For who lives at Forte dei Marmi the story is known: in 2009 a scooter driver was hit at the exit of a restaurant by a mega SUV. The Russian tycoon who was driving, after checking his condition, gave him 4 thousand euros in cash: "I can't wait for the police, I'm in a hurry." And he vanished amid the roar of the engines. These were the first years of the Russian invasion of Forte dei Marmi , today the headquarter of oligarchs and magnates. Since then, in the elegant town once home to historic families such as Agnelli and Moratti, legends abound: it is said, for example, that for their luxurious homes (calling them villas is an understatement) they use mattresses woven with gold threads. And that in their exclusive bathing establishments a tuna and tomato appetizer costs 45 euros.
Legends or not, it is a reality that here the Russians, once only frequent visitors to hotels, clubs and boutiques of the great fashion brands, have gone from customers to hospitality entrepreneurs by taking over historic hotels, investing in the real estate sector and also attempted the card of the 'Bagni', the historic Versilia bathing establishments. What consequences, then, will the invasion of Ukraine have on the rich tourism of Forte dei Marmi? What will happen this summer if the Russians can't show up under the tents? Mayor Bruno Murzi declared that "at this moment it is not the aspect that interests me". But the concern is there. And not even a little.
Who are the fort magnates
The turnover, in fact, has been in their hands for several years. Since the first oligarchs, politicians and directors discovered these beaches and the loved Italian way life. Today it is estimated that there are about 500 families, including Russians and Ukrainians, who regularly attend or even live in the area. In Forte, but also on the hills of Camaiore and Massarosa. To represent them they also have an association, Russkaya Versilia, chaired by the artist Dimitri Kuzmin. In Forte dei Marmi they are now at home: they buy villas, apartments, hotels. They moor their yachts in front of the establishments, go down to enjoy spaghetti with clams dining in Cristal and they go shopping in the boutiques of the center where in the shop windows they compete for bags worth 30 thousand euros.
But who are the Russian tycoons who fell in love with the pearl of Versilia? The first case was that of the Principe hotel on Viale Morin - a stone's throw from the historic Capannina - the 5-star hotel with restaurant, swimming pool and Spa inaugurated in 2012 on commission by Vladimir Evtushenkov, founder of a financial group and classified by Forbes magazine among the 15 richest tycoons in the world, with a personal fortune of $ 9 billion. Almost 30 million euros invested. Then it was the turn of Oleg Tinkoff, a former cyclist, now a tycoon who also owns a bank. Tinkoff took over the former Nettuno hotel and the former Minerva bathroom in Forte, which have now become Datcha resort and Datcha beach intended only for Russian vacationers (and billionaires). The Datcha resort is in fact a structure that the customer rents in full, with all the rooms at his disposal. Prices? 89,000 euros a week, therefore more than 12,000 a day, in the low season and over 100,000 in the high season.
In 2021 the Royal Bath "was practically sold (even if the promise of sale has been registered for now) by a company that is part of the galaxy linked to the Russian entrepreneur who last December bought the Hotel Tirreno for 7 million on the boulevard Morin, to transform what was once a historic three-star hotel into a luxury hotel. In short, the establishment will become an appendix to expand the service of the well-known five-star hotel on the sea. The operation would be conducted by a company with registered office in the Bahamas, linked to the Russian entrepreneur Vitaly Bezrrodnykh , who has already paid a confirmation deposit of over one million euros.
Finally, the last bathroom bought in Versilia is the Paradiso sulla Passeggiata, the first in Viareggio, sold by the Barsotti family to a company controlled by Sergey Kolesnikov, Olga Chenina and Olga Fedorova. Of course, records are still being set for villas: 18 million euros were spent by an Eastern tycoon for a dream residence, with a helicopter pad, in Imperial Rome. Eight million, however, the allocation to become owners of the former Castelletto villa, also in Forte. Jewels that are, in turn, rented to other compatriots. Business is buniness, the Anglo-Saxons would say: business is business. Thus Versilia becomes more and more part of an expanding Russian empire. To the sound of millions.
Today it is the tycoons who run the Fort's economy. The northern Italian is well off, but also worried about the crisis and the controls of the financial police. And after Covid, which had already blocked the entrances and now with the war, what repercussions will there be in Versilia? «I'm worried like everyone else - says the mayor of Forte dei Marmi - When a people invades another country you never know when it ends. After the Second World War, what is happening is the most serious thing we are witnessing and we can only hope that all this will stop, before it is too late ». Forte dei Marmi also gave a precise signal on Saturday evening when the words 'Stop War' appeared on the big screen at the Palasport on the occasion of the A / 1 rink hockey championship match with Grosseto. The sporting world of Versilia also wanted to express its dissent and condemnation of what is happening in Ukraine.