Two Women Hoteliers on The Amalfi Coast Turned This Hotel Into a Design Haven

Sisters Mariella and Attilia Avino, the hoteliers behind Palazzo Avino in Ravello, Italy, share the ways their hotel showcases Italian hospitality and design.

Aerial view of eight wooden chairs and two tables overlooking small pool next to coast at Palazzo Avino garden

The beach club at Palazzo Avino

Courtesy of Palazzo Avino

When it comes to exceptional hotels on Italy’s famed Amalfi Coast, there’s stiff competition, but Palazzo Avino stands out—not just on the coast but also in all of Italy. (The hotel made Afar’s 2024 Hotels We Love list of the 15 best retreats in the country.)

Nicknamed the Pink Palace, Palazzo Avino occupies a 12th-century villa high on a promontory in Ravello, the town that has historically attracted nobility, artists, and musicians like Richard Wagner, D.H. Lawrence, and M.C. Escher. But what makes this hotel, which is part of the Leading Hotels of the World hotel collection, truly outstanding are its present-day custodians, sisters Mariella and Attilia Avino, who run the hotel their father bought in the 1990s. Both share a passion for fashion, design, and food, and they continue to find new ways to augment the guest experience with their deep connections to the region and unique sense of style.

After studying business administration in Rome, Mariella returned to the Amalfi Coast and took over as managing director of the hotel in 2010. Her younger sister, Attilia, joined her as the director of sales and marketing in 2018. Last summer, they teamed up with Valentino for a takeover of the beach club, started bottling their own wine, and renovated the Infinito Suite with Neapolitan architect Giuliano dell’Uva and British artist David Tremlett. This year they’ve just revealed a renovation of the on-site Michelin-starred restaurant, Rossellini’s, and one of the deluxe sea view rooms, while adding new collaborations with Italian designers and artisans for the Pink Closet, their on-site boutique. They are already working on a project set to debut in 2025: a cooking school in the garden adjacent to the hotel, where their vineyard is located.

Attilia Avino (left) and Mariella Avino (right) wearing black dresses in a mostly white room of Palazzo Avino, with a sofa and historic painting on a wall

Attilia Avino (left) and Mariella Avino (right)

Courtesy of Palazzo Avino

Afar caught up with the Avino sisters and learned how they continue to evolve Palazzo Avino in exciting new ways, what it’s like being young women hoteliers in southern Italy, and what they like to do on the Amalfi Coast.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Why does Palazzo Avino stand out among the other luxury hotels in the region?

Mariella Avino: We’re very fortunate to have a property that has a strong identity. And we are very close friends with the owners of the other hotels on the coast. The most special hotels here are family run, and as families we are ambassadors for the Amalfi Coast. And I think each of us has a unique perspective.

The historic part of the building goes back to the 12th century, so coming here is like coming to an old villa, but with a twist. We try to incorporate some design elements and stay true to our roots and where we are on the Amalfi Coast. The view is also one of our selling points. We sit at a higher elevation than Positano and Amalfi, so I always say when you come to Ravello, you get a bird’s-eye view of the coast. Of course, Amalfi and Positano can give you other beautiful things, but you miss that part. We also have the beach club, which is a great addition. In Ravello you get the best of both worlds and you can access the water, which in the high season can be a chaotic experience at hotels that don’t have private access to the water for guests like we do.

The Belvedere Suite's plunge pool on balcony with views of Amalfi Coast

The Belvedere Suite’s plunge pool at Palazzo Avino in Ravello, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast

Courtesy of Palazzo Avino

I also strongly believe that when guests combine our property with Santa Caterina in Amalfi or Le Sirenuse in Positano, all hotels complement each other. We are lucky to have guests that spend three nights here, three nights in Positano, three nights in Capri. I think that’s the best way to do it.

How have you seen the Amalfi Coast evolve over the years?

MA: It’s definitely evolved, but I think more slowly than other areas. As a consequence of post-COVID excitement, there’s been a lot of tourism coming to the area, though that’s happened throughout Italy. But we are already seeing that this year is a normalization year [for visitor numbers]. The nice thing about these communities is that the villages are very small, so in the end, the soul of the place remains strong because everything is still family run. There are no big companies taking over real estate. I think we’re once again breathing the quaint experience that you would expect on the Amalfi Coast.

What’s new at Palazzo Avino in the year ahead?

MA: The big project we’re working on is our cooking school, which debuts in 2025 in our next-door garden, la cascinetta. That’s also where we make our own wine. We’re very excited about that project—I’m already working on the types of dishes we are going to offer, all of which are from Salerno, where our grandmother was from. There are a lot of fresh pasta traditions.

What are some of your favorite things to do on the Amalfi Coast?

Attilia Avino: Eating, of course! We like Da Lorenzo in Scala, which is five minutes away from here. It’s one of my favorites. It’s still very local. Lorenzo is the father, and you’ll find his son Luca in the restaurant’s front of house, while his brother Gerardo is one of the chefs in the kitchen. It’s my go-to place whenever I want to relax for a night and just have something super simple and super good. It’s one of the restaurants in the area that we always suggest to guests.

What do you order? Do you have a go-to dish?

AA: No—I always trust Luca. And the place I really like to go for drinks is Franco’s at Le Sirenuse. The drinks over there are so wonderful, and the thing I like the most is the popcorn that comes with the drinks.

MA: I also love simple things, like the lemon granita that you find in Tramonti on the way to the airport. There’s this little cart that I always have to stop at. He makes this granita with big lemon pieces—I think it’s the nicest granita on the coast.

What are the advantages of visiting the Amalfi Coast in the off season versus the high season in July and August?

MA: Of course, the off-season could bring a bit of variable weather, which normally you don’t get in high season. It’s a bit of a trade-off, depending on the type of experience guests are looking for. If they’re interested in hiking, the off season is the best. If visitors want to sunbathe, I would still suggest the high season.

What are the challenges and rewards of being young female hoteliers, especially in the south of Italy?

MA: We are lucky to have grown up in a family where our father and mother never saw the fact that we were women or from the south as a minus. On the contrary: They always had a very equal-minded approach. Growing up with these principles, we never had the impression that we had to fight to gain our role in society.

I also have to say that I think the hospitality industry is particularly welcoming for women. Even if there are probably more men in management roles, I do think it’s an industry where there is a strong opportunity for a woman to be successful.

Interior of the Pink Closet, the boutique at Palazzo Avino (L); Mariella Avino  wears a red jacket and a black dress and Attilia Avino wears a sleeveless black and white sundress while standing next to a white colonnaded area of hotel (R)

The Pink Closet, the boutique at Palazzo Avino, collaborates with Italian designers. Right: Mariella Avino (left) and Attilia Avino at Palazzo Avino

Courtesy of Palazzo Avino

How do you incorporate your design and fashion sensibilities into the hotel—especially the Pink Closet boutique?

MA: We’ve been incorporating more design pieces, especially tableware, in the Pink Closet. I buy vintage ceramics, but we also collaborate with local artists on pieces, some of which are incorporated in our restaurant, Rossellini’s. The restaurant’s amuse-bouche course is inspired by a vintage tower by designer Pierre Cardin, but it’s got an Amalfi Coast spin. It was my initial idea to create a three-tiered food tower made of small ceramic dishes for the amuse-bouche, and I worked with ICS Ceramics. The top resembles the domes of the churches of the Amalfi Coast. Then there are ceramic donkeys holding up another small plate that come with the tower—they’re symbols of the Amalfi Coast.

AA: She is obsessed with donkeys.

MA: Yes—I do collect them. I have them in different pieces and different sizes. A lot of them.

The Aquamarine Deluxe Sea View Room at Palazzo Avino, with pale blue bedding and a French balcony

The Aquamarine Deluxe Sea View Room at Palazzo Avino

Courtesy of Palazzo Avino

What’s it like working together as sisters?

MA: It’s seamless because we’re very different in terms of personality. We both were able to tailor our roles at the property. And we actually have very precise roles, which I think is not always easy when it comes to family businesses.

AA: It’s fun to work together. I always joke [with Mariella] that we want to stab each other in the back, but after two seconds you forget the issue. She knows what I’m thinking and I know what she’s thinking, just by looking at each other. That’s the best part of working with my sister.

From $865. Read Afar’s full story on the top 15 hotels in Italy.

Laura Itzkowitz is a freelance journalist based in Rome with a passion for covering travel, arts and culture, lifestyle, design, food, and wine.
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