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LA DOLCE RICCI

Life is sweet as an owner of Palazzo Ricci in Abruzzo.

Written by Claire Williams


The recent TikTok craze prompting people to ask the men in their lives to reveal how much they think about the Roman Empire has undoubtedly placed the Eternal City top of mind for many. Between the ruins of Rome and the picturesque hillside towns of the Amalfi Coast spamming your Instagram, it's easy to overlook that other regions of the country are equally endowed with history and beauty. One is Abruzzo, located in southern Italy, next to the Adriatic Sea. It's known as the "green lung" of Italy and dubbed "the greenest region in Europe" as almost half of its territory is designated as either a national park or nature reserve, with dramatic mountain ranges and medieval villages spread throughout, with locals and tourists able to ski, hike, and visit the beach. The area is also not saturated with tourists, so instead of Italian knickknacks on every corner and overcrowded museums, you're able to travel throughout the region and discover like a true local, and follow the saying "when in Rome…" (or in this case "when in Abruzzo...").

Within Abruzzo, the hill town of Casoli, situated on the foothill of Majella Mountain, is crowned by Palazzo Ricci. The historic palace is prominently cited to provide expansive views of the village, the Apennine Mountains, and the Adriatic Sea. On a recent visit to Casoli, we were escorted by two of Palazzo Ricci's Italian ambassadors, Yulia, who could be a young Sophia Loren's doppelgänger, and Giorgio, who looks like he stepped out of a Dolce and Gabbana ad campaign. Both made us feel like extras in a movie as we strode the cobblestone streets alongside them, listening to their stories about the city.

Baron Ricci started compiling the first stones of the Palazzo Ricci in 1522. By 1799, the palatial estate allowed the noble Ricci family to entertain the era's dignitaries, royalty, famous artists, and celebrated writers within its walls. During World War II, the 38,000-square-foot Palazzo housed German and British regional commanders. After the war, the Ricci's returned and briefly used the property as their summer home.

Visiting Italy, it's easy to fall under its spell and wonder what it would be like to live there. That's just what happened to one of the founders of Palazzo Ricci, Mike Brosnan and his wife, who stumbled upon the weather-battered ruins of the Palazzo during a trip to Tuscany in 2018. Along with friends and investors, hospitality and development veteran Ron Wade, and British interior designer power couple Bimbi Bellhouse and Spencer Power, the group is restoring Palazzo Ricci to rival its 18th-century grandeur with contemporary creature comforts. When complete, the Palazzo will contain 14 luxury residences and a host of five-star amenities, such as an owners' lounge, massage room, a rooftop observation deck, and a state-of-theart fitness center, to name a few.

The careful restoration of the Palazzo has preserved the good bones and quirks inherent to the historic structure. They've refurbished the tiled roof and stained-glass windows, recreated floor tiles to match the original, and uncovered a mural belonging to a small chapel once hidden behind a wall.

Upon entering, guests are welcomed into the owner's lounge, consisting of a library, wine cellar, art gallery, card and game room, and a Roman bath, fully showcasing the Italian experience. Each of the Palazzo's three floors has four residences ranging from one to three bedrooms, from 628 square feet to 1494 square feet. The top floor is a 2,400+-square-foot penthouse with three en suite bedrooms and a private terrace overlooking the mountains. There's also a cottage residence, a separate two-level dwelling on the Palazzo grounds with a study and leisure space on the ground level, three bedrooms, and a walk-out balcony overlooking the palace gardens on the second floor. Each residence is treated as a standalone home, with individual design schemes suited to each interior and unique layout. The hand-picked eclectic furnishings, ranging from period antiques to Mid-Century pieces, will all remain true to the roots of the 18th-century Palazzo.

Outside, the palace grounds will rival Italy's most prestigious villas, with 10,000 square feet of reclaimed formal gardens, a luxury swimming pool and spa, a fitness center, and outdoor living and dining areas. Owners can purchase an equity share in a residence, which provides a minimum of five-and-a-half weeks of use per year, with the option to reduce or add on the number of weeks at the property and its amenities. The Palazzo Ricci Club allows guests to have an Italian home away from home with the amenities of a luxury hotel. Owners enjoy their residence without the commitment of buying a vacant second home for extended periods.

If you can pull yourself away from the charms and amenities of the Palazzo and the village at its feet, Rome and Naples are just a two-to-three-hour drive from Casoli, and the Adriatic Sea is just a 30-minute drive. What was once a railway going up and down the coast is now a flat walking and bike path next to the sea. Structures known as trabocchi, once used as piers by fishermen, line the beach and serve as restaurants offering the catch of the day.

Abruzzo boasts three signature wines: the white Trebbiano, the Cerasuolo rosé, and the red Montepulciano. The small organic vineyards at Azienda Tilli (aziendatilli.it/en/) made an impression, particularly when accompanied by a dinner as bold and rich as the wines. The winery's chef, a local just barely out of high school, further proves that this region is full of hidden gems.

At every meal throughout our tour of the many villages surrounding Casoli, one of our favorites was an Abruzzo specialty known as Pallotte Cacio e Uova, which are basically oven-baked cheese balls that really need no further explanation. Locals are ecstatic to speak with visitors and share their culture in an area somewhat untouched by the tourism craze that has nearly overrun Italy. A day trip in Lanciano brought us to the Bottega Buon Gusto, where our brief sampling of local products turned into an aperitif tasting of delicacies from the region, led by an enthusiastic owner eager to share his love of the area.

The Palazzo Ricci Club allows owners to live like locals while being pampered like luxury guests in a region that truly can offer something for everyone. Five centuries after the first stones were laid for the foundation of the Palazzo Ricci, its legacy lives on for another generation to partake in the beauty and culture just as all those luminaries did centuries ago.

There are five classes of fractional co-ownership at Palazzo Ricci, beginning at approximately $100,000. For more information, visit palazzoricci.club.

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