Come to Italy and listen to Debi Hertert talk with Bob Garner about his beautiful, 6-apartment vacation rental in Le Marche, Italy. Dubbed “Casal dei Fichi”, 12 years ago this building was an ancient farmhouse where the family once lived on the second floor to make use of the heat rising from the animals living on the bottom floor. From this humble origin, Bob and his partner Ian created a hospitality work of art. They transformed the farmhouse into modern, spacious apartments with gorgeous views and amenities. A swimming pool and olive grove are on the property and every evening, Bob bounds up the stairs (if you are in an upstairs apartment) and knocks on your door to check with you about your day and what you might want to do tomorrow. There are countless villages, farms, wineries, castles, monasteries, and restaurants just waiting for you!
In this discussion between two friends and colleagues, you will hear about Matt Landau, the “guru” of the Inner Circle, a collection of like-minded entrepreneurs who own and manage vacation rentals around the world. Matt’s group focuses on how to give the best experiences for guests, and at the same time, how to not be bound to the listing platforms. Debi mentions in her intro that Matt is filming a TV series titled “A Sense of Place”, and Casal dei Fichi is one of the stops. Debi is excited to see this when it comes out.
Bob relates to Debi the story of how he and Ian decided to change from their lives of professional work in London to managing this wonderful vacation retreat in Italy, the (understated) process of rebuilding the farmhouse, and how they interact with their guests.
You will hear some amazing numbers – like 50% plus repeat business, increasing to 70% plus this year…and summer stay requirements of 1 week minimum, Saturday to Saturday, and with many guests booking their stay for the next year, before they leave this year!
Bob doesn’t really say it, other than to note a couple of times that he and Ian live on the property, so they can interact with guests, but these two people are SO charismatic and social, that half of the stay feels like getting to hang out with them. We’re not surprised that they have so much repeat business, they engage so fully with their guests that all become friends.
It was a truly memorable experience, and being there for a week was so relaxing and allowed us to visit so many different places in Italy. Early during the week, Bob suggested we visit a local winery. And that we take an empty (5 liter?) bottle and have them fill it up. Which we did, and had wine for the whole week for $8 Euro. ! We also went to a fabulous restaurant with them and several other of their guests, and then went with just the four of us to their favorite restaurant on the coast. Wow. That was great seafood and a great view. We felt so welcomed and integrated to their living, as Debi says in the interview, it was very intimate.
“Giving Back” often comes up with these stories of hospitality. Bob and Ian introduced us to Treedom, a company that facilitates donations to plant trees, which you will hear about in the interview. The goal is to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the thoughtful way that Bob has worked it out with guests and restaurants is an example for all of us to study. Debi goes on to say that all hosts can find something similar to do, and it helps the planet, makes the hosts and guest feel good, and may even help business.
[editor’s note: We LOVED our stay with Bob and Ian and if we weren’t off to Florence with Bob, we would have been even more sad!
Casal dei Fichi website: www.casaldeifichi.com
Trailer for Matt Landau’s “A Sense of Place” series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T94C0EU4xx8
Link to Matt’s Inner Circle: www.vrmb.com