Salvatore Ferragamo, a name that needs no introduction in the world of fashion, first gained popularity as the shoemaker of the stars. Today his family also owns of the most boutique luxury hospitality brands in Italy, the Lungarno Collection.
The most famous movie Ferragamo worked on was multiple-Oscar winner Ben Hur, designing the footwear of the stars. After making a name for himself in the US, Ferragamo returned to his native Italy and settled in Florence, eventually buying a palace, where he hosted the most famous celebrities of his time, from Greta Garbo to Gandhi.
In a way, Salvatore was the first hotelier in the family, explains Valeriano Antonioli, CEO, Lungarno Collection, on a short visit to Dubai.
Each member of the Lungarno Luxury Hotels Collection derives from creativity, craftsmanship, and passion, naturally reflecting genuine Florentine style and exquisite taste, says Leonardo Ferragamo, president of the Lungarno Collection, paying homage to his extraordinary father, Salvatore Fer ragamo.
Starting from the taking over of the grand dame of Florence - Lungarno Hotel – Lungarno Collection has grown consistently to comprise four luxury hotels in Florence, and one in Rome.
“Fashion is short term – it changes every six months or so, but hotels are forever,” says CEO Antonioli, and it is due to this fundamental difference that the Ferragamos decided not to name their hospitality product after the fashion house, but it has been a challenge to separate the two from common parlance.
Portrait Firenze, Hotel Lungarno, Continentale and Gallery Hotel Art are all based in Florence, and the Portrait Roma is the brand’s outpost in Rome. “Portrait is a product that we launched five years ago with Portrait Roma and Portrait Firenze. The story of the Portrait brand will continue to next year with the Portrait Milano, it is our vehicle of growth. I think in the future, everyone in the luxury world will know of the Portrait. We are also planning to expand outside of Italy, looking for opportunities in London and Paris, for instance. If we have the right opportunity in the UAE, we will take it.”
Milan, with its direct connectivity, is a big favourite with the Arab market and the 73-key Portrait Milano is all geared up to open by the end of 2020. Portrait Milano will occupy a rare piece of real estate: the historic Archiepiscopal Seminary is Europe’s oldest seminary, and was built in 1564. The property is located in the heart of the high-end shopping district - Monte Nepoleone of Milan.
“The name says everything,” explains the CEO. “Portrait stands for the portrait of the guest and the portrait of the city. We are the facilitators of putting together what the guest wants and what the city offers together, the creator of memories.
“Portrait hotels have to be in what I call ‘high-heel locations’, exceptional locations within a city, where ladies can comfortably shop and enjoy the essence of the city, even in their high heels if they choose to.”
Similarly, Portrait Firenze offers exceptional shopping facilities too. “Florence is home to two of the greatest Italian designers: it has Gucci’s first boutique and the main boutique of Ferragamo. Pucci is also from Florence. Prada is from Arezzo, about 50kms from Florence. Between Arezzo and Florence lies the biggest factory outlet of Prada in the world.
“Key French designers are also producing a lot of their product in Florence, for the same reason that Ferragamo chose the city – talent and tradition - people in Florence still have unique handcraft sensibilities that cannot be found anywhere in the world.”
Also located 50kms from Florence is the Mugello Circuit, home to supercars and superbikes, a perfect day out for those who don’t like to shop. “Imagine driving a supercar through the rolling hills of Tuscany.”
Food and grape beverages are an important experience when you are in Italy. “In Tuscany specially, everything grows better,” he smiles.
Hotel Lungarno in Florence was renovated for 15 million euros last year and as part of this renovation we added lots of connecting rooms, which is ideal for families, says the CEO.
Portrait Frirenze is an all-suite hotel and even they are connectable.
“Florence is in the centre of Italy - we have a fantastic high speed railway connectivity from Rome, with a great First Class service on board. Come to Florence for the fashion, good food, scenery and the good life.”
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