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Inside Merloni business heiress Maria Paola's sumptuous Italian ski apartment

The Cortina d’Ampezzo property has spectacular views of the Italian Dolomites

Maria Paola Merloni and daughter Vittoria
16 March 2024
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Set among mountain peaks that turn pink at sunset, the beautiful Italian resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo is known as "the pearl of the Dolomites". It’s just the place to enjoy some dolce vita in the snow, and that’s exactly what the country’s fore-most families have been doing since the 1960s, returning year after year to its immaculate slopes and legendary après-ski spots such as El Camineto and El Toulà. One of its greatest fans, former Italian senator and scion of the Merloni business dynasty Maria Paola Merloni, tells us she’s been visiting since she was a little girl.

"I’ve always been in love with this valley," she says. Maria Paola’s home from home is a sun-soaked attic apartment with spectacular views that belonged to her beloved father and mentor Vittorio. It’s filled with memories of happy times spent with him there and, these days, it’s where she loves to catch up with Vittorio’s namesake, her own daughter Vittoria, 30.

Maria Paola Merloni living room with wooden beam ceiling and yellow chairs and decor© MATTIA BETTINELLI

Maria Paola, when did you first come to Cortina?

"When I was six, so I’ve been coming for over 50 years. I put on my first skis here. For me, the place has always had a wonderful atmosphere. I’ve always been in love with this valley, these mountains and their colours. As soon as I arrive, I feel cherished, carefree.

"I admit that Cortina ha ssome flaws because it’s not very international, nor easily accessible. But that’s part of its charm and character."

Maria Paola Merloni and daughter Vittoria posing in matching jumpers in front of Italian Dolomites© MATTIA BETTINELLI

What can you tell us about this apartment?

"My father, who loved skiing, bought it in the early 1980s. After he passed away in 2016, I bought it from my siblings, Antonella, Aristide and Andrea, and over the past four years, I’ver enovated it to make it lighter and more suited to our lifestyle today."

Maria Paola Merloni open plan living room with view of mountains© MATTIA BETTINELLI

How would you describe the apartment’s decor?

"I wanted the interior to be sophisticated, cosy, bright, easy to live in and welcoming for friends. So I modernised it, but keeping the mountain ambience.

Maria Paola Merloni dining room with yellow roses and cow print chair© MATTIA BETTINELLI

"I kept some original features, like the fireplace, but I opened up the space because I wanted every corner to be infused with the amazing natural light we have here, high in the mountains."

"As for the colour palette, I’ve used soft shades that work in both winter and summer. The walls are lined with fabric so that whichever room you go into, it feels as if you’re getting a hug.

 Maria Paola Merloni tablescape with yellow roses and blue china© MATTIA BETTINELLI

"Then there’s sunny yellow tableware and plenty of flowers and cushions to make the place feel so pleasant and inviting you never want to leave."

And the art and objects?

Maria Paola Merloni wearing jeans © MATTIA BETTINELLI

“I have lots of works by 20th and 21st-century artists, including abrizio Braghieri’s Heart and Robert Indiana’s Hope sculpture, and I love collecting antique silver teapots and glass vases by Venini.

The name Merloni is synonymous with household appliances, thanks to the empire your grandfather Aristide founded and your father helped to build...

Maria Paola Merloni ski chalet living room© MATTIA BETTINELLI

"Yes. My papa Vittorio was a great entrepreneur who dedicated his life to work. He handed over the presidency of the company, Indesit, in 2010 because he was suffering with Alzheimer’s.

"But by then it was the market leader in Europe, with 18,000 employees, annual sales of €3bnand factories in Russia, England and Turkey, as well as Italy. So my father had achieved his dream."

Maria Paola Merloni hallway with skis resting against wall© MATTIA BETTINELLI

You wrote a book about him, Today is Already Tomorrow: The Life of an Entrepreneur. He must have been a big influence on your own career...

"I was very close to him. It was an immense reciprocal love and his death is a pain I’ve had to learn to live with. For many years, I worked in the family company. But after he became ill, everything changed."

Maria Paola Merloni and daughter Vittoria wearing matching outfits© MATTIA BETTINELLI

"Due to family circumstances and differences of opinion, we ended up selling to the US company Whirlpool. We’re now three siblings, since sadly we lost my brother Andrea in 2020, and none of us works in the business any more."

You’ve had an impressive political career, too...

Maria Paola Merloni bedroom at Italian ski apartment© MATTIA BETTINELLI

"From 2006 to 2019, I was a member of Italy’s parliament, first as a deputy and then a senator."

And now you’ve returned to the business world with a new company, TooA

Maria Paola Merloni spare bedroom at ski chalet© MATTIA BETTINELLI

"Yes; I bought a patent from an Anglo-Italian engineer for a machine that makes ice cream almost instantly. It’s a bit like a modern coffee machine: you put in a capsule and three and a half minutes later, you have two scoops – enough for a cone.

"It’s futuristic, but also artisanal because our 14 different flavours are all made with traceable, natural ingredients. We started selling it in Italy and now we’re exporting, too."

Maria Paola Merloni posing with pet dog© MATTIA BETTINELLI

Your daughter, Vittoria, is also following in Vittorio’s entrepreneurial footsteps...

"Vittoria is the most important project of my life. She lives in Milan and has launched a fashion label called VItoVI, which means ‘from Vittorio to Vittoria’. It produces women’s tailored jackets based on the ones her grandfather had, which she inherited and redesigned to wear herself.

Maria Paola Merloni Italian ski apartment exterior view© MATTIA BETTINELLI

"She came up with the idea during the Covid-19 pandemic, after gaining experience in a major Italian fashion company. She created her own brand from scratch. So far it’s been sold mainly online, but the next collection will also be in shops."

Finally, what do you like to do when you come to Cortina?

Maria Paola Merloni and daughter Vittoria skiing © MATTIA BETTINELLI

"I like to do everything here! I enjoy skiing, walking and snowshoeing, and I love to go to our great restaurants. I live like a local.”‘

Maria Paola Merloni view of Italian Dolomites© MATTIA BETTINELLI





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