Shaner Hotels launches Italy division, flags Barga resort for Renaissance

STATE COLLEGE, PENNSYLVANIA Shaner Corp. has formed a new division, Shaner Italia SRL, to own and operate hotels in Italy, and it has already made its first joint-venture acquisition there.

Shaner Italia has taken a major ownership position in the 180-key Il Ciocco Hotel & Resort in Barga, in the Apennine Mountains of the Tuscany region. The original owners, the Marcucci family, will retain an ownership interest in the property. 

The hotel will undergo a multimillion-euro renovation and convert to Marriott’s Renaissance brand late this year or in early 2012 under the name Renaissance Il Ciocco Tuscany Resort & Spa. Shaner Ciocco, a subsidiary of Shaner Italia, will manage the 5-star hotel.

“There is growing worldwide demand for internationally-recognized hotel brands,” says Lance Shaner, chairman and CEO of Shaner Hotel Group. “Italy is a great hotel market but requires strong local knowledge for long-term success. Over the next several years, we intend to partner with local owners/investment groups to develop or acquire up to five hotels. We will focus on Marriott-branded hotels, looking at major cities and resort areas primarily in Tuscany and then eventually expanding to other parts of Italy. We will look for opportunities ranging from luxury hotels to upscale focused-service properties.”

The transaction grew out of Shaner’s close working relationship with the University of Delaware, where Shaner operates the on-campus Courtyard and provides the school’s hospitality students with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience under a special arrangement between Shaner and the university. The Marcucci family is a major proponent in elevating hotel education in Italy and was impressed by Shaner’s interactivity with the university. 

“We could easily see how well the program worked between the university and students and with the systems and people that Shaner had operating the hotel,” says Marialina Marcucci. “We work closely with the Campus Golf & Tourism Academy in nearby Lucca, Italy, and are confident that Shaner’s leadership and experience in training students could be transferred here and that this joint-venture partnership would create a win-win situation as an investment and to further hospitality education in Italy.”

Shaner Italia currently is looking at a number of properties and sites, primarily in Tuscany. “We have a long and mutually rewarding history with numerous Marriott brands and believe affiliation with the Renaissance brand will have a positive impact on both occupancy and room rate,” says Plato Ghinos, Shaner Corp.’s senior vice president for franchise relations and development. “This will be the second Renaissance-branded hotel in the country. The Marriott brands are globally and locally well regarded, and we believe there are significant opportunities to expand with a number of brands there.  We have a healthy appetite to become a major owner/operator in Italy.”

Il Ciocco Hotel & Resort is located 25 minutes from Lucca, approximately midway between Pisa and Florence. The hotel is known as the “music hotel” because it transmitted the first music video in Europe (Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long”) in 1984. It also served as the headquarters hotel for Spike Lee during the shooting of the critically acclaimed film, “Miracle at St. Anna.”

The resort is situated within a 2,000-ha private park and offers extensive indoor and outdoor sports activities, including horseback riding, swimming, a fitness center, a Daniela Steiner Beauty Spa, hiking trails, tennis and bocce courts, and soccer fields.  The resort also features a competitive motocross track and SUV rally track. The property features extensive meeting facilities, including an 850-seat auditorium, two ballrooms and numerous smaller meeting rooms.

The hotel offers four food and beverage outlets, including Le Salette, an upscale restaurant featuring regional and international cuisine. The Veranda Restaurant offers panoramic views of the nearby Apuane Alps, and La Cantinetta is a wine bar showcasing Tuscan wines, cheese and local products. The American Bar provides nightly piano entertainment.

Shaner Ciocco will oversee the resort’s renovation, which will be completed in phases to minimize disruptions to guests. It will include a complete makeover of rooms, lobby and all public areas, meeting space and food and beverage facilities. 

The 180-key Il Ciocco Hotel & Resort, Barga, which will take the Renaissance flag later this year
The 180-key Il Ciocco Hotel & Resort, Barga, which will take the Renaissance flag later this year