The great thing about Porto Ercole is that it remains unspoiled. The entire Promontorio dell’Argentario is like a wonderful garden, a veritable paradise. Hotel Il Pellicano itself is a highly polished gemstone in a wild but flawless setting. It has the hushed aura of a palazzo, yet, like Elsa Peretti’s home at the top of the hill, it is wonderful understated-all subtle elegance and luxury. At Il Pellicano, the world beyond disappears. It’s a place to rejuvenate, to have a real vacation. This is a true hideaway. It feels family-run, as in fact it is. The food is delicious; the service is quick and polite. I remember having lunch down on the beach – the cement beach, the very chic cement beach, which is reached by walking down the long cliffside staircase or by taking the outdoor elevator from the hotel terrace to the water’s edge. I ordered a club sandwich and a fresh limonata and reveled in the rays of the Tuscan sun. That’s an Il Pellicano day: living in your bathing suit, reading a fat royal biography or a slim avant-garde novella, breaking for dips in the warm, clean, emerald sea or in the very civilized saltwater pool.
Fortunately, the magic of this place has been captured in a new book, Hotel il Pellicano, by two great American photographers: John Swope and Slim Aarons. Swope’s elegant black-and-white shots document the gestation of Il Pellicano under Michael and Patsy Graham, from the groundbreaking, in 1964, to the grand opening, in 1965, and six years beyond that. In Aaron’s photographs, the Borgheses, Corsinis, Puccis, and Pignatellis are all here, bronzed and sexy and utterly at ease. So is the Sciò clan, proprietors of this paradise since 1979. The book is not only a family album but also a historical document of seaside leisure during three decades of the late 20th century. In Juergen Teller’s party pictures fron the summer of 2009, we get an edgy, ironic view of a new generation at play-Stavros Niarchos’s yacht Creole sailed off long ago, but his granddaughter Eugenie has checked in, along with Coco Brandolini, Margherita Missoni, Tatiana Santo Domingo, and Andrea Casiraghi, son of Princess Caroline of Monaco. Teller draws a contrast between the lassez-faire spirit of decades past and the more frenetic, self-conscious fun of today. Happily, though, Il Pellicano remains what it has been from its beginnings: a respite, a golden summer camp for a chosen few.
Adapted from Hotel Il Pellicano, by John Swope, Slim Aarons and Juergen Teller, with an introduction by Bob Colacello, to be published this month by Rizzoli Publishing; © 2011 by the authors