Where would you rather stay? The luxury five-star San Domenico Palace Hotel in Taormina, Sicily, where Donald Trump and Theresa May are gathering for the G7 Summit? Or the Crowne Plaza Hotel opposite London’s Blackfriars station?
Yes, Giuseppe Statuto came to that conclusion too. His family Italian hotels group bought the 14th Century former Sicilian monastery last year, adding it to a small but growing portfolio that includes the Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental in Milan and the Hotel Danieli in Venice.
Gruppo Statuto, the parent company of Statuto Luxury Hotels, did once own the Crowne Plaza London – The City, the four-star hotel converted from the former Square Mile offices of law firm Clifford Chance opposite.
Aside from the connection with monks, that hotel also has an illustrious history, built on the foundations of King Henry VIII’s former Bridewell Palace.
However, Gruppo Statuto sold the property in 2010 to focus on Italian heritage properties.
“We did have a hotel in London,” confirms Statuto, the company’s chief executive. “It was very profitable but we decided to focus on Italy because there are many opportunities there.
“Italy is a main destination but until recently it didn’t have a full representation of hotels.”
Three years ago, Gruppo Statuto carried out a restructuring, splitting its hotels arm from real estate and residential property businesses.
A plan to list the hotels company on the Milan Stock Exchange was shelved but its chief executive is developing new W Hotels in Rome and Milan and Statuto and says a couple of other acquisitions are on the way.
“The hotels that we buy need to have an Italian cultural heritage and rich history,” he says. “And where we cannot buy, we develop.
“We have in the pipeline a ski destination and a countryside hotel. And are we looking to grow this portfolio? Yes. There’s not a magic number but we would like to have other hotels.”
San Domenico Palace Hotel, where many of the G7 meetings are taking place, dates back to 1374 and has been a luxury hotel since 1896.
Situated near Mount Etna, it once hosted King Edward VII, as well as Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor,
It is also the venue where six members of the European Coal and Steel Community signed the Messina Declaration in 1955 pledging the belief that “the establishment of a united Europe must be achieved through the development of common institutions, the progressive fusion of national economies…and the gradual harmonisation of their social policies.”
In recent years, Capri has taken Taormina’s mantle as the hotspot for Italy’s elite, but Statuto believes the G7 summit can help swing the balance back the Sicilian city’s way.
He also holds out the promise of Gruppo Statuto returning to the London hotels scene one day.
“Outside of Italy is always interesting for us but for now the opportunities are in Italy,” he says. “After we have done this, maybe we will go back to London. But in the next couple of years, I think there is a big opportunity in Italy.”