With a surname like Rosato, it was obvious he was Italian, but when we found out he came from la bellissima Toscana, we could better understand the passion in his expressions.
Mr Riccardo Rosato is a SPA Therapist with Corinthia London, and that intrigued us. What is exactly the main aim of a spa therapist? Mr Rosato slightly scratched his head and with a half smile remarked that the answer was not that easy. “In a five-star luxury hotel like Corinthia London, the Spa therapist aims to provide an unforgettable treatment such as massage or facial. Overall, however, the therapist aims at isolating guests away from their normal environment and nagging everyday problems and make them forget everything, and relax. We cocoon them and renew their body and spirit.”
How does one become a spa therapist? “One way to start would be to study in a beauty school. Most therapists come from that type of background. Another way would be starting from a massage school or undergo university studies in sports science or physiotherapy. The former focuses on beauty; the others focus more on massages and therapeutic treatment.”
Something in Mr Rosato hinted he had a varied and interesting background before joining Corinthia. We were absolutely spot on. “I first started working as a fitness instructor/personal trainer and casual therapist in a gym in Italy after university. Then I moved to London to work for a large hotel gym. I was not that excited and yearned to work as a spa therapist. I had done that before but it was just a casual experience in my town for a few five-star hotels. So, I went back to Italy and joined a thermal spa in a castle in Montalcino near Siena in Tuscany and had my first proper experience as a spa therapist. I then took a six-month break to widen my horizon in Asia where I searched for something special for my treatment.
“ I studied and practiced Thai massage therapy, and then returned to Italy, where I worked in a famous hotel on the Como Lake with ESPA as products brand. I had the opportunity to meet Igor, an international operation manager of ESPA, who offered to help me when I needed work with another spa. I decided to further extend my experience and spent a year in south east Asia, and a couple of months in India where I studied to become a yoga teacher and searched more of the Ayurvedic philosophy/treatments. Then I moved to Bali where I studied facial treatments at an international school and explored the Balinese culture of Spa Wellness with the different massages and treatments. After that, I travelled to Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia. In Hong Kong I experienced some Chinese medicine with cupping acupuncture, and I also went to Japan and there learnt different treatments and discovered the traditional Japanese thermal bath called Onsen. I met several therapists in these places and exchanged experiences and knowledge. It was a silent surge of inner growth and absorption of knowledge and sensitivity. My horizon widened and deepened further. In Asia, the spa culture is more spiritual and meditative than in the West. It is not limited to massage. I decided to come back to London and called my friend Igor who helped me join Corinthia London. I was more than thrilled. It is a very innovative spa, which is probably the largest in England, where one finds experienced therapists, a Chinese medicine doctor, physiotherapist, osteopath, craniosacral therapist, and so on. It’s marvellous. Espalife at Corinthia London is a top player in the Premier League of spa.”
‘Know your client’ would certainly be a golden rule. The therapist needs to know what his client needs, or may be allergic to. Is that right? How does this relationship start? Is there some pre- therapy discussion? Mr Rosato nodded gently:
“For every treatment, the guest has to complete a form, indicating for example medical issues or allergies which a therapist needs to be aware of. Then we ask what the guest is looking for and how s/he would like to feel in case of a massage, or if they have any tension or other area they would like to focus on. In the case of facials, obviously, I would want to know their skin-care routine, their concerns… This pre-therapy session is important to understand and offer the right treatment.”
How essential is it to keep abreast of the latest techniques and products? Would one need to regularly refresh, upgrade and expand one’s professional knowledge? Mr Rosato was quick on the draw:
“It is fundamental to keep yourself updated. I am still studying and will finalise a Master’s degree very soon. New treatments and products are introduced every month. Studying is an ongoing process and technology is now growing by leaps and bounds in the spa world. So, apart from one’s skill, one must also work with the latest technology. Nowadays, we have also HydraFacial treatments and we also use Theragun to help release deep tension and attain more effective results during sport and deep tissue massage. It’s an evolving world and we need to remain at the helm.”
How essential is it to keep a conversation with clients during sessions? “Most clients don’t like to have a conversation during treatment; they come to relax. Many actually fall asleep in the first 15 minutes of their treatment and you can hear them snore. Sometimes, however you may meet a guest who asks how I could relieve tension. I must confess, I don’t really like to speak during the treatment as it lessens my concentration. There are some guests who use their phones, and a few speak all the time.” Mr Rosato smiled and added: “I think the best are those that fall asleep. Meanwhile, I give them a nice treatment and at the end they wake up completely relaxed and renewed.”
We wanted to know whether he explained treatments and procedures and recommend certain treatments to clients? Does he find that certain clients have a fixed idea of what they want and fail to respond to recommendations?
“When guests book a treatment or inquire about a treatment, our sales and reservation teams deal with their request and explain treatments in detail and suggest what they consider the best treatment. Obviously, a therapist would have more expertise so we explain all the procedure at the beginning of a treatment. Usually, we collect guests from the changing room and have a little chat on the way to the treatment rooms. We confirm any medical allergies and then after asking a few questions, we explain the treatment procedure. If the guest is not happy with what is booked, we can always try to change and personalise the experience as much as we can. Certain clients already know what they want and are fixed on that point. We may recommend future appointments and future treatments. Our intent is to give them the best experience and try to eliminate their concerns.”
Surely standing for long hours creates discomfort. How does he relax? Mr Rosato acknowledged all this. “True, we stand for long hours. It’s tiring on the arms, shoulders and back and most of us therapists obviously have an issue with that. Often, we are also the ones needing treatment. In my case, gym and yoga Pilates help me. I learned yoga in India; yoga stretching is a really good exercise. Meditation is also beneficial, and…” He smile broadly and added “I think sometimes a beer with my colleagues releases all the tension and stress and helps me finish the day well and get ready to start the next one in better shape.”
But what does he really feel like doing after a long day of work? “Sometimes I just want to return home, relax, eat and rest. Sometimes I go out. Pubs are an important part of English culture so I often go there to relax over a beer and chat with colleagues or friends. I often cycle to work. Cycling helps release all the stress; I love watching the city from a different point of view, but then it really depends on the day. In any case, London is full of things to do; it’s never boring.”
Any particular hobbies? “As I said, I really love cycling. In Tuscany, where I come from, there is a great passion for cycling. When I was in Italy, I spent most of my extra time riding a bike in the countryside amongst vineyards. Here in London there’s not much space for cyclists, though I still like cycling to work. It’s good for the body and the environment.”
We could notice in him a passionate mode of expression, which is an Italian hallmark. Is it so? “Very true, I’m really passionate, especially on people and food. I am friendly and open-minded. On the other hand, I suppose I am also a bit shy and reserved, depending on the situation.” He was about to conclude when he added softly: “I recognise that I’m sometimes difficult to handle.” We felt we should not enquire further.
Was there another job he would have liked to do instead? “At one time in my younger days I loved oenology. I liked chemistry and wine, but then I chose otherwise. Nowadays, wine is really big even in the UK; there are many sommeliers and wine bars, so maybe I made the wrong choice. I should have chosen wine.” He was silent for a few seconds and then added “ Or not?”
One last thing before parting, we asked if he could relate one experience. He was reticent at first. Then he gave in. “One day I collected a lady guest from the changing room and I saw her extremely excited. Was it her meeting me? I asked her if this was her first time and queried whether she was having a nice day. Her face shone and her excitement increased…I really thought it could be me…then she spelt it out: ‘I was next to Tom Cruse in the jacuzzi’ Could I have ever beaten that experience ?”
With that, we parted our ways.