When we think of escaping to a villa in Italy, we imagine a peaceful retreat in a private and ancient setting. Some may think that this type of accommodation usually comes with old stone walls, leaky faucets and non eco efficient surroundings like a scene from Under the Tuscan Sun
Recently, Italy has boldly stepped into the future, converting many of their classic villas into eco friendly palazzos. Most of the owners seem to agree that becoming green and eco efficient is the smartest way to save money while keeping their villas up to date and retaining the charm and allure. We visited two such villas and agree that staying in a villa is the only way to truly experience Italian living!
First we visited Villa Magnolia, located in Brindisi (south eastern Italy in the region of Puglia.) This enchanting 18th century noble villa has been renovated with eco friendly upgrades. All hot water is produced with solar collectors. All food grown and served at Villa Magnolia is organic and they produce their own delicious extra virgin organic olive oil from the ancient olive trees on premises. They take great pride in their home-made jellies, Limoncello, coffee liquor, pizza’s and pasta’s made fresh on a regular basis. Villa Magnolia produces energy from Photo Voltaic ‘s fitted on the flat roof. Water pumped from the Artesian well (filled by rainwater) supplies the house, the beautiful Roman style salt water swimming pool and sunken Jacuzzi in the temple. The owners believe that real eco-tourism should be based on the best available technology in order to cause as little disturbance to the environment as possible. The small historical towns that surround this villa are picturesque Italian gems. One must see the Roman Baroque architecture in Lecce or visit the 1st century castles in Oria and Taranto. This area is unique because it is so clearly influenced by many different cultures such as the Greek, Arab, Norman and, of course, Roman. This is an area that you will want to return to on a second vacation, since there is so much to take in.
Next, wandering north to Tuscany, we stumbled upon the hidden town of Cancelli, about 30 minutes from Florence. Here we stayed at Villa Bonsi . The narrow, winding, rural road leading to this villa was quite a driving adventure, in part, because It was late in the evening and we did not know which olive tree was our turn off marker. But once we arrived, we were welcomed by a sprawling palazzo and delightful staff. Constructed as a manor in the 15th century, Villa Bonsi is truly what one pictures when booking a “villa” in Tuscany. Located among olive groves and vineyards, the tranquil and panoramic setting allowed us to experience true Italian living. Be aware that because this town is off the beaten path, most of the town’s people only speak Italian and there is no McDonalds within 50 miles….Grazie al Cielo (thank goodness)!
The palazzo has been divided into six comfortable apartments and is is a great accommodation for large families. The decor is rustic and traditional yet efficient. Water is pumped to the villa from a well (rainwater) and renewable energy resources are used for electricity.The owner’s make their own Chianti wine, olive oil and honey. Tours of the antique wine cellar as well as organic cooking classes can be arranged and bicycles are available for guests.
It was a delight to experience Italy away from the crowds and congestion of the larger cities. Catching a glimpse of old Italy, tasting its delectable, traditional food and mingling with warm, gracious people made this an unforgettable vacation, all the while knowing that we were not unduly contributing to the degradation of the enviroment.
Written by Carla Scott for EuropeUpClose.com