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Coming from a line of ambitious family entrepreneurs from the town of Conversano, Gianfranco knows the intricacies of running a business since he was an adolescent. These days he leads the operations of Coco Beach Club, a vision he single-handedly realized on his own on land he inherited.
We found a quiet spot at Coco Beach Club to have a coffee and speak with him about all things lifestyle and weddings.
Gianfranco, you could have done other things with this incredible space; what inspired you to build Coco and make this a lifestyle beach club?
When I first saw this place, I was little more than a teenager. There were only a swimming pool and a small bar. However, the view, the sea view, was truly fantastic. The clear water, the immense blue on the horizon have conquered me. I thought, ‘it is a truly unique place in Puglia…why not enhance it even more?’
Where do you get your inspiration?
From the entrepreneurs who made ‘Made in Italy’ great. From the great artists of the Renaissance who created masterpieces that revealed a new humanism made of 1) beauty, 2) goodness, and 3) tasteful. Beautiful, that is, capable of stirring the soul. Good, that is, generous, and in the sense of gratifying those who try it, but also being qualitatively excellent. Giusto means respecting people, respecting the planet, but also being essential, being “just enough”, without overdoing it.
My creations are inspired by the full realization of oneself: they must ensure that the people who live these experiences not only find outposts of beauty and well-being but also experience an inner, spiritual, intellectual growth, inspired by knowledge or reflections that arise during their stay here and enrich them. And of course, I am driven to constant innovation: to be systematically the first to launch innovations regarding customer experience, setting the trends, hunting down the coolest looks.
Coco Beach was made entirely by hand by local maestros in Puglia; tell us more.
To be the true ambassador and promoter of ‘Made in Italy’ you must first please the Italians, then others in the world. Italy must feel represented. In order for the brand to be successful, it must be exceptional, above all for the Italians. It must attract unequivocal consensus, people must create positive word of mouth; people must be enthusiastic about the experience that the brand and every single element within in are able to bring to the values of ‘Made in Italy’ in the world.
This value must communicate to a simple audience yet at the same time to a refined and cultured audience. To the five-year-old child as well as to the intellectual in his/her 50s; to the young and inexperienced 20-something as to the rampant manager in his 30s. Clearly, each of the audience will have two different experiences based on different interpretations. Think of the best teachers you have had in your life. What makes a teacher good? First of all, his/her ability to help the student learn for themselves. The best teachers know that experience is the source of wisdom.
How did you realize this space? By yourself or with an architect?
The creation of Coco Beach is thanks to the fruitful labor of a large number of people. Starting with the director, Michele Fiore, with whom I shared this project from the very beginning. He is the person who has been managing the locations’ daily activities for over 20 years. He is always present onsite and, like me, loves this place to the point of having made its life.
Then, there is the architect Luca Labate who specializes in creating environmental-friendly and low impact structures. Designer Vito Valenza supports us in the choices of style, furnishings and fittings, and working alongside his guidance, we have the “workshop of the artisans”. This workshop is comprised of woodworking and ironmasters and they have practically built everything that is materially present inside the structure, creating unique works exclusively for Coco Beach and to personalize receptions on-request for clients.
We are sitting here in this magical spot at Cozze; tell us why here and makes this spot special to you?
I spent my childhood in this place. In fact, my father purchased a villa that borders Coco Beach. I spent practically all the summers of my adolescence right here when it was still known as “Circo Nautico Il Timone” and it only had a swimming pool, bar-pizzeria, 2 modest tennis courts and little else.
It was also in this place that I met my wife. The sea has always been fantastic around here. Ever since we opened Coco Beach club, we have earned the title ‘Blue Flag Beach’ each consecutive year by the city of Polignano a Mare.
The VIP section recently launched too; what services are included in the VIP section?
In the VIP luxury zone, we want to offer the best of Apulian hospitality to a discerning public. From outfitted sunbeds set a respectful distance apart to welcome cocktails, from the dedicated waiters to the plush beach towels. We aim to offer every service and detail that defines luxury hospitality.
What was the wildest request you received from a client?
A client once asked us if she could make her entrance to the wedding ceremony by boat, arriving directly from the sea…
What new services or spaces are you planning to introduce at Coco?
We will continue to expand our service offering as we have done every year since we opened. This is because our customers can find everything they desire in a high-level resort.
What are the advantages of holding a wedding ceremony, or any private event, at Coco?
We are one of the very few beach clubs in southern Italy that organizes weddings on the beach, with large indoor spaces readily available in case of rain. We also have kitchens on-site and do not use external catering for our events; we have our own kitchen staff and hospitality team that guarantee impeccable service and high-quality cuisine, something that ordinary catering services cannot offer at the same level.
What is your future vision for this magical, seafront space?
Times change, trends pass, but people’s desire to live the sea and to spend time at places like Coco Beach will remain for a long time. It is part of people’s innate need to be close to nature, to be in direct contact with it. I believe that this place will evolve over time, but will continue to offer the same feelings of freedom, peace and serenity for many generations to come. And I would have helped to make that happen.
To schedule an appointment with Gianfranco, please contact us at +39 392 544 0077, or send us an email today.