Roberto E. Wirth, who speaks to us about his 40 years at Hassler Roma
Interview with the owner and general manager of a true icon of Roman hospitality
The fifth generation of a family of hoteliers, a personal story bound to his hotel with glimpses and silences full of meaning and love. We’re talking about Roberto E. Wirth, who we met on the eve of two anniversaries: 125 years of the iconic hotel known throughout the world, and 40 years as owner and general manager of Hassler Roma. He spoke to us about his father, Oscar, of his 4-star property that in the 1950s transformed into the most famous 5-star hotel in Rome, of a city that continues to change whilst preserving its eternal beauty and of his work with community projects, inspired by having personally experienced the difficulties life can bring.
What does this place mean to you?
I consider Hassler Roma my passion, my home and my family legacy. My work and my dedication are what have allowed the hotel to be considered one of the best in Europe and a preferred choice for travellers visiting the Eternal City. Hassler, being an independent hotel, has its own character, its own history, and this is becoming increasingly rare. We’re also in Rome, which is still today the city that charms all visitors with its beauty and wealth of history and culture. It’s an open-air museum. Its charm has never changed.
How do you make a transitory place like a hotel become an iconic space that guests want to return to?
The allure of Hassler’s prestigious past and history is definitely appreciated by our guests; it’s part of our heritage and our legacy and it’s contributed to the fame the hotel enjoys today. This doesn’t mean, however, that our guests don’t expect all the comforts that modernity can offer. There have been many renovations and there will be others in the future… “We can’t” has no place at Hassler. If something truly isn’t doable, then we need to find another way to fulfil our guests’ requests. On the other hand, travellers are increasingly demanding. They want greater flexibility and immediate answers, they want to be wowed and they expect that their wishes are understood even in advance. Travellers are looking for unique experiences that can become lasting memories. They also want to feel like citizens of the world and “immerse themselves” in the life of the country they’re visiting; and in terms of hospitality, they want to feel at home.
Italy is art, food culture, wonderful landscapes… in what order, in your opinion?
Not just art, culture, food… you also have to consider the climate. This teaches us about history. Art, however, is number one: Italy has the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites; we live in the largest open-air museum in the world.
Can you tell us a bit about your community work?
I was born profoundly deaf. I’ve always worked on social issues and have been active in working with issues of deafness in Italy and abroad. In 1992, I founded the “Fulbright – Roberto Wirth” scholarship. The aim is to offer young deaf and non-deaf students the opportunity to study at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. (USA), the only university in the world offering courses in both American Sign Language and English and open even to deaf and slightly deaf students. In 2004, I founded the non-profit Roberto Wirth Fund, later renamed the Assistance Center for Deaf and Deafblind Children (CABSS), which opened the multi-sensorial laboratory “The First Step…”, a safe and fully accessible space adaptable to the needs of deaf and deafblind children aged 0 to 6.
You once said that for you, Hassler is like a woman. If you had to give it a famous face, who would it be?
It doesn’t have a face, but it’s definitely a very elegant woman who knows how to present herself in every situation.
To continue wowing our guests and to be that independent hotel that remains iconic, legendary and incomparable. I want Hassler to continue being the preferred hotel par excellence for travellers in Rome.