In one of Italy’s most alluring and glamorous seaside resorts
Along the coast of Lerici, in the south of the Italian Riviera, you will find one of the most beautiful seaside locations in Italy, Eco del Mare. An idyllic cove with intense blue-green sea nestled between photogenic cliffs and a pine-clad hillside, the property, which includes a boutique hotel, restaurant and beach club, is one of the most exclusive coastal getaways of the country, favored by big names and the animators, who come for the intimacy and the scholarly hospitality, then linger for the incomparable beauty of the setting. You half expect Raffaella and Gennarino, youhe fights the lovers in Lina Wertmuller’s classic swept away, run aground on its shores, so gloriously attractive is the place. Billionaires have coveted this piece of Riviera paradise, trying to buy it but without success.
Eco del Mare Night and Day Beach Club is the full name of this luxury haven run by Francesca Mozer, who reinvented the property after inheriting it from her father, François, a Swiss businessman. In the 1950s, François, who loved the sea, was looking to buy a house in the area, but what he found instead was an irresistibly beautiful seaside cove.
While logistics made it difficult to build a house on the steep slopes of the creek, the terrain was too special to give up. After creating steps (he had first accessed the beach by being lowered by a rope), Mozer had an elevator installed, then built cabins and a kitchen. He invited friends; it quickly became an insider favorite attracting artists and creatives who were as enthralled by the location overlooking the Golfo dei Poeti as generations of literary figures and artists (Byron, Shelley, Virginia Woolf) had been previously. In 2008, Francesca decided to transform Eco del Mare into a six-bedroom boutique hotel with sea views. Her father was skeptical of its potential, but she saw the business as both “a passion and a challenge”. .
To get to Eco del Mare, about a mile from Lerici, you drive a coastal road through wooded hillsides to arrive at a leafy parking spot, the sea barely visible through the sprawling umbrella pines. The elevator takes you to a restaurant and lounge area embedded in the rocks and open to the beach. The elegant Francesca Mozer welcomes you with a kind warning: “The only rule here is that you must relax.” It’s easy to conform after one look at the shimmering sea set between cliffs blocking out the rest of the world.
The secluded property has a desert island vibe along a coast where the beaches are lovely, but can get crowded in the summer. The remoteness of the place is one of the reasons why celebrities come to Eco del Mare. And they know that Mozer and his team will respect their privacy. Who better to understand vacationing celebrities’ desire for anonymity than Mozer? Her husband is star singer Zucchero, sometimes described as the “father of Italian blues”, who has collaborated with everyone from Pavarotti to Bono and Sting. When asked who has stayed at the hotel, Mozer is a decidedly mommy, answering broadly, “Lots of music stars, musicians and producers,” she says. “They don’t want to be disturbed or have their picture taken.” The only name she will mention is David Beckham, who came to shoot an advertising campaign. The fact that there are only six rooms (with decor inspired by and themed around Zucchero songs) is another reason anyone looking to get away from it all can feel comfortable here (or even book entire property for the ultimate escape).
Every year, Mozer adapts the haute bohemian chic decoration, with elements such as carved wooden art furniture, decorative objects related to the sea and for the lounge areas, large cushions and canvas coverings; she often picks up items on her off-season trips around the world. And while Mozer will easily adjust decor, she says she has no plans to add any rooms, despite demand. Instead, she hopes to reduce the number of beach huts to further protect the ecology of the small bay, which regularly earns the coveted Bandiera Blu rating (awarded for meeting environmental and cleanliness standards). Erosion is always a challenge for seaside owners, even more so in a time of unpredictable weather conditions linked to climate change. Mozer says Eco Beach is smaller than it was in his father’s day, a situation that could eventually require importing more sand and building sea barriers to preserve the coastline. Other ongoing sustainable practices include using solar panels and maintaining a plastic-free environment. Any plastic recovered along the beach or in the water will be used to create works of art, she says.
Eco del Mare welcomes guests who are not staying overnight and wish to come for lunch or dinner or reserve a place on the beach (subject to availability). In the restaurant, the cuisine is high-end Ligurian with international touches, with specialties such as “carbonara di mare”, made with squid ink sauce, cuttlefish, prawns, roe quail and katsuobushi; and second courses featuring freshly caught fish served with vegetable caponata. or tuna tataki. The menu changes according to the seasonality of local products.
Mozer is a particularly dedicated hotelier. You can imagine someone in her position enjoying her own island getaway somewhere during the summer months, but she’s on-site at Eco del Mare from May through September. “It’s like a drug to be here,” she admits, obviously as mesmerized by the beauty of the scenery as her father was.
Although Eco del Mare has long attracted celebrities, it’s also an international destination for sophisticated travelers looking for a private corner of the Riviera. Many bookings still come from word of mouth recommendations. “We have guests from Finland, Holland, Switzerland, France, Spain, Japan and Korea,” says Mozer. “About 20-30% are American. Many Italians who live in the UK also come.
Along with establishing Eco’s fame, defying the odds and running a very small boutique hotel in a remote location, Mozer says what has given him the greatest satisfaction is watching the property transform since the time his father owned it until today, and “to see it being enjoyed by people all over the world.