By Ron Bernthal
After 27 years welcoming guests to their properties, this family-owned Italian hotel chain has perfected the sophisticated, yet personal approach, to hospitality that is so difficult to achieve. From Bergamo in the north, to Naples in the south, Starhotels is a great choice for U.S. travelers to Italy.
Can a hotel chain have a personality? For large hotel chains, with their corporate structure and philosophy ingrained within hundreds of properties, it may be impossible for an owner or manager to influence the small, but important, features that create personality. The wall paintings in the lobby, the color scheme of guest linens, or the welcome you receive when you approach the front desk. For most large chains, their styles and attitudes are too regulated. Even with product segmentation, many of the large chains find it impossible to define and maintain individual personalities.
Smaller chains, however, still have a chance at showing off to guests the unique personalities of their owners. One example is the Italian hotel chain Starhotels, which has, since its founding in 1980, created hotels with all the style, personality, and flavor that the term “made in Italy” signifies. And much of their success can be traced to one person, Starhotels CEO and President, Elisabetta Fabri.
From her office in Florence, Ms. Fabri selects the architects, interior designers, and top managers for her properties, which now include 19 hotels in Italy, properties in Paris and New York, and the new Starhotels Grand Milan, in Saronno, scheduled to open this year.
It is easy to call Ms. Fabri a Renaissance woman, but it has nothing to do with her Italian background. Yes, she was born in Florence and grew up in Rome, but her travels have taken her all over the world, and after studying at Georgetown University in Washington, DC., John Cabot University in Rome, and Switzerland’s prestigious Ecole Hoteliere of Lausanne, she joined Starhotels, the family-owned company started by her father, Ferruccio Fabri.
Ms. Fabri’s apartment in Florence, with its terrace overlooking the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio, and her Tuscan farmhouse in the Chianti countryside, reflect the passion she feels for art and design. There are lovely sculptures, paintings, and Italian-designed furnishings throughout her private residences, and this sense of style is incorporated into her hotel properties as well. “I believe the hotel one chooses is a great component of the success of a trip, whether for business or leisure. I want people who visit our hotels to feel the energy of that place, the atmosphere and comfort that makes you want to return, and appreciate the warmth that makes a place unique. This is the difference between a trip and an experience,” Fabri said during an interview at Starhotels corporate headquarters, tucked away in a beautiful historic building in central Florence.
Although all the properties in the Starhotels chain are in the 4-star category (except New York’s 5-star Michelangelo), that is a designation that seems more associated with price than with décor and ambience. All the Italian properties offer high speed Wi-Fi access, Executive Rooms with working desks, efficient and modern lighting, parquet floors, exquisite pillows and linens, and fabric covered furnishings in muted earth colors. But that is where the chain conformity ends. Public areas in each property are different, with lobbies that can be intimate or spacious, restaurants that can be more formal and traditional, or very hip with splashy, colorful paintings adorning the walls. Meeting rooms come in all sizes, with varying degrees of technology, and a large menu of convention services is integral to every property.
Location is an important factor for Starhotels. Many of the properties are within walking distance of the central rail terminal, the main shopping and business district, and local attractions. Rome’s Metropole is a few steps from the Opera; the Splendid Venice is close to San Marco Square and the Rialto bridge; the Du Parc in Parma offers a private entrance to the magnificent Parco Ducate; and Milan’s Starhotels Rosa is within steps of Piazza del Duomo and La Scala.
Starhotels has recently launched Starevents®, an integrated event planning service designed by Ms. Fabri to meet the needs of American and international business travelers and corporate meeting planners. Because of their properties in so many Italian cities, a dedicated Starhotels event manager in the head office can work with a meeting planner and arrange everything from conference rooms and presentation equipment, to cocktail parties and formal dinners at one or more of the 19 Italian hotels. They can also arrange post-business events throughout Europe, from individual driving tours in Ferrari’s to gala corporate events in Paris’ Louvre Museum.
The newest venture for Starhotels will be the Starhotels Grand Milan, a new structure in with 200 rooms, convention center, three restaurants, fitness center with Turkish bath, and two parking garages. The property is located in Saronno, midway between Milan and the international airport at Malpensa, and close to the new Milan Trade Fair Complex of Rho-Pero.
Starhotels are located in the following cities: New York, Paris, Milan (6 properties), Rome (2), Venice, Florence (3), Naples, Bologna, Parma, Genoa, Turin, Trieste, and Bergamo. The property in Saronno is expected to open in 2007. These affordable hotels offer many seasonal and holiday promotions, as well as corporate and event rates.
Travel Information: Rates and availability for Starhotels properties in Italy,
New York, and Paris are available at www.starhotels.com.