Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00

An international retreat steeped in history

A nobleman house of late XVI Century, a quite village on the hills, only a few kilometers from an international airport, a territory to explore during the spare time, all forming an ideal set for international retreats.

by Rodolfo Musco, CMP, CMM

It started as many challenges start: a colleague was looking for a venue to run a marketing and product management seminar for 15 junior managers coming from several European and Middle Eastern countries. For several years this seminar took place on a Texan ranch not far from the main office of the client company, but the decision was taken to hold it in a European destination in order to avoid intercontinental travel.

The length of the programme was quite long: nine days. The budget was not specified, but it was easy to find out that the ranch’s rate was not very high, specially if compared to the increasing value of the Euro and the new cost of good hotels in Europe. Also, ranches havea lot of space on their properties and not many guest rooms.

Finally, the proximity to an international airport could be considered a must, due to the internationality of the participants.

The research of the appropriate venue brought a “discovery”. 

Savignone is a township only a fifteen minutes drive from the airport of Genoa and five kilometres from the highway that links the two airports of Milano to the capital of the Italian Riviera.

There are only a few houses around a little square with secular trees and only one street that crosses the whole township.

At the two sides of the square – like almost all medieval towns – stood the two major buildings representing the two powers of those days: the church and the “palace” of the ruler of the area.

Palazzo Fieschi, a 4 star property

Palazzo Fieschi - the name of the palace - was built late in the sixteenth century by one of the most powerful families of that time, actively engaged in defending theRepublic of Genoa from the hills dominating the Mediterranean Sea.

In the nineteenth century, the palace was restructured as ahotel to host visitors interested in the thermal springs that formed a SPA.

During the last world war, the SPA was closed, and the palace then served as the meeting point for wealthy people on vacation in the area,  untilit was acquired by the Caprile family some twenty years ago.

The actual owners restored the property piece by piece, refurbishing the 23 guest rooms and the public space with furniture perfectly matching the quiet and yet comfortable atmosphere of the palace.

In spite of the meagrenumber of guest rooms, Palazzo Fieschi is a member of the Genoa Convention Bureau. This confirms how much the Caprile family understands the importance of meetings and their participants.

Meeting facilities

The palace – as the Texan ranch - was not built to host meetings that are considered nowadays. However, it has several plus for retreats that use the property for a long  meeting. The ceiling of the “ball room” is over 6 meters high, with precious paintings and a warm atmosphere. It is connected with the fireplace room  and also features precious decorations and crystals. A third small room is connected to the other two, and may be used as the event office.

What is special of Palazzo Fieschi is that the whole venue may be used for the purposes of the meeting. When breakout sessions are called for, participants may decide to work in:

  • the patio
  • the TV room
  • the quite and relaxing private park with trees, a spring in the middle and a fountain on one side.

There is plenty of space, and the hotel staff continuously takes care of the permanent refreshments to anticipate the guests needs.

Palazzo Fieschi has an excellent gourmet restaurant, with precious paintings and decorations, and a large fireplace. When a meeting is hosted in the palace, the restaurant is totally reserved for participants, who enjoy the fragrance of the freshly baked croissants for breakfast or the delicatessen items cooked for their pleasure and served in the garden or in the monumental restaurant.

A possible programme

Many hotel managers try to keep as much business “in the house” as they can. The members of Caprili family, on the contrary, assist conference organizers to best design their events. Their insightfuladvice and suggestions were critical for the success of the retreat, to the point that Savignone is now synonymous with the “product and marketing management seminar” that an American company runsyearly at Palazzo Fieschi.

Here are some key points of the off property programme.

a) An Italian specialty for a  “psychological de-conditioning”

Fifteen people coming from fifteen different countries do not form a “group” in the psychological optic. Consider also the impact with a three member faculty and a totally unexpected venue. It is necessary to ice-break and let participants networkamong themselves before starting the seminar.

For this purpose, a welcome cocktail is organized in the lovely hotel’s park. During this short function, the senior trainer introduces the participants and the programme. Then groups of three participants are formed to compete in a pizza making contest that takes place in the pizzeria on the opposite side of the street.

Participants wear aprons and chef’s hats, and are requested – at their turns – a) to paste the flour, b) to flatten it, and c) to dress the pizza.

The dinner that follows the contest gives participants the chance to taste several types of pizzas (excluding, of course, those made by participants). Diplomas are presentedto the members of the winning team.

b) Fashion outlet

Twenty kilometres from Savignone there is one of the largest fashion outlets in North Italy.

This is also the area where Gavi, one of the best Italian white wines, is produced. A short visit of a winery is a must on the way to the outlet.

Participants love to spend a couple of hours visiting the shops of world known griffes, from Valentino to Versace, from Fendi to Armani, from Ferré to Cavalli, to name just a few. Of course theycan buy what they like, before dining in a nice, friendly restaurant at Serravalle Scrivia.

c) A Sunday in action

Believe it or not, in Savignone there is an organization that deals with quads. This  providesthe ideal means to discover the beautyof the hills.

By combining quads and mountain bikes, it is easy to set up a competition among the same teams formed for the pizza making contest.

The rules are simple: two members per team are requested to drive towards the top of the hill and place small flags with the team’s colour every 300 to 400 meters, and signal their location to their team mate by using vegetal material. The task is not easy, as the competitors may steal the flags if they can decode the signal.

There is plenty of material to use during the debriefing in order to find out the key factors of success in communication.

After a while, the roles are exchanged, to give to all  three members of the team the chance to drive the quads, to place the flags and to drive the bikes.

On the top of the hill, teams are requested to snap a picture of the landscape and give instructions to their team mates so that they can take the same picture in the same frame.

This works again as an occasion to highlight a simple principle of communication: an image (a drawing, in this case) is more eloquent than hundreds of words, especially in a multicultural environment.

d) Lunch in the farm

On the top of the hill there is a small farm where participants may have a lunch based on genuine products cooked by the farm’s owners and blessed with local wine.

The view of the hills, the peacefulness of the environment, the simplicity of the food and the smile of the hosts form a real experience, and participants plan to go again at least once to Serrato to eat at Agriturismo Il Pero.

e) Orienteering

There are several solutions to organize intriguing orienteering contests on the hills around Savignone: to find and map a ghost town, to draw the hidden walkway to a chapel, to find the easiest way to the river, etc.

Camp knives and pieces of nylon threads may be sufficient to organize an archery contest before driving back to Palazzo Fieschi. 

f) By the sea

Savignone is a short drive from Genoa. After seven days on the hills, participants may be happy to reach the old port of Columbus’ city and be served with a full Mediterranean menu while smelling the fragrance of the sea atnight.

This cannot happen the last night, because it must be devoted to the ceremony of graduation.

A retreat is a full immersion seminar, and participants really work intensively. The environment helps them stay concentrated. What they learn is beneficial to their career, and Palazzo Fieschi seems to be the ideal setting for it.

As a matter of fact, participants recommend the retreat year after year to their junior colleagues.  

 This article is copyrighted. Any partial or total use of its content without the authorization and the reference of the autor will be prosecuted by SIAE, Editors and Autors Society
Read 1029 times Last modified on Monday, 28 July 2014 12:26
Copyright © 2014 - Motivation and Events s.a.s - All rights reserved - VAT n. 08015240966
 Web site development by Ing. Francesco Arcieri
Casino Bonus at bet365 uk