Alana Mazza has had a varied career. From working in retail at the age of 16, sailing boats around the world, becoming the Retail Director of Hobbs to now running a small hotel, Casale San Pietro, with her husband Joe. Here she inspires us to “strive for our dreams” and describes how she moved through these transitions to a place where she is now living her best life – still working hard, but balancing this with yoga, movement and maybe a cheeky aperol at 5pm in the Italian sunshine.
What was your first ever job?
I was always looking for work from the age of about 12, my Dad was a successful businessman and as soon as I could I worked for him, doing everything from collecting rent with him, painting garages and cleaning communal areas of his apartments. I loved earning money and the whole work ethic. As soon as I was 16 I worked in a local chain of private coffee shops “The Merrie England”. I worked after school and on weekends, I loved it when I was promoted to the till! I then decided I didn’t want to go to university, so I got my first full time job at a Ferrari and Mercedes dealership, I was the receptionist.
When and how did you move into retail?
I soon got bored of reception work and wanted a more commercial role, I saw an advertisement for an Assistant Manager role at Etam and Tammy, I went along without any management experience or retail experience but felt confident. I got the job surprisingly but absolutely loved it. I only worked in the store for 6 months and I became a floating Manager, which meant I had to go all over the country sorting out stores with problems. Then I was given my own brand new store to open. I then moved to be store Manager in Mothercare, which really was such a great job in those days, a great base for a retail career. Some of my oldest friends and I met in the army that was Mothercare.
I then joined Arcadia as an Area Manager looking after the South West. I was an Area Manager for a couple of years, then went to live on a yacht in Turkey and then the Caribbean, my ex husband and I ran charter yachts, which was a fabulous experience but not forever. I did that for 18 months, my old boss in Arcadia phoned me one Christmas when we were racing in the Mount Gay Rum Yacht regatta and asked how I was and I just blurted everything out saying I am missing everything in the UK! So in February I was on a plane flying back to the UK, was picked up at the airport and went straight to HO of Arcadia and I became the London Area Manager, sadly leaving the Ex on the yacht. So I lived a great London Single life for a while. I then moved back North to be with Joe, we had beautiful children, I continued to be Area Manager then I was promoted to Head of Retail for Principles, became Retail Director, then moved to be Retail Director at Hobbs. I had such a wonderful career in Retail, would not have changed a day.
Did you always dream of owning a hotel?
Never! But both Joe and I love people and love making people happy by giving great service. The Casale was somewhere we used to visit when we came to Acuto to our holiday home, one holiday we both said we didn’t want to go home, we had some serious discussions and thought we might someday be in Italy part of the time, we bought some Land with a view to build villa’s but then we had the opportunity to buy the Casale, I walked around and quite instantly we both had a clear vision of what we could do with The Casale. The vision became a reality with lots of blood, sweat and not many tears actually! Our vision became a reality in 2016, we wanted to create a small hotel which guests felt like it was home from home, with all the luxuries and the fairies doing all the things they didn’t want to do. Most importantly we want all our guests to feel relaxed, refreshed and with a feel they can take on the world once again. It was a complete new chapter, working together in a business that was new to us and in a foreign country, but as soon as we started getting guests, we were Hoteliers. Guests arrive and friends leave and we are living our best life.
How did your life change in your 30s, 40s and now?
Hugely, each decade, my 30’s were very happy, I settled down with Joe and I had two beautiful children, went to 4 days for a short time, which was fabulous, with the children being young, I had such a good balance of challenging work, but being home at a reasonable time and 3 days off. In my 40’s I was promoted to Director, so it meant lots of time in London, so the balance was challenged! I loved my job, I knew I was good at my job but I still had imposter syndrome. In my early 50’s I was very confident in the role, still had the heart strings pulled, when I thought I should be at home with the children. So I had three months off work and went into a bit of an obsessive “Good life” wife! I started baking, gardening, and growing my own veg. I did discover that I really didn’t like doing any of those things. We also used to have supper together every evening and I went into obsessive coaching Mama, we used to sit round the table and I used to ask “Giorgio, tell me what you have done today that is great”. ” Sarina, what have you done that has made you proud”. Initially this was great until they were saying Mum I have done anything different from yesterday 😂. So when I was offered the Hobbs Retail Director role, I did ask the children what they thought and they said ” Mum we know how much you love working. You should definitely go for it! Then we can do what we used to do and tell you everything at the weekend.” I think when I turned my back they were punching the air 😂 I have to caveat this by saying, I have the most balanced, caring, successful kids anyone can have. So this guilt women have is so not necessary. PS I will never stop working, I am now doing something I love.
What’s your typical day now?
Swim at 6.30am 50 lengths, a little yoga, at my desk at 8.00am, greeting guests for breakfast, answering any queries, office work and emails until around 12 noon, check rooms for new guests, serve lunch, with the odd aperol spritz run at 12 ish by the pool. After lunch a little nap, then start getting ready for dinner. With another aperol spritz run at around 5pm.
What is a career highlight?
When I was in Retail it was always about the customer feeling great in what she had purchased, I used to train all my teams, you are not selling clothes, you are selling confidence and emotion. Now it is when Guests have had a wonderful time and they are chilled, relaxed and feeling great and they leave feeling they can take on the world.
Advice to anyone?
Strive for your dreams, if you do you will get near them if not achieve them!
Next for me?
Keep making the Casale better and better, Make more and more guests happy and we are starting an exciting new project: Renovating two fantastic Italian Villa’s and expanding the Casale slightly. Exciting!!!
To read more about Casale San Pietro see here