Sustainable, high-end nature lodges have been popping up worldwide. Making the concept succeed in Italy, however, may be a challenge, given that it has to out-compete so many established attractions.
When planning a trip to Italy, most people put historic, charming cities like Venice, Florence, and Rome on the itinerary. But Oasy Dynamo, a new luxury, wilderness retreat nestled in the Pistoia mountains of upper Tuscany, is hoping travelers want a taste of nature, too.
“People traveling to Italy wouldn’t have expected to find this kind of hospitality,” said Federico Galligani, general manager at the Oasyhotel brand. “We want people to go to the beautiful cities in Italy, and then, in the last few days, come to Oasyhotel to relax and recover from their holiday, so they can go back home fully confident in their peace of mind.”
So far, that sales pitch appears to be working. Since opening to the public in April 2022, the nature-immersive hotel — with 16 standalone lodges — has had more than 800 “room nights” with customers. The team is pleased with the early feedback after completing their first summer high season and now working toward their first Christmas.
“The people who come to us like to be away from the crowds and connected to a beautiful environment,” said Galligani.
The parent organization, Oasi Dynamo, is a World Wildlife Federation (WWF)-affiliated nature reserve founded in 2006. It’s looking to build on this early momentum by opening another location on a different WWF-affiliated park in Sardinia, slated for 2024. It’s also mulling a location in the region around Venice, Italy.
“We are only expanding in natural reserves … which makes us unique,” said Galligani. “I’ve been to luxury establishments in nature, but they were run like regular hotels. We don’t even communicate that we rent lodges. It’s all about entering a natural reserve, and with that, you get a bike, a lodge, and access to a lake.”
The whole concept of sustainable luxury lodges on land in Italy affiliated with the conservation group was designed with the goal of expansion.
“There are so many natural reserves at WWF that I personally didn’t even know about in Italy. They supervise beautiful properties all over, from Sicily to the Dolomites, to Puglia, and we are their only hospitality partner,” said Galligani.
Right now, the Pistoia location, an hour north of Florence, is serving as a model.
“We were creating the mold to duplicate the properties in other natural reserves, so every decision taken, from the equipment to the experience was made so that it could also be reproduced,” said Galligani.
The property has all the typical trappings of a wilderness hotel, like kayaking and horse riding. The team is also constructing tents for yoga and wellness treatments, as well as a floating pool to be placed on the property’s private lake. And it’s working on expanding the trail system throughout the property so guests have more places to cycle — a key addition since each guest gets to use an e-bike.
While luxury eco-resorts have been thriving for years in rural places in North America, the concept is new to a country like Italy, according to Galligani. Oasyhotel is trying to distinguish itself by emphasizing what’s local to the region, especially regarding food.
“We have an incredible microclimate for porcini mushrooms,” said Galligani. “You can pick and give them to the chef, and have them in your dinner that night.”
The nature preserve makes its own cheese, and visitors can help press it into a mold, said Galligani. Then, in the restaurant, guests can eat the same cheese — well, a six-month-aged version of it anyway.
“We prepare what has been made on the mountain,” said Galligani. “So it won’t be typical Tuscan cooking. It will be Pistoia cooking.”
Oasyhotel is banking on guests appreciating the sustainability efforts and localized dining enough that they’re willing to put in a little effort to reach the property.
“We are not an easy place to go to,” said Galligani. “It’s on top of a mountain, you are going up to 1,100 meters, and it’s cold in the winter.”
So far, that remoteness has been an advantage. As the pandemic recedes, lodges that offer a sense of privacy have been a hit with families, couples, and groups of friends. And they, said Galligani, have a common desire to invest in what they care about, like local food, wellness activities, and nature.
Now, Oasyhotel has to show it can lure enough guests from abroad who are coming to Italy first and foremost to see Roman ruins, Renaissance paintings, or Mediterranean beaches. Or whether deeper-pocketed competitors will enter the wilderness hotel game, too.
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Tags: boutique hotels, food tourism, italy, luxury, Oasyhotel, sustainability, sustainable tourism
Photo credit: Qasyhotels is betting it can gain traction with high-end luxury wilderness lodges in Italy. Qasy Hotels