Roberto Wirth: Luxury in the Center of Rome


In the center of Rome, overlooking the famous Spanish Steps, you can find the luxurious Hassler Hotel. A night's accommodation in this five-star hotel can cost around 600 euros. If you can afford to book a night in the €18,000-a-night Hassle Penhouse Suite, you will certainly be lucky enough to meet the hotel's owner: Roberto Wirth, who has been profoundly deaf since birth.

Foto de Roberto Wirth, propietario y director del Hotel Hassler, sordo de nacimiento
Roberto Wirth (foto: Vita)

Mr. Wirth is currently in his 70s and is the fifth generation of Swiss hoteliers in Rome. He inherited the Hotel Hassler from his father, Oscar Wirth, and his mother Carmen Bucher. In 1982 he became General Manager at the age of just 32, but it was not a simple inheritance, Mr. Wirth worked hard for it.

After studying hospitality, he moved to Gallaudet University and later earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Management at Cornell University at the age of 25. Before returning to Rome, he worked in San Francisco and Honolulu. Throughout his professional career he has achieved several awards and recognitions, including the prestigious Legend Award of The Leading Hotels of the World in 2014 or the Economic Performance Award (Campidoglio per l'Economia) granted in 2006 by the Mayor's Office of Rome.

Roberto Wirth speaks three languages, Italian, English and German, in addition to Italian Sign Language and American Sign Language which he learned at Gallaudet University.
When parents discover that their child was born deaf, here in Italy, they often don't know what to do. They feel distressed. They treat them as sick. I say: you have to accept them as they are! Let them move, let them express themselves and be understood. But it's not a disease. It's just diversity (Quando due genitori si ritrovano con un figlio nato sordo, qui in Italia, spesso non sanno cosa fare. Si sentono in difficoltà. Li trattano come malati. Io dico: dovete accettarli come sono! Lasciateli muovere, fateli esprimere, e li capirete. Ma quale malattia. E' solo una diversità)

Roberto Wirth (center) receiving the prestigious Legend Award from The Leading Hotels of the World (photo: CABSS)

Supporter and Activist

As a person who has been deaf since birth, Mr. Wirth is convinced of the capabilities of deaf people and dedicates part of his time and money to support other deaf people on their way to success. That is why he founded in 2004 the Center for Assistance to Deaf and Deafblind Children (CABSS, Centro Assistenza per bambini Sordi e Sordociechi Onlus), a non-profit association that promotes multisensory early intervention programs for children from 0 to 6 years old.

In the following video you can watch a 2020 interview with Mr. Wirth by Joel Barish:

Since 1992 he awards an annual scholarship to a deaf person to study at Gallaudet University in the United States, the Roberto Wirth Fullbright Scholarship, within the famous Fullbright Program, one of the most prestigious in the world, present in more than 140 countries. One of the last scholarships, since in 2020 scholarships were temporarily suspended due to COVID-19, was awarded to a 26-year-old Deaf young woman who graduated in Nursing at the University of Eastern Piedmont and was one of the first four deaf children to participate in an experimental program of bilingual education in Italian Sign Language and Italian.

In 2015 he published an autobiographical book entitled 'Silence was my first playmate' (Il silenzio è stato il mio primo compagno di giochi), in which he talks about the complexity of his life and how he was forced to face the prejudices of others, starting with those of his own family. All proceeds are donated to the association he founded to further promote their early care programs.

Roberto Wirth's Autobiography: Silence was my first playmate (on sale at Amazon)

The Hassler Hotel

The five-star hotel owned by Roberto Wirth has 105 rooms and about 150 employees. It is located at the top of the Piazza di Spagna in the center of Rome. It has been visited by countless celebrities, including King Farouk of Egypt, Kirk Douglas and Meryl Streep, both Oscar winners.

Fotos del lujoso hotel Hassler, propiedad de Roberto Wirth, sordo de nacimiento
Photos of the luxurious Hassler Hotel


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