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How the Ferragamo family built a niche in luxury hospitality

The Ferragamo name may be most synonymous with high-end fashion, but the Italian family has long had a foothold in luxury hospitality.
How the Ferragamo family built a niche in luxury hospitality

The clan has dedicated more than a quarter-century to expanding its boutique hotel portfolio, the Lungarno Collection, which comprises six city-center properties in Florence, Rome and Milan.

Ferragamo's foray into hospitality began with the 1995 acquisition of the Hotel Lungarno in Florence. The Gallery Hotel Art and the Hotel Continentale in Florence were added in 1999 and 2002, and the collection launched its Portrait brand in 2012.

"This was one of the first times that a fashion family became engaged in creating and managing hotels," said Valeriano Antonioli, CEO of the Lungarno Collection. "And even today, we're one of the few fashion families owning, creating, designing and also managing our hotels."

That none of the properties are flagged under the iconic and highly recognizable Ferragamo name is intentional. According to Antonioli, the separation between the two businesses and brands was a calculated move.

"While we realize that there are some connections between fashion and hotels, there is a big obstacle to combining [the two], which is the difference between the speed of hotels and the speed of fashion," Antonioli said. "In the fashion industry, you change your shoes every six months. In hotels, you may need to keep the same curtains for years. A hotel requires longevity, therefore rather than leveraging the Ferragamo name, we leverage the family's core and cultural values."

The driving force behind the Lungarno Collection's latest growth spurt has been its Portrait flag, which Antonioli describes as "a brand for the most discerning travelers" that is located within the "most preferred location in any given city."

Lungarno has Portrait hotels in Florence and Rome, and its most recent addition, the Portrait Milano, came in late 2022. Situated within Milan's fashion district, the 73-room Portrait Milano is housed within a restored former seminary dating to the 16th century.

Lungarno Collection hotels may not put their affiliation with the Ferragamo name front and center, but synergies between the two still exist. Each of the group's Portrait hotels are located in close proximity to a Ferragamo retail store, with the Portrait Roma even sharing a building with a Ferragamo boutique. (Portrait Roma guests can access the boutique via a special "back door" entrance.)

Likewise, guests at all Lungarno Collection hotels in Florence are granted complimentary admission to the Ferragamo Museum, which offers a window into the fashion house's origins and the life of its founder, Salvatore Ferragamo.

"We give a lot of privileges and preferred treatment to our guests," said Antonioli, adding that the group is developing an exclusive experience for guests at the Portrait Milano that will incorporate both a visit to a Ferragamo boutique and a product component.

Antonioli is bullish about continued demand growth across Italy, which has experienced a rapid tourism rebound -- as well as a sharp increase in hotel rates -- over the past two years. (Starting rates for the Portrait Milano, for example, hover at around $1,600 per night for much of July.)

"In our case, we think that we've found the right balance between product and rate," said Antonioli, adding that he predicts hotel rates across Italy will "remain constant to 2023" this year, thanks in part to the continued strength of demand from the North American market.

"The post-Covid rush to travel, amongst other factors, has contributed to price inflation in the travel industry," Antonioli said. "But my take is that Covid made many people understand that travel is a great way to spend their money, enriching their life with beautiful experiences."

By Christina Jelski

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