The Tired Timeshare Gets an Italian Upgrade at Palazzo Ricci
Our writer visited the 18th century palace that's hoping to score a regular spot on your vacation calendar
“A beautiful way to live. A smart way to own.” That’s the tagline for Palazzo Ricci, the 18th century palace located in Italy’s Abruzzo region. The picturesque development, which aims to be completed sometime in mid to late 2023, is already taking deposits on units through its fractional ownership model. Yes, even Italy has its share of timeshares, but this one is looking to up the ante.
Set amongst the hilly streets of Casoli, Palazzo Ricci was still in a state of organized disarray and deep in the throes of construction during my visit in the spring of 2022. When Mike Brosnan first became interested in the property, the residence had fallen into complete disrepair — holes in the roof, crumbling interiors, you get the picture. The palazzo was still in the hands of its namesake Ricci family but was abandoned and left to rot for a variety of reasons. Brosnan and a group of investors bought the palace directly them and decided it would make for an ideal location to begin a fractional ownership portfolio.
Refreshingly, Palazzo Ricci’s rehabilitation doesn’t simply feel like yet another property development opportunity. Community leaders, for what it’s worth, seem to be bought-in to the project. During the visit both the mayor of Casoli and the head of I Borghi più belli d’Italia (an association of small Italian towns of historical interest) stopped by to sing the praises of the project.
Are there members of the town that are unhappy? Certainly, but it’s an overwhelmingly positive sentiment from the community at the moment. Brosnan and his wife, Karin, are almost local celebrities at this point, with Abruzzans waving hello as they pass by going about their daily routines.
As the development team notes, this palazzo was where Baron Ricci hobnobbed with legends like painter Francesco Paolo Michetti and author Gabriele D’Annunzio. The property was a cultural gathering place for many years and also served as an important strategic location during WWII in Abruzzo.
The beauty of Casoli, aside from being a postcard Italian town, is that it is both accessible and inaccessible all at the same time. About a three hour ride from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport, it’s in the Abruzzo region, one of the more rural areas of the country. A highlight of life in Casoli is that you can literally go skiing in the morning and go lay on the beach in the afternoon. It may not be the Alps, but the slopes are still well kept and satisfying without the massive lines like you might find in the north. The beaches are every bit as beautiful as you’ll find in other more popular parts of the country.
Palazzo Ricci, at its core, wants to be held in the same conversation as some of the world’s other best-in-class residence clubs such as Palazzo Tornabuoni, a storied residence in Florence operated by the Four Seasons which Brosnan mentioned to me multiple times as inspiration. However, he doesn’t see ownership in Palazzo Ricci as just another investment. The hope is that owners will become parts of the local community much as he and his wife have.
“It’s more than just a luxury asset,” Brosnan says. “It’s a lifestyle immersion.” In addition to offering volunteer opportunities in the community, Palazzo Ricci plans to have various programs bringing in local artisans, creators and operators to give members plenty of things to do.
Fractional Ownership, Italian Style
In total there are 14 residences with one to three bedrooms, along with a single penthouse and a single cottage residence, each with nine ownership slots available. An ownership slot gets you a guaranteed minimum of 5 and a half weeks a year at Palazzo Ricci. Every year in the fall, owners pick the times they want to stay at the property throughout the following year; if there are unused slots then owners are welcome to select additional time to stay. Also, should an owner want to make a bit of passive income, they will be able to rent out their property during their allotted time, but it must be done through the club and not on platforms like Airbnb.
An important caveat to note is that unlike traditional timeshares where you are beholden to the exact unit you bought into, members are buying into a tier. For example, if you purchase ownership in a two-bedroom unit, you then have access to all the two-bedroom units on the property. (Prices range from around $90,000 to $325,000, along with an annual fee for management and upkeep.) And since the building is over 200 years old — and not being completely torn down and standardized — you can expect every area to be incredibly unique.
While being a partial resident of a small Italian town is nice enough, membership at Palazzo Ricci also comes with a variety of perks. We’re talking on-site pool, plus memberships to local golf clubs, beach clubs and ski resorts. Brosnan tells me that they will not leave any amenity stone unturned.
“We will provide kids entertainment, Italian lessons, cooking classes, excursions, historical tours, partnership with private boats for tours to the Tremiti islands, we will have private drivers available for short trips in the Abruzzo area, e-bikes and recreational gear,” he says, “and we will have a community program dedicated to the beautification, cleaning and service of Casoli.”
Fractional ownership has plenty of pros and cons. On the one hand the property will not be solely yours. On the other hand, it’s a hell of a lot less work. A quick Google search shows prices at Palazzo Ricci are not dissimilar from finished homes and apartments in the area. The other variable here is the timing. It is currently under construction, and that almost never gets finished on time no matter where you are (especially in the days of supply chain delays). Right now, mid-2023 is the date slated for completion, but that could change. On the bright side, husband and wife design duo Bimbi Bellhouse and Spencer Power are the ones helming the build.
Owners will also have access to Elite Alliance, a massive portfolio of luxury accommodations around the world similar to Palazzo Ricci. Should you decide you would rather go to the South of France or Riviera Maya instead of Casoli, you’ll have that option.
But you wouldn’t want to let your new Italian neighbors down, would you?
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