Maria Elena Fabbrini: Home to Everything the World Envies
Maria Elena Fabbrini is determined to recapture Italy at 360 degrees for the world to see, from hospitality to food, art and e-commerce.
In an ever-changing world, traditions tend to fade and authentic cultural experiences are hard to come by. Meanwhile, cliches and labels remain fixed and misrepresent a country’s true identity.
For Maria Elena Fabbrini, founder and general manager of NEST Italy and listed among the 100 Successful Women in 2022 by Forbes Italia, Italy is more than just pizza, pasta and Vespas. It is a country that embodies sophistication along with history and passion. Whether through cuisine, architecture, art, fashion, music or its beautiful sunny peninsula, NEST Italy provides a travel experience that shows guests what “Made in Italy” truly is and how it has set the standard for exceeding expectations.
NEST Italy was founded in Milan in 2020, stemming from the idea that “luxury is a state of mind.” Since its inception, it has solely been aimed at creating unique experiences that cater to varying interests and needs with an Italian- hospitality touch. By carefully selecting a list of properties, event locations and products, anyone can find their own ideal nest in the beautiful country of Italy.
Fabbrini dedicates her time to collaborating with local artists, brands, property owners and merchants to provide her clients with the finest Italian experience, continually striving to offer the sophistication, community and warm feeling of homeyness that are the foundation of her and the company’s success. Fabbrini honoured Dolce with an interview where we learned more about her roots, how NEST Italy came to be and about the small things in her life that make it ever so sweet.
Q: Walk us through how you came to create your own destination/tour company.
A: Nest is a company that promotes “Made in Italy” at 360°, with hospitality, food and drink (Tavolata), art (NestArt), marketing and e-commerce. I included all my greatest passions and took inspiration from what I saw and knew in 12 years abroad, bringing to my country the quality of “Made in Italy,” which I consider No. 1. The moment I decided on the name, Nest, everything found a meaning and a common thread that allowed me to connect all my passions. I created a brand identity and brochure with international graphics and presented it at every door. The feedback has been very positive.
Q: What is the most satisfying part of your work?
A: Seeing that my hard work is understood and appreciated, I can do what I love every day.
Q: What are some of the common qualities the hosts possess as part of the NEST Italy experience?
A: They are kind, hospitable, passionate about their work.
Q: Describe your brand in three words.
A: Sophisticated, community, a nest (home feeling, protective).
Q: What is it about travel to Italy that resonates with your guests?
A: We try to show a sophisticated Italy, too often represented only as pizza, pasta, Vespa, spaghetti and dolce vita. Our customers are as sophisticated as the Italy that we care about sharing and showing.
Q: What has been the best compliment you’ve received from a guest’s experience at Nest?
A: “You are a genius.”
Q: What has been the best travel experience that you cherish?
A: I have had many wonderful experiences. It is certainly the less obvious ones that I carry with me the most, like a dinner at sunset in a wheat field, a dinner in the forest, or the wonderful people I have met in these three years of activity.
Q: List 10 items (brands) that you pack in your carry-on.
A: Bose headphones, my MacBook Pro, Pendleton beauty case, Ortigia Ambra Nera body cream, Penhaligon’s Halfeti perfume, L:a Bruket beauty products, Clinique Moisture Surge Intense, Herschel Chapter beauty kit, Rimowa carry-on, my black Alyx hat.
Q: Walk us through a typical day in the life of Maria Elena Fabbrini.
A: I wake up, look at emails and Nest’s Instagram, feed my dog, have breakfast and start the workday. Take my dog out, work, and no one can take me away from a good aperitif or a dinner night out with friends. Other days, I live in the car to go to the locations that are in Nest or to Tavolata events. A constant companion? The music I publish on our channel “Nest Recordings.”
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself, your family history, where you grew up and some of the people who shaped you into the person you are today.
A: I lived in Italy until the age of 19. Then I moved every six months, one or two years to different places. This made me open my mind as much as possible. Discovering different cultures, learning more than one language, and living negative and positive experiences allow you to grow and look at the world from multiple perspectives. Nowadays, more than ever, I have realized how much this can differentiate us from those around us. I studied in New York, Sydney and Marbella (graduated in Business in Hotel and Restaurant Administration at the Spain campus, but the university is in Switzerland and it’s called Les Roches). Worked for Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Rocco Forte in Florence and Barcelona, and five years with Cipriani in Ibiza, Venice, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Dubai and London. Deputy director of operations at sketch London. Several people have shaped me into the person I am, from managers to university and, first, my family.
Q: What traditions do you cherish from your childhood?
A: An appreciation for all things old school. I consider myself a “young body, old soul.” I’m honest in saying that I’m not a big fan of the present, from some points of view. I think there were more values once, and I still feel strongly about them.
Q: What advice would you give a younger self?
A: “Be very careful what you put in that head, because you will never, ever get it out.” — Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey
Q: Where do you like to go to shop for truly unique finds?
A: My favourite shops are Slam Jam in Milano, Goodhood in London, the Liberty store in Carnaby London, le Marais in Paris.
Q: What is your favourite food/dish to make?
A: Spaghetti alla bottarga (but I can’t beat my mom’s).
Q: If you could host anyone (dead or alive) on your property, who would it be and why?
A: Ry Cuming from Ry X. My favourite artist. I love his lyrics, and I’ve heard several interviews. There would be many others. Salvador Dali is certainly one.
Q: What do you wish you could change about the misconception people have about Italy or travel in general?
A: I would like people to see us in a more sophisticated way, that our politics and economics are different, so that we are respected from every point of view and not just for fashion, food, wine, et cetera.
Q: Define freedom for us.
A: “Freedom” is one of my favourite words. Freedom to be yourself and to accept yourself as you are, to try to fulfil what you imagine, not to give up and not to listen to anyone, because only you can recognize the truth that lies within yourself.
Q: Complete the sentence for us: Travel for me is the reason …
A: To be happy, to feel free and to get to know myself more and more through new experiences.