I want to tell you about the birth of Capitolare Tower. It's neither your typical boutique hotel nor an Airbnb. You'll see why. It's a love story that spans years and distances.
I'm Andrea Borlenghi, the founder, a 30-year-old entrepreneur. I've lived and worked in Italy, the Netherlands, France, and Switzerland, mainly in tech startups. Endlessly passionate about the sea and filled with energy, I was 18 in 2010 with the wide-eyed dreams of youth. I discovered Portovenere during a trip with my first girlfriend and was instantly enchanted. I understood that this town had a unique and austere beauty.
Fast-forward to 2019; I was living in Utrecht, the Netherlands, reading an Italian newspaper. As an expat, my love for Italy intensified. One night, I read an article about an abandoned tower in Portovenere: Capitolare Tower. That was the spark.
It's hard to describe that moment—a choice that's not a choice, like discovering a missing puzzle piece you didn’t know you were looking for. From that day on, it was a whirlwind of flights, calls, and meetings. I knew I had to restore this tower, and eventually convinced the local administration that I was the right person for it.
Capitolare Tower has a long, noble history. Founded in 1113 by the Genoese, it was the first tower built in the town. Its primary purpose was to defend the village's main entrance. I had seen it years ago and knew its incredible location. Its imposing walls bear the marks of many battles. It's now the world's oldest tower where one can spend the night.
In 2019, I was working in a 3D printing startup. Kicking off this monumental project while working full-time wasn't easy, but the will was there. The tower was state-owned, protected by UNESCO, and filled with artistic constraints. Despite being abandoned since 1990, its location was extraordinary. I decided to assemble an exceptional team for this.
I contacted Michele Bassi, a young Italian architecture student. He was instantly on board. In retrospect, choosing a young, nearly-qualified architect was brilliant. His fresh perspective and perhaps a dash of recklessness were key to the final product.
Michele and I worked every evening. The hours flew by, the energies were high, and exhaustion was a foreign concept. This was a grand project, and I couldn't be prouder of Michele, who qualified as an architect just a week before the project's tender deadline.
The Italian government, seeing our interest, issued a public tender to restore and manage Capitolare Tower. We participated with the utmost attention to detail and quality. When we won with the maximum possible score, both of us had tears in our eyes.
The luxury location market is incredibly niche. Our goal was ambitious: to create Italy's best alternative to a five-star hotel suite. Risk and audacity propelled us toward our goal.
With €70,000 in savings, I knew it wouldn't be enough. But if the idea was explosive, funding would follow. After being rejected by 12 banks, Banca Intesa believed in my dream. The sky was now the limit.
Restoration began in January 2020. Sixty days later, the world paused due to the pandemic. Still, thanks to a team of exceptional builders, we stayed on schedule and budget.
Federica Cristaudo was the artistic soul of the project. She brought an atomic bomb of creativity to the interior design, blending the tower's millennium-old history with recycled materials and ultra-modern technology.
The concept involved using 3D printing with recycled sea materials. Furniture designs were inspired by the sea, and the interiors referenced 11th-century art—a stunning blend of epochs and styles.
In July 2022, we opened our doors. In the first year, we exceeded our revenue expectations by 30%. Guest reviews have been incredible.
During winter, we offer the tower to the Portovenere community for exhibitions, art reviews, lectures, and symposiums. Giving back is essential.
This is the story of how an abandoned landmark transformed into a unique global attraction.