Bristol Palace really is a second home for her. Paola Dianti has worked in the hotel for 38 years and knows every nook and cranny of the building: as the indefatigable secretary at reception and the person who teams up every day with the management to assign the guest rooms.
Do you remember your first day here?
It was September 9 1984, I was only 19 and I had just graduated from the Hotel Management School in Genoa. I was at the reception desk and I had to rely on the precious experience of secretaries and porters who were older than me to learn the ropes. Soon after that, we were caught up in the whirlwind of the Boat Show, Genoa’s most important international event. It was a baptism of fire.
I remember my enthusiasm and my desire to put myself to the test. In those years, receptionists were almost exclusively men. The Bristol Palace was one of the first hotels to open the way to women, giving them the responsible role of welcoming guests at the reception desk.
Describe a typical day on the life of a housekeeper? How do you manage your work and interface with your colleagues at the same time?
Every day is different from the next. My main job is to assign rooms, control their quality, and welcome guests. One of the most delicate aspects is room assignment, which requires special attention. So as soon as I get here in the morning, I get together with my colleagues to verify the day’s arrivals and check whether our service has perfectly matched our guests’ requests. It’s as if I’m inviting someone to my home and seeking to offer them the warmest welcome possible.
In the course of the day, I interface with the management, the restaurant, the chambermaids and the porters. We communicate constantly not only to pass on guests’ requests but also to anticipate them. We have to think like psychologists, trying to understand how guests behave from the moment they enter the hotel. That’s a precious piece of advice a porter once gave me, and I haven’t forgotten it.
Cleanliness is fundamental as a “visiting card” for a hotel like the Bristol Palace. What are your secrets for making a guest feel pampered and for ensuring a high level of comfort?
We are generous with our kindnesses, which includes extras ranging from welcome gifts to complimentary bottles of wine, from welcome cards to presents for children, from birthday greetings to dog feeding mats. And we’re always at the disposal of guests to meet their requests for bespoke comfort.
Our aim is client satisfaction and to achieve it we have to look ahead, planning and organising in advance, using all our experience to ensure the highest standards. But it’s also possible to add small personal touches: imagination and tastefulness fuel passion and passion makes all the difference. It creates a bond. So when clients thank us, our satisfaction is all the greater.
Do you ever receive special requests that require special attention?
Birthdays, anniversaries, St Valentine’s Day … these are all occasions we can make special and unique by decorating rooms with flower arrangements and balloons, delivering presents and, above all, messages, cards and letters. All it takes is a touch of imagination, understanding and a will to amaze.
When you walk into a hotel, what are the first things you look at to assess its level of comfort and cleanliness?
The first impression is instinctive and spontaneous, and means breathing in the air of the room. You can tell instantly whether the various spaces have been sufficiently aired and cleaned. Then you tick off a step-by-step check list involving a methodical tour of the room and the bathroom, controlling the telephone, lights and so on. It’s a question of habit but also of character. You have to have a certain sense of style to do this job, but also much more besides!