La Dolce Vita – Villa Exclusives

Italy is one of the most pleasant relaxing destinations, I love both, the sophisticated cities and the rambling countryside, both equally charming. Although after pandemic lockdowns, travelers may not be prepared to mingle in feverish cities. Italy has been the fourth most visited country in international tourism arrivals. People visit Italy for its rich culture, delicious hearty cuisine, history, fashion and art, its stunning coastline and sandy beaches, its mountains, and priceless ancient monuments. I’ve never been disappointed in Italy, truly a lifestyle choice!

We will never forget the pandemic images of balconies filled with devastated Italian locals serenading in solidarity and sending love to the local health workers. It was a tonic for the soul, as our turn hadn’t come, it was spirited and inspiring. The irrepressible Italian temperament is hard to deny, and it is a beloved destination. Perhaps it’s time to plan a late summer or early fall sojourn to Italy, a meander easing back into travel. Several scenic areas come to mind: Umbria and Puglia for the countryside with small hill towns near Puglia on the sea.

Your mind’s eye view of Italy may encompass numerous visions. Cypress trees marching in rows across undulating pale green hillsides or the dizzying cliffs and winding narrow roads of the Amalfi coast. My most recent Italian Journey included sandy beaches, dining under massive pine trees in the fields of Puglia, dotted with ancient, gnarled olive trees. Nearby are numerous charming hilltop towns, the white cone shaped trulli villages and Lecce, a baroque jewel in the southern Apulia region.

Trulli Rooftops, Italy

For travelers pursuing authentic food and wine experiences, Umbria should place near the top of a “must-visit” list. Particularly in autumn when the district’s autumn abundance is at its peak. The otherwise tranquil countryside is a buzz of activity during the fall, with wine, oil and saffron harvests in full swing, truffle hunting in high gear and such crops as beans and mushrooms coming due. During fall harvest, friends and family gather to pluck ripe fruit from their orchards and create their own stock of olive oil, their liquid gold.

Puglia Masseria

We have a cultivated selection of Villas in the Umbria area, including a graceful 17th century country manor that has been owned by the same family for three hundred years and is designated as a national monument. Set in splendid countryside just over an hour north of Rome, and an hour south of Umbria, the villa is ideally located for exploring Lazio’s Etruscan sites and Renaissance palaces, for golfing at one of several 18-hole courses – or for a day in the city or a jaunt up to Umbria. Just imagine an unhurried few weeks or even a month here!

Villa B is a 17th-century farmhouse that has been meticulously restored. The villa is a light and spacious property set around a wonderful courtyard with ancient mulberry trees and a large heated swimming pool. The mature gardens and open lawns make this an ideal property for guests of all ages and the covered patio is fantastic for outdoor dining.

The villa offers flexible accommodation in two buildings: the main house and adjacent guest house. Sleeps 14 guests in 7 Bedrooms – 5 bedrooms in the Main House + 2 bedrooms in the Guest House. Umbria location: 45 minutes from Perugia airport 20 minutes from Asissi 1 hour 15 minutes’ from Orvieto 2 hours from Florence airport 2 hours 45 minutes from Rome Fiumicino

Restaurants and rustic trattorias enrich their menus with the farm to table offerings. Plan a culinary escapade with Villa living like a local. Umbria, in addition to the phenomenal food offerings, has many other reasons to visit, including gorgeous hill towns and villages and world-renowned art and architecture. Just 1.5-2 hours from both Rome and Florence, it’s the perfect interval when traveling from the north to the south of Italy. Wine harvest, olive oil harvest, truffle season, and ultimately saffron season, which has been cultivated in the region since the Middle Ages.

Florence Villa. Situated just 8 km from the centre of Florence, this stunning Villa is located within a large estate, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Amenities include tennis and a soccer pitch. The villa sits perched at 320 meters above sea level with views stretching across the Tuscan countryside. Sleeps 16 in 6 double rooms and 2 twin rooms.

The swimming pool area has been carefully designed so that one can savor a glass of Chianti while overlooking Giotto’s Bell Tower & Brunelleschi’s Dome. The oldest part of the villa is the tower which has been restored with glass windows and is a splendid viewing platform with spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding parks and wonderful for enjoying the summer sunset.

The outdoor gazebo is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a cappuccino, afternoon siesta or evening cocktail. Just steps from the gazebo is a vegetable garden where you can pick the fresh ingredients for supper. Having previously been host to members of the British Royal family, the villa has recently been refurbished to an excellent standard.

Villa just outside of Florence.

Puglia. Bari to Lecce. Follow the winding scenic roads of the Puglian coast, the ‘heel’ of Italy’s boot to discover hidden sea caves, charming white coned trulli villages, quaint masserie, cliff top towns, and the Baroque gem Lecce. Puglia is estimated to have 60 million olive trees, some as old as 2,000 years, all of which are protected by law. A diverse region populated with acres of farm crops, in particular wheat for pasta. Hilly landscapes, green valleys and miles of olive groves —this is where you will discover olive trees as old as Jesus Christ. Orchards of fruit and rolling fields of vineyards, quaint whitewashed towns accented with deep blue trim, charm oozes in each and every town. This is a casual lifestyle with good hearty dining. The white city of Ostuni is an enchanting hill town, following the cobblestone streets to hidden grand churches, mosey through lanes that cars can’t navigate. The old homes of the Nobles and the Cathedral are especially striking.

La Dolce Vita is the practiced routine, aging nonnas spend afternoons chatting on the side of the cobbled street in colorful wooden chairs; I’m sure they are comparing sauce recipes. Groups of old men play cards in the late afternoon sun; floppy khaki hats protect them from the heat. It is like watching a movie, cue the music for Cinema Paradisio!

Be a part of the modern renaissance, return to the world and to Italy in baby steps! If you prefer to be in Tuscany, imagine a month in your private villa adding day trips for sightseeing.

Among the Villas we can offer in Puglia, a charming Masseria that sleeps 16 guests comfortably in 8 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. Surrounding the house is a combination of 100 acres of olive groves, oak and wild grass meadows and a citrus garden. Hammam and two pools, one on the rooftop terrace and one in the garden. Tennis court for summer matches. Having undergone a meticulous restoration, the Masseria is now one of the most luxurious villas to rent in Southern Italy. Originally built to protect the owners from marauding pirates, the thick stone walls now provide a cool retreat from the baking Puglian sun. No expense has been spared in the eight spacious en suite bedrooms. Renowned decorator Alexander Waterworth has created contemporary, soothing spaces using local materials and taking inspiration from the spectacular surrounding countryside. Privacy is guaranteed; the farmhouse is surrounded by over 100 acres of land. Amidst the olive groves (the oil produced is superb), children will revel in collecting fresh eggs for breakfast, while parents can pluck limes and mint for a home-grown Italian Limoncello Mojito, expertly mixed.

Days can be spent lounging by the vast lake-style swimming pool, or at the smaller pool on top of the tower. In the evenings, the chef creates unparalleled Puglian feasts using zucchini and eggplants from the kitchen garden along with homemade orecchiette pasta. After dinner, classic Italian films can be projected against the walls of the pool house with the sound of cicadas providing a summer symphony.  And if it all gets too much, you can escape for a sleepover in the vintage chrome Airstream hidden amidst a field of wildflowers and ancient olive trees.

Italians value and celebrate all aspects of life. It begins in the morning with a pastry and a frothy Caffè latte and continues to late evening with lunch breaks, sunset apéritif’s, and peaking with scrumptious five course dinners.

A small taste of what could be a memorable late summer in Italy—our black book includes private Villas that are not available to the public marketplace, they are vetted and managed by our local teams. Tuscany, or farther if you are inclined, to Portofino and Positano. Or perhaps a summer on Lake Como, in an exceptional and historical palazzo, the perfect spot for a celebration or family gathering on the breathtaking Lake Como. Situated on the western shore of Lake Como, the Villa is in the town of Ossuccio, approximately 20 km north of the town of Como. Indoor pool, garden pool and of course, the sparkling lake!

The only surprises are what your chef may prepare for dinner after visiting the bountiful farmers markets brimming with farm-bought goat’s cheese, freshly baked bread and artfully produced salami and ham, oh and the wine! Walking, hiking, boating across an endless lake, can you see yourself here this summer?

Abundant options, however, we feel this is the year of Private Villa Vacations…plot now! Umbria, Lake Como estates, what’s more Bubble than a private island estate, or a Sardinia hilltop compound. Let us help you design your own Fellini summer experience.

La Dolce Vita, Indeed!

La Fiermontina Urban Resort

Lecce

My initial introduction to Puglia was the shining star Lecce, which is nestled in the middle of the Salentine Peninsula, surrounded by the brilliant sapphire blue Ionian and Adriatic Seas. Lecce is the perfect springboard to reach the picturesque hill towns and cliff clinging villages of all that is Puglia. Intricate Baroque architecture dates back to the early Roman Empire, the entire city is composed from one distinctive material Lecce stone or la Pietra Leccese. Soft porous sandstone that casts a slightly golden glow to the treasured intricately carved buildings in the historic center. Lecce is often referred to as the Florence of the South.

Courtesy of La Fiermontina

La Fiermontina lobby

Narrow cobblestone streets limit cars to the locals which adds charming allure to this very walkable city center. Imagine carriage wide streets flanked by brightly colored flower filled balconies, enormous wooden doors fitted with massive bronze lion head rappers. This is Lecce, you can explore for hours steps from your hotel. The hotel we recommend is the outstanding recently restored villa known as La Fiermontina Urban Resort.

They must have read my blog posts on my love of: The Arrival – the moment we sauntered upstairs to the art filled lobby, helmed by a woman in a gorgeous pink linen outfit – we were handed a frothy lemonade concoction, an instant heat soother! Later, not only did the owner meet us and make dinner reservations for us, she gave us a map with directions to the Atelier which designs the very chic employee linen outfits.

Essential to Lecce is at least a three-night stay at the architecturally stunning La Fiermontina. The 17th Century Palace is partially surrounded by ancient city walls, the modern rooms built of the beautiful local stone are restful and tastefully decorated with pieces from the owners amazing art collection. Parisian born brother and sister Giacomo Fiermonte and his sister Antonia, came upon the land and the original house while visiting Old Lecce. Originally Giacomo intended the site for a personal residence, the major restoration was accomplished with the Italian architect Antonio Annicchiarico to envision the restoration incorporating a portion of the 17th century villa into the new project.Courtesy of La Fiermontina

The slightly buffed arched star pinnacle ceilings in my Suite 7 reminded me of a cathedral. The high ceilings are found in almost all of the rooms and public spaces, wooden beams and vaulted stone is in abundance providing texture and a seamless elegant simplicity.

My beautiful terrace abutting an original Roman town wall overlooked the sculpture garden and provided a mesmerizing platform for stargazing. Antiques and family treasures are shared in the rooms and public spaces; this property is truly a labor of love and a nostalgic homage to their Pugliese heritage. The owners are frequently in residence, greeting guests, providing dining suggestions and in my case, the delightful Antonia joined us in the garden for an aperitivo. Personal and professional, truly a significant measure of familial pride in this endeavor.

An intimate setting with only 16 rooms and suites, La Fiermontina also offers a spa, garden setting dining and a very impressive modern art collection enhancing the public and private spaces. The collection is a tribute to the grandmother of the Fiermonte family, who was wooed and pursued by two artists. Antonia married a French sculptor and eventually left him for another artist, his best friend. The muse is in residence, inhabiting each and every corner of this gorgeous chic Palace.

The urban resort offers the only and most essential hotel pool in the ages old olive tree studded garden. Loungers are strategically placed beneath the canopy of the enormous twisted trees, truly a peaceful sanctuary on a typically sizzling summer afternoon; at night, the massive cubist Fernand Léger sculptures are punctuation points to the gnarled olive trees, natures sculptures.

The historic center of Lecce is dotted with small artisan shops, traditional trattorias and ristorante’s serving Salento meals and local wine. Corner cafes dot the narrow streets, gelato shops tempt; opera season fills the winter months and the Roman amphitheater hosts concerts and recitals. Lecce is oozing with historic architecture and artistic charm; delicious dining with cuisine from the sea and the farm, the foodie movement is a natural occurrence in the area encompassing Puglia.

Highly recommend La Fiermontina and an adventure in Lecce.

I’m pining to return and walk the narrow winding streets again and again and sit below the whispering olive trees at La Fiermontina.