Nautor's Swan boss Leonardo Ferragamo lobbies government to smooth way for marina development

Leonardo Ferragamo, whose Nautor Holding owns Swan, is urging the Italian government to back what he calls ‘nautical tourism’ in Italy. He’s using his Marina Scarlino in Tuscany as a model to attract racing events, offer high quality real estate and to demonstrate how reducing bureaucracy can make visiting Italian marinas a more enjoyable experience.

For years Italy has been threatening to make coastal leisure development more of a priority but politics and local power struggles have intervened. But Atlante Marinas, whose main backer is Ferragamo, have introduced a type of all-in-one management scheme at Scarlino in Tuscany which allows them to control everything from berth allocation and sailing events to the design of real estate and the rental of high quality shops and restaurants in the marina’s elegant arcade.

A key to this and further schemes planned by Atlante in Italy has been to get the government onside. Rome has accepted that if private enterprise is to be expected to take the initiative planning permission and tendering should be made easier, simpler and free of corruption.

Altero Matteoli, the Italian Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said at a press conference hosted by Ferragamo and the Marina Scarlino team, that if necessary laws would be changed to make the path to development easier.

Matteoli also made it clear that there would be no government money available in the form of grants but road improvements in the relatively under-developed and beautiful Maremma area of Tuscany had been given the go-ahead and plans to make the nearby Eurofighter airbase open for civil use continue to be assessed.

Ferragamo has chosen a prime location for the ‘pilot project’ as he calls it. The surrounding Tuscan countryside with its medieval hill towns, superb cuisine, including some of the country’s finest vineyards, award winning beaches and an off-lying island group make it a gem of a pocket cruising ground.

In fact the archipelago comprising Elbe, Capraia, Corsica, Sardinia and the lesser known islands of Giglio, Montecristo, Palmaiola and Pianosa, makes not only a fascinating cruising destination but also provides the lee which protects the adjacent coastline from heavy seas.

It is no coincidence that both Ferragamo and Altero Matteoli have known this area for many years as a holiday destination and for Leonardo Ferragamo, who keeps his own Swan 90S Solleone in Scarlino, there is an obvious opportunity to develop close links with Nautor’s Swan. He emphasises that although his investment in Scarlino is through Nautor Holdings it has no financial link with the Finland-based Swan yacht building company.

But it’s certainly becoming a bit of a Swan playground. There are almost a dozen 45s wintering here, a couple of 65s and a clutch of other Swans which can take advantage of the purpose built ‘shipyard’ which can lift yachts, maintain them, repair them and generally keep them sweet all under the same management. Clearly the aim is to encourage Swan owners to migrate here with their yachts for all year round sailing and possibly to invest in the stylish on-site real estate.

Marina Scarlino, which has been open for five years, but is now being given a major lift following its acquisition by Atlante, has already become an established yacht racing base. It’s an area well known to the racing fraternity because of nearby Punta Ala where team Luna Rossa’s America’s Cup operation as based.

But Scarlino is keen to make its own mark claiming that it is more conveniently placed. Already this year Scarlino has hosted the X-42 World Cup, the Audi Melges 20 and 32 sailing series, the Giorgio Falck Swan 45 memorial series, the Finn nationals for Italy and runs match race clinics up to grade 1V.

Contrary to popular belief there are plenty of Mediterranean locations offering something other than no wind or too much wind. Scarlino is one example with a regular sea breeze revving up in the afternoon as the wide inland plain rapidly heats up in the Mediterranean sun.

And it’s not just the sailors who can benefit from the natural facilities. Superb tracks for mountain biking and hiking, nearby beaches, beautifully restored hill towns and plenty of accommodation in restored farmhouses make it an attractive prospect for the whole family.

Leonardo Ferragamo told Yachting World that he is looking at other locations to apply the Atlante style of marina management although he had already fallen foul of bureaucracy in Viareggio where he was hoping to invest. That is now out of the running due, ironically, to just the sort of local political shenanigans the government is hoping to stamp out. He is also looking outside Italy and has targeted Toulon for a possible superyacht service facility.

Local politics will undoubtedly continue to play a part in the fortunes of would-be developers targeting Italy’s coastline but with Leonardo Ferragamo building a relationship with government and proof in Scarlino that people are prepared to pay for quality, there’s the best chance yet for real progress in a development programme that to date has lagged well behind the likes of France and Spain.