Florina Grecu and Barbara Romanato lead a team of housekeepers who ensure not only absolute cleanliness but also attention to detail and all the kindness that make a stay in a luxury five-star hotel special.
Do you remember your first day as housekeeper?
Grecu: I first came here on November 8 2021, after working for years in spas, then in other hotels, first as a chambermaid, then as a supervisor, then as a deputy housekeeper and, finally, as a head housekeeper. When I walked in for the first time I was impressed by the actual size of the building. Viewed from the outside, it looks smaller but inside it hides lots of reception rooms over different tiers. I felt a bit disoriented at first. But I learned in a hurry, partly thanks to the relationship that I established immediately with all my colleagues, from the manager to the various service managers, and above all, the people who work at reception. It was a relationship based on communication.
Romanato: Almost 19 years have gone by since I first arrived. Before I used to live in Padua, where I worked in a spa hotel and attended a hospitality training course because I wanted to grow professionally. I sent my CV to Bologna almost at random and it came as a big surprise when they called me down for a job interview.
Describe a typical day in the life of a housekeeper? How do you manage the personnel and interface with the other services at the same time?
Grecu: I go round the communal spaces, I check the hall, the Cafè Marinetti, the reception room and the restaurant. In general, I always pay the utmost attention whenever, for one reason or another, I walk through a space. Then I supervise the chambermaids, floor by floor, and hold a daily briefing to organise their work. For me, appearance is very important: well-ironed uniforms, well-groomed hair, just a trace of mascara, perfect fingernails and so on. The porters have to present themselves well too, they have to look neat and trim with tidy haircuts. Even though we work mostly behind the scenes, we aren’t invisible. Being impeccable is part of the job.
Romanato: If the morning is given over to the division of work according to arrivals, departures and stays, in the evenings we’re busy tending to the rooms, carrying out the turndown service – a touch of class typical of any high-class hotel – and reorganising the reception rooms and arrangements for the days to come. Then we have to take care of the garments that guests hand in in the morning and we have to deliver cleaned and ironed in the evening, and of supplies, which include all the wherewithal, such as bed linen and courtesy sets, to make sure rooms are always up to standard.
Cleanliness is fundamental as a “visiting card” for a hotel like the Majestic, a service as invisible as it’s essential. What are your secrets for making a guest feel pampered and for ensuring a high level of comfort?
Grecu: The details say it all. Flowers in the room, beds well made, carefully chosen scents for all the various spaces, amenities, the latest magazines ... Chairs are turned slightly tow face the door to invite the guest to come in and sit down. Slippers are arranged so they can be slipped on without having to bend down when getting out of bed. Everything is arranged to create a sense of comfort and relaxation. When cleaning rooms and bathrooms, chambermaids gather any objects left by guests – make-up, hair brushes and so on –and lays them out neatly on a lavette, a small square towel: this allows them to clean every surface and, at the same time, helps guests find their belongings immediately. The same principle applies to the meeting rooms. It’s fundamental for all the chairs to be arranged out in perfect symmetrical, rows. It’s a question of tastefulness.
Romanato: We aren’t noticed and we are very discreet but at the same time our work is there for all to see. We work behind the scenes because the stars of the scene are our guests. Nothing would be the same without them. Our role couldn’t be more delicate. When we enter rooms, we preserve their intimacy. The chambermaids clean and tidy them, but without ever disturbing guests. This is why we set great store by our ability to communicate with them, all very different one from another. Our aim is to provide them with respectful service in line with their preferences. The chambermaids are well organised and know how to behave and get on with every type of guest. They are trained to understand who they are dealing with and to share information with the girls on the next shifts in such a way as to cover the whole stay. This another hallmark of luxury.
Do you ever receive special requests that require special attention?
Grecu: We are at the guests’ complete disposal and are always ready to listen to them. Beds are fundamental: the freshness of our linen sheets is usually much appreciated, but sometimes guests prefer cotton, in which case we are only too happy to oblige. Sometimes they ask us for a “German bed”, namely with a double mattress and two single duvets, or else separate beds. Our internal laundry service receives a lot of special requests, especially when it comes to delivery times.
Romanato: Guests often forget their belongings. When we recover them, we inform the reception staff so they can find them waiting for them in their rooms when they return. I remember a little boy who was truly inconsolable because he’d lost his favourite toy, a puppet from which he was inseparable, the day before. The chambermaid hadn’t found it when she was cleaning the room and it certainly hadn’t ended up in the laundry. So I went to inspect the room and moved the heavy beds. I discovered that puppet had fallen behind one of the headboards and got stuck there. The expression on the boy’s face when he got his puppet back made me ever so happy.
Let’s end with a trick of the trade. When you walk into a hotel, what are the first things you look at to assess its level of cleanliness?
Grecu: It’s the bed and the curtains that exert the first visual impact in the rooms. So the corners of the sheets have to be neat, the duvet or the blanket mustn’t be crumpled, and the curtains have to form harmonious, attractive folds. The desk also has to be in perfect order and the labels on the amenities and the products in the mini-bar have to be turned towards client, who shouldn’t have to rotate them to see what they are.
Romanato: Details are fundamental. I go and check the cleanliness of the surfaces that are hard to reach, such as the tops of cupboards or the backs of table legs. I also check that magazines are in order and recent, and that the flowers are fresh. I’m so accustomed to this level of attention that my eye always falls instinctively on the things that need to be put right.