approach to hotels because we are not a hotel company, we are a jeweller. In a normal hotel you have a mix, the architect, designer, and decorations, with it focusing more on service, with the rest being less curated. We come from design and in a way we have changed the way hotels are designed, we design a hotel like a private house with one architect per hotel, residential furniture and Murano crystal glass. No one does that.
How important is the wellness part of the hotel?
Wellness is very important. When we started in Milan, because the building was so small the spa is small, but we have the garden. Bali is a different thing, but what really changed the approach for us was London where we had the opportunity to create a large spa with a 25m long pool and workshop gymnasium which worked wonderfully, so that confirmed to us that the investment was a success. We are a lifestyle brand, and although we don’t want to go into medical, we want to push into wellbeing as far as we can.
What is the profile of your guests?
They are very mixed, but they are all well-travelled. Very rarely do we see people who are new to luxury, these people know and have experienced the best, so they expect the best.
What sets each of your hotels apart?
You will see similarities as it’s one brand, one designer, and one approach, but we infuse every property with a distinctive character. Milano is understated, particularly the rooms. In London we use mahogany and silver, Beijing is very different from Shanghai as it’s on the bottom while in Shanghai it’s at the top with a view. When we do city hotels, it’s different from a resort. When we do a resort with give it a stronger sense of self so when you go to Bali the villas are traditional Balinese, the construction techniques are also Balinese, but it is interpreted in a very Bulgari way. We interpret culture in a modern way, and in Dubai we believe we chose a Middle Eastern approach to shading without it being a replica or an imitation.
If you were not staying in Bulgari, where would you stay?
In general, I prefer to go to small independent hotels than chains. This is where you see the passion and attention to detail that a true owner can give.
What advise would you give to travellers?
Be curious. I read a lot and study and find things people don’t know. I go somewhere like Dubai and ask, ‘do you know where you can buy an antique Persian vase?’ and they don’t know, and they’ve lived there for 20 years. The world, because of the globalisation, has become a little bit the same. That’s the difference between being a tourist and a traveller. Tourists will go and see the normal, take pictures and go home. A traveller tries to learn and live the experience. I read crime books because they show the truth of a place and you find amazing stories.
What is your favourite travel destination?
It’s hard to say. The place I go back to in countryside in Italy, Southern Tuscany, where I can find a combination of art, culture, nature, and food. It’s an unspoilt area, and that’s where we have our farm. When I travel there are so many places rich in culture like Bali. The way they nurture their religion every day is very organic which makes their lives wonderful.
What are you reading now?
I don’t like using Kindle, so I travel with books and right now I’m reading a book about this lady in England who has had a black bird in the house for many years, and the story is about how important the relationship with this bird has been for her. ‘Meditation and The Art of Bee Keeping’ is another one because my wife and I have started bee keeping on our farm.
After over 25 years at Bulgari, what are the most important lessons that you’ve learnt?
Maybe that you can be brave. Luxury and jewellery, in a way, is a traditional business and very often people are scared to be brave, but you need that to a degree to do something crazy.
What do you tell yourself every morning?
Generally, I try to remind myself of how lucky I am because I have a beautiful family. I try to stay healthy, I have a wonderful job and despite so many horrible things going on around the world, there is still so much good. In this region, and my Dubai experience, there are positive stories about the Middle East and beautiful people doing things with art and culture.
What is the key to success?
I always try to tell my children that to be successful ideally you don’t want to be successful. You need to understand yourself and your talent and push it to the maximum level. Many people do things because they want to make money, or have power and eventually they become unhappy because instead there is something inside them that wanted to be a musician or something else. They forgot their soul.
What are the 3 things you hate?
I hate violence, vulgarity and most of all ignorance.
On a professional and personal level, what are your objectives for the new year?
The year past has been memorable, after so many years of work we have opened Beijing, Dubai, and Shanghai so the beginning of 2018 is a combination of so much work. Going forward I need to work on new projects and change, an evolution of design. Now that all these properties are open I really want to make a special effort to ensure the consistency. On a personal level we have started working with bees and so next year we will have the first harvest.
By Charline Deek