AS A TOP hotelier Maurizio Redaelli has worked in some of the most iconic places in the world.
But there was always one place he counted as “total paradise.” Not the beautiful streets of Paris, the breath-taking scenes of his home town Lake Como, nor the snow crested mountains of Switzerland.
Instead, it was here in the midst of the New Forest that Maurizio says he has found the place where he has dreamed of living for “many, many” years.
But there was once person who also had to be persuaded it could be their home for life – his partner Francesca Mannone.
Maurizio said: “I told her ‘I want to show you paradise.’”
She laughs: “He brought me here in the depths of February, it was cold, wet and windy. He said ‘If you love it in February you will love it all the time.’
“And he was right!” I just fell in love with the place. It is just wonderful, just heaven.”
After winning Francesca round to living in the Forest the couple set about fulfilling their ultimate dream and they recently became the proud owners of the 16 bedroom Cottage Lodge Hotel in Sway Road, Brockenhurst.
It’s not the first time Maurizio has worked in the village. From 2003-2005 he was the deputy general manager at Carey’s Manor.
He said: “It has always been my dream to run my own hotel. I left Carey’s Manor to work in Paris but even there I was always thinking about the New Forest.
“The national park is so special, a place you can connect with nature and there is the charm of having animals all around and we find people extremely nice and welcoming. It is a very unique place.
“You also the sea close by. Francesca is from a seaside town in Sicily so for her the sea is important.
“For myself growing up in Lake Como I also have a big connection with water.”
After leaving Italy he honed his craft at the Geneva Hotel Management School in Switzerland before studying at America’s respected Cornell College.
At 34 he became general manager of a prestigious hotel in Brussels before going back to Paris again where they spent almost 10 years before moving to London. Francesca and Maurizio met while both working in Brussels. She has worked in different luxury hotels as events manager.
For the last three years he has been overseeing three of London’s top hotels The Franklin, The Pelham and The Gore owned by Starhotels UK Cluster.
Maurizio is still commuting daily to London while Francesca is in charge of the Cottage Lodge.
It had been run by the same lady for the last 15 years who Maurizio says has “Left behind an exceptionally well trained and dedicated team who are just wonderful.
“A hotel is made by the people who work there and we have been very lucky to inherit such wonderful staff who have a real passion about what they do.”
The hotel has a restaurant – White Tails – which is separately run.
Maurizio said: “It is run by professional and passionate people and its excellent reputation enhances the hotel. The whole food scene in the area is of a very high quality.”
Looking to the future, Maurizio said: “We’d like to become the first New Forest hotel that is fully environmentally sustainable.
“We have already started using more local producers and try to use only organic produce and when possible with the New Forest Marque label. For example the toiletries in the rooms are from New Forest Aromatics which is just a mile down the road.
“We buy our cakes from Berry’s bakery which is in Lymington. All our shortbread, cider, ale, honey, eggs, jams, eggs, sausages – all is from local producers.”
“We plan to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible in the future.”
They are also planning to turn the Cottage Lodge into more of a destination offering experiences which complement its location.
These include minibus tours and walks through the Forest with local expert Harry Oram, along with yoga and meditation retreats where guests can even take classes actually in the woods.
Francesca said: “Every hotel can offer a good mattress and a good breakfast. We want to offer experiences, something where people can discover exactly how beautiful the Forest is.
“In the future we hope to create other packages like being able to visit, experience and speak the local producers, like the brewery, a farm and many more. We have lots of plans.”
For now Maurizio will continue to travel to London while Francesca oversees The Cottage Lodge but he hopes in time to join her full time.