Interview with Villa Tiberio’s Sandro Morelli

MarbellaAzul.com’s Roz James was delighted to be offered an opportunity to interview the charismatic Sandro Morelli at his Villa Tiberio restaurant on Marbella’s golden mile this week.

Sandro bought Villa Tiberio in the late 1980s. It was a rundown villa with gardens resembling a wilderness. But, under the watchful eye of Sandro, the villa and its gardens were lovingly restored and the restaurant opened in 1989. Sandro suggested we have a look round the gardens before starting the interview whilst he gave his gardener some instructions concerning some new plants. The restaurant is surrounded by trees, palms and semi tropical vegitation covering approximately 6,000 square metres. As you wander the walkways, enjoying the cascading waterfalls and fountains and admiring the strategically placed statues, it seems like an oasis of calm in the centre of Marbella.

Even in November, the gardens are incredibly colourful, with both light and shade. The bougainvillea is spectacular, blazing away high into the trees. Clearly, putting these gardens together was a labour of love. We were encouraged to take some photographs whist Sandro talked about his collection of statues. And we have included some of these images below.

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There is so much more to Sandro Morelli than being a wonderful host and a great restauranter. He adores architecture and interior design and this is clear to see when visiting Villa Tiberio.

He also believes passionately, if you have been lucky enough to enjoy good health, you have good morals and you are in a position to share your good fortune with others less fortunate “Then why not? You must.”

Sandro then said “Thankfully we have wonderful people in this world who do amazing things for others selflessly. But, we hear very little about them. I am appalled by the money wasted by governments whilst children are dying every second of every day. If we want a better world, we have to work together. Children are the next generation. We have to protect and teach them.”

“I have three loves in my life. Children. They are our future. They are innocent and love unconditionally. Animals. I am appalled at the way we still treat animals when they give us so much. And Nature. Just look around you and see what we have been given. In this materialistic world, people don’t even take the time to take in the simple things in life. The beauty all around them. So often, they just miss it.”

Sandro and Villa Tiberio will be hosting a gala evening on Sunday November 6 to support and raise much needed funds for two incredible charities – Cudeca and Unicef. We were joined by Esther Ráez Martínez from Cudeca who has worked very closely with Sandro to make this event a success.

He told us “I want this to become an annual event, something people will put in their diaries as not to be missed. We offer a wonderful dinner with wine, an auction with some amazing items (all donated), live entertainment and of course a few surprises along the way. This year, we have received some great gifts from ex-Formula 1 driver Martin Brundle. He has sent us caps and other things signed by the drivers. Pat Rice (from Arsenal FC) and Karen Brady have also helped.”

“Unfortunately, people do worry about the negative side of charity. Does the money get to where it should? I find this very hurtful. I try to do as much as I can. I give what I can and I also encourage others to do so. Why should we believe people are all bad and no one is good! If we all believed this, nobody would give back and the charities would suffer. Thankfully, knowing so many people during my life, there are people I can call. I know they will respond very generously, but we still have to knock on the door and spread the word. Helping once is not enough. We have to do again and again. I have worked with Cudeca for the last nine years and a lot more has to be done. More people need to know about this wonderful organisation which is for all nationalities.”

Sandro is of course very well known here in Marbella and also in London. He arrived in London in 1959 from his home in Napoli. When he first arrived in London, he was paying a shilling a night to sleep under Waterloo Bridge in a box!

His first job in London was as a washer up at the Brompton Hospital. “But of course, I am Italian. I was aware that the food there was not good. I therefore became a cook and later a chef.  A friend of mine, who was the manager of the Ritz Hotel, called me and told me they needed Italian cuisine there. So I took the job there and then moved on to the Cavendish Hotel – where I stayed for the next ten years.”

Sandro’s first restaurant in London was Barbarella’s. And it is still a name associated with the London scene today. “My great friend Charlton Heston came to the opening of Barbarella’s with many other well know names. We had a great time in London then. London was really at its best.”

Having had a wonderful life with the success of Barbarella’s and later with Villa Tiberio, all Sandro wants to do now is give something back. He wants to help wherever he can and he encourages others to do the same. He is such an open and humble man. He doesn’t want the limelight for himself or for his business. But, he wants to use his name and his contacts to inspire others.

“You never forget your humble beginnings. And nor should you! When I was seven years old, I would beg in the streets of Napoli for cigarettes from the American marines who were based there after the war. If I was lucky enough to get four or five cigarettes, I would then run to the bus stops and sell them. I would then be able to take the money home so that my mother could buy bread. I left school at the age of eleven. I had to find a job to help my mother and father. That’s how life was then.”

“This is why I worry. The world has lost its logic. In certain areas of the UK, someone needs cancer treatment and can’t get it because it costs too much. But, governments spend billions on nuclear weapons and going into space. Surely, our priorities are all wrong. But, what can we do! We can’t change the world’s governments. But, we can help things closer to home and make a difference.”

I asked Sandro why he chose November to hold this charity event. “That´s simple! Christmas is just around the corner. And when the gala is a success, all I want to see is children smiling because we are able to help them at this time of year. Please think each year, what can I do to help? It can be something large or small. You can donate time, money, clothing. But do something.”

Sandro’s final words sum him up well. “My philosophy in life is this – if you are honest, kind and generous, you will always be successful.”

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