Above the Spanish Steps, commanding an incomparable panorama of eternal Rome, stands the opulent Hotel Hassler. The Wirth family, coproprietors of the Hassler since 1916, became sole proprietors in 1964, when the hotel approached 80 years of age and fame. Roberto E. Wirth, today's president and general manager of Hassler Roma S.R.L., is the fifth-generation hotelier of the Swiss family Wirth. Outstanding in capacity and achievement, he has received several awards and honors, is a sportsman, and is a connoisseur of sculpture and painting. He was born profoundly deaf.

He tells a story of courage, determination and talent to rise above severe affliction. "When I was a little boy I always saw my father working in the hotel," he said on his recent Tokyo visit. "Every day for me was difficult. My younger brother was already speaking other languages. I told my father: 'I want to learn something. I want to run a hotel.' He discouraged me, and said running a hotel required a lot of training, and I would have to talk to people. I said, 'What could I do to learn?' He told me to go out to the market every morning at 5 o'clock and learn the quality of fresh food. He knew I always woke up late, and thought I wouldn't go. But I was determined to show him. I had to prove I could do something. I was 12.

"After that, I told my father, 'I've learned enough.' And he put me in the accountancy department, where I had to write figures. Then I told my father I wanted to go to hotel school. He sent me to Hotel School 'Maggia' in northern Italy. I was 16."