I evaluate conference venues for my clients. Here’s a brief review
of a hotel I visited, viewed from a conference perspective.
After a dozen switchback curves up a dizzying, misty Tuscan mountainside, Il Ciocco appears like a mirage. You hear a voice say, “I want to go to there,” and realize it is your own. Welcome to one of my favorite hotel experiences. I’m still plotting which client—any client— to bring for their next conference. Il Ciocco has some challenges. But for the right kind of conference, this Italian resort can be perfetto.
Property name: Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa
Location: Barga, Italy
Purpose of visit: Site check
Entering the courtyard feels like you are walking into an Italian palazzo. It is very welcoming, and sets the mood for a pleasurable experience. You can actually feel yourself relax as you walk towards the lobby.
The lobby is dark, cool and inviting. Ceilings are low, so there is no “wow” factor. But what it lacks in spectacle it makes up for in warmth and style. Plenty of nooks and crannies to sit and relax or for impromptu discussions, as well as off-rooms to explore. The wow factor is always just outside the windows: a stunning view. A great lobby.
Front Desk warm n’ fuzzy?
We were greeted with a warm, “Buon giorno!” from behind the front desk as we walked in the doors. The friendly service caused us to feel instantly welcome. Each time I passed by during my stay, staff looked up from their work with that same smile. The Italian hospitality really shines through. Warm ’n’ fuzzy indeed.
(180 total.) Our room was small, but phenomenal. The main reason? The double doors which opened out onto a balcony with a stunning view over the Tuscan landscape and majestic mountains looming in the distance. The large furniture made the room feel a bit overstuffed, but it was all high quality and comfortable. The bed, the bathroom and the amenities were exceptional.
However, not all guests are so lucky. Rooms on the back side of the hotel had a view of, well, the mountain’s backside. Paying the upgrade price is highly recommended. Take my advice, and make sure you are one of the chosen, whatever it takes. (And as the one who discovered this resort for your group, you should most definitely be.)
(Room service, restaurants, bars). A cozy bar is just off the lobby, with the same friendly service and some interesting local beers. There are two restaurants, and I frequented the first for breakfast every day (with a large outdoor space with that same other-worldy view). The second is a fine dining restaurant upstairs. We sat outside and watched the sun set behind the mountains while enjoying local wine and house-made pasta. There’s also a family-run pizzeria just off property. The brick oven is tended by the husband; the bar by his charming wife. While the service at the fine dining restaurant was just average, all venues are recommended.
Memorable Meeting space?
Yes, but, like so many European hotels, you’ll need to be creative inyour planning. There’s a great MainStage venue (8,500 square feet, up to 1,000 people), and adequate breakout rooms (nine, various sizes). The other wildcard is AV support, but a good Producer should be able to manage that side of the equation. A great conference is not dependent on meeting rooms alone. This is all about the entire package. I believe attendees will walk away satisfied, remembering the service and the location.
I didn’t have one bad experience service-wise during my stay, from management to housekeeping. (Although, working in that location, how could anyone be grouchy?) Nevertheless, each person did their job well.
While I did not hold a meeting there, I did observe the conference of an American group. Impromptu interviews with attendees were always positive, always enthusiastic.
Ambience like this requires an out-of-the-way location. It’s not easy to get to. But setting expectations for your group will go a long way to overcoming this lone complaint.
If you don’t mind the challenge of getting there (Pisa airport and an hour ride by coach), there are few chances you will be disappointed. For a group which is prepped to expect a quiet, contemplative and remote conference experience, this is about as good as it gets.
A hearty, Sì, certamente!
Questions? I'd love to help. Just drop me a line.