Paolo Grottanelli, 29, was hired for the summer role at the hotel in the seaside town of Cervia based on the experience outlined in his CV, which included a black and white copy of his photo.
But as he prepared to move to Cervi for the job in June, the offer was taken back after he sent his ID card with a photo in colour.
The hotelier wrote, via SMS: “I'm sorry Paolo, but I can't put coloured guys in the dining area. In Romagna, many people have a backward mindset. Sorry, but I can't make you travel down. Bye.”
Grottanelli was born in Brazil and adopted, along with his brother, from an orphanage in Sao Paolo at the age of three by a couple in Milan.
He told Corriere he read the text message around 30 times with tears in his eyes.
“I couldn't believe it,” he said.
“I wanted to call the hotelier and tell him what I thought about this violation of human rights.”
Instead, with the support of Filcams Cgil, the union representing people working in the tourism industry, he is seeking legal action.
“It's racism,” the union said.
“The financial damage caused by losing out on the seasonal job is compounded by the humiliation and profound injustice of which Paolo is a victim.”
The legal pursuit also has the backing of Ascom, an Italian hotel association.
“I'm sad and amazed,” said Maurizio Zoli, president of the association's Cervia unit.