Promoter Enrico D’Alessandro of Italy’s long-established D’Alessandro e Galli (Di and Gi) tells Access about the ongoing plans for its new festival La Prima Estate, and persuading acts such as Bob Dylan, Blur and Robbie Williams to play intimate shows at its other Tuscan treasure; the Lucca Summer Festival.

Founded in 1987 by Mimmo D’Alessandro and Adolfo Galli, D’Alessandro e Galli (Di and Gi) has worked with many of the world’s best-known acts, and its Lucca Summer Festival alone has seen performances by artists including Elton John, Ennio Morricone, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones since its launch in 1998.

This year, Di and Gi has booked a remarkable line-up of headline acts for the 29 June – 28 July show series in the historic Tuscan city of Lucca. Bob Dylan, One Republic, Lil Nas X and Norah Jones are among those who will perform in the city’s beautiful Piazza Napoleone, with show formats ranging from 5,000 seated to 13,000 standing. The promoter has also secured Blur and Robbie Williams to perform 40,000-capacity shows in the Mura Storiche area, next to Lucca’s Renaissance-period city walls.

Last year, Di and Gi launched another Tuscan festival, the 10,000-capacity La Prima Estate, in Versilia, with the stage set up just a stone’s throw from the beach.

Enrico D’Alessandro (pictured) says the aim of La Prima Estate – which translates as ‘the first summer’ ­– is to offer a “holiday experience” that involves far more than just live music. Aside from shows by acts including Bicep, Nas and Bon Iver, the 16-25 June event presents options ranging from yoga sessions and surf lessons to bicycle excursions in the Versilia hills.

The promoter says the inaugural event was a huge success and proved to be a great foundation stone for long-term development: “We were very pleased and surprised by the response to the event’s launch, particularly because we announced it at the end of February and only had three months of promotion.”

Despite the short timeframe, research found that La Prima Estate was the most mentioned festival in Italian media in 2022.

“That was amazing because it means that the format of the festival, the location, and the fact we were doing something different from any other festival, made an impact on the media and consequently the audience,” says D’Alessandro.

On the back of the inaugural event, the promoters says Di and Gi is expanding La Prima Estate’s multi-entertainment offering: “It’s a 24-hour experience, with a lot of content outside the venues such as sport, music panel talks and after-show parties – we want to offer the audience a more immersive experience. That is what people are looking for now, it is no longer just about the music.”

The price is right

“We didn’t want to have highly priced tickets because we’re still in an early phase and need to attract people to experience the festival, the location and everything that’s involved.”

D’Alessandro says ticket sales for this year’s event are ahead of expectations, but the festival has not been immune to market-wide issues impacting costs, the supply chain and ticket affordability: “It’s very hard to keep ticket prices affordable right now because costs are crazy, and the supply chain is struggling a lot, but we made a sacrifice and decided to keep the ticket prices relatively low.

“We didn’t want to have highly priced tickets because we’re still in an early phase and need to attract people to experience the festival, the location and everything that’s involved. It’s an investment for us, it is a long-term project, and I think that we made the right choice.”

The ongoing impact of the pandemic and economic turbulence on the supply chain has meant that Di and Gi has had to take a unusual approach to building La Prima Estate.

“This year we’re going to start constructing the festival site and set up the stage in early May, more than 40 days before the festival kicks off, because it’s the only way to be certain that we have all the materials we need and the manpower required. That is something we never had to do before the pandemic, but it is the only way to do it now,” says D’Alessandro.

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Lucca days

“You can see artists that would normally play an arena or stadium in a tiny square in the centre of a medieval city.”

Over in Lucca, Di & Gi’s festival has a 25-year history that makes it relatively easy to attract A-list talent.

“It was not so easy in the beginning because it was hard to convince international artists to play in a small city in the middle of Tuscany rather than in a major city,” says D’Alessandro. “It can still be challenging because we have a lot of competition from major festivals in major cities, even inside Tuscany, but it’s far easier these days because now every artist and agent can see that many major artists have come to Lucca; from the Rolling Stones to Roger Waters, Elton John to Oasis.

“In the case of Blur, it helped that Damon Albarn had played Lucca with his other two projects: Gorillaz and The Good, the Bad & the Queen. We are so happy to be able to host the only Italian show of the Blur reunion tour, and fans are responding; we’re close to selling out.”

The festival being in a stunning city so close to Pisa and Florence helps attract an overseas audience that typically accounts for 15% of tickets sold, while another 55% are sold in Italy but outside Tuscany, bringing huge benefits to Lucca. The economic impact of the event on the city has been calculated at €13 million (£11.4m) per year.

“Between hotels, restaurants and shops, the festival has a huge impact on the economics of the city,” says D’Alessandro. “It has been key to the growth of the city in the past ten to 15 years for sure. Besides the direct economic benefit, there is the promotion of the city on the back of the festival. As a result, we have a very close and positive relationship with city authorities.”

The promoter has found that tickets for big shows In Italy are selling very well but for smaller festivals with smaller acts it can be a challenge due to the impact of the current economic climate: “We have one exception, which is Milan, where everything is selling extremely well, but outside Milan it’s kind of tough for small acts.

“For some artists on our festival line up it’s not easy, we have to push hard with the promotion and focus on the appeal of the location; it is a music and vacation experience with a venue that creates a lot of intimacy between the artists and the audience.

“What really makes the Lucca Summer Festival special is that you can see artists that would normally play an arena or stadium in a tiny square in the centre of a medieval city.”