Tag Archives: Italian Wanderlust

Frances’ Lodge – A Tuscan Treasure

2006c View from the garden - Frances Lodge 2

Frances’ Lodge Relais
Str. Di Valdipugna, 2
53100 Siena
0577-281-061
booking@franceslodge.it
http://www.franceslodge.it

We meander today throughout the countryside of Tuscany, a rich farmland of olive groves, wheat fields and sunny vineyards. The leaves of timeless olive trees glint silver in the shimmering light, their gnarled trunks casting deep purple shadows on the sun-baked earth. Row after row of verdant vines bursting with the sweet promise of wine, march across the gentle hills. This region of Italy is known for its excellent wines. It is a landscape of dreams, laden with blessings, exquisite, nourishing. We are headed towards a Tuscan farmhouse, now a Bed & Breakfast, on the outskirts of Siena.

Every house has a history, every family a story. And so it is with this old farmhouse. There are many good reasons to stay with Franco and Franca (hence the name, Frances’ Lodge). Our accommodations in the portion of the building that once housed the rabbits and pigeons are quite comfortable. As a matter of fact, all the rooms once provided shelter for farm animals. Now converted into living space for guests, the décor of each of the rooms is tasteful, whimsical, inviting – delightful reflections of Franca’s artistic talents. Indeed, our hostess says, “Nothing bothers me more than to see something unappealing to the eye. Why should anything be unattractive when it could be beautiful?”

“So tell me, Franca, your story and the story of the house,” I ask. “That story begins with the villa, then,” she commences. “It has been in Franco’s family for three hundred years. Built in 1729 as a casa padronale, it was used as a summer residence for the Pippi family. The family would relocate from the city of Siena to their country estate during the growing season, a move that enabled them to oversee the various harvests, beginning with the early summer crops of fruit and wheat, followed by the autumn grape harvest and lastly the picking of the olives. They would arrive with a retinue of seven servants,” Franca lets out a sign of envy and longing. “It was a time for the family to enjoy the wholesome freshness of the country air. Going to one’s summer villa was known as “villeggiatura,” a term still used today when referring to a summer holiday.”

Locals often referred to Villa Pippo as “La Cappella,” a name derived from a small shrine or chapel that once existed on the property. It is difficult to date the adjacent farm building because structures of lesser importance were seldom dated. However, records from around 1820 show that an L-shaped structure existed as a casa colonica for the contadino family who worked the land. Besides functioning as a home for the peasant farmer, it housed the granaio, the granaries in the upper story and animal stalls below (cows, mules, chickens, rabbits and pigeons). To house the lemon trees during the winter months, the lovely limonaia with its huge arched windows was added in 1853. This section filled in the L-shape creating the rectangular building we see today.

Farm activities ceased after the war and the villa and farm buildings were all but abandoned except for the casa colonica where the farmer remained to look after the land, until his death in 1984. His wife, Pierina stayed on in the house she had come to as a bride in 1945. She remained another twenty years and not a day went by that she didn’t wrap her black shawl around her shoulders and walk to the cemetery of S. Regina to visit and place fresh flowers on her husband’s grave.

Franco and his Florentine wife decided to move to the family estate after twenty years of working in Florence and living in rented apartments. It was time to search for a home with a little plot of earth but the only affordable properties involved traveling quite a distance from Florence. So why not return to the land that belonged to his family? His parents live in the villa, but the farmhouse, abandoned for decades and in disrepair fired up their hearts and their imaginations. So they set to the task of restoration. Today it is their cherished home and a lovely B&B.

2005c Frances' LodgeI watch Franco who, with a warm smile and friendly handshake, wins over his guests the minute they arrive, immediately making them feel at home. He graciously sees to their comfort, while generously sharing his knowledge of and love for his native city. “And,” he invites each of us, “enjoy a last swim on this unseasonably warm afternooon.” Where else can one dip into a swimming pool and gaze at a panoramic view of Siena spread out before them like a master’s painting; its colors ever-changing with that special Tuscan light? Before leaving for the city, Mike and I stroll in the garden outside the limonaia. The glossy leaves of a magnolia tree glint in the sun and a rose, the color of coral, catches my eye. Beyond the garden walls, where wisteria and jasmine climb with abandon, another spectacular view greets me. I close my eyes to see more clearly and it’s easy to imagine the Pippi family here in villeggiatura. How did they ever manage to pack up their trunks at the end of the season and move back to the city? How do Franco and Franca get any of their guests to leave?

Read more about my books featuring this and other lovely restaurants and hotels, Rooms with a View and Italian Wanderlust, by clicking on their covers:

Rooms cover      italian wanderlust 2

More about my books.

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Villa Maria – a heavenly perch on the Amalfi Coast

2006c Villa MariaVilla Maria
Via S. Chiara, 2
84010 Ravello (SA)
39-089-857-255
http://www.villamaria.it
villamaria@villamaria.it

The Amalfi Coastal road offers unforgettable views of the sea, and reaching Ravello’s mountain perch is well worth the drive upwards.  What other way is there to reach Paradise?  A stay at Villa Maria is indeed heavenly.  Villa Maria is situated in the historical part of Ravello, an easy walk from the main square.  Vincenzo Palumbo, the villa’s owner, represents the third generation of his family to work in the hotel business.  He purchased this liberty-style villa over thirty-five years ago and devotedly restored it to accommodate guests in its 27 rooms, successfully renovating bedrooms and living rooms that have maintained the feel of a private home. 

From the moment we arrived at Villa Maria’s gate, we were welcomed and made to feel at home by the friendly personnel.  The rooms are beautifully decorated, the views stunning, and the food excellent.   In fact, much of what is used in their kitchen is grown nearby in a graceful, terraced garden where the produce is selected and picked each day for the chefs.   This, coupled with the culinary skills of their chefs, has earned their restaurant the Gambero Rosso award in recognition of its cuisine. Villa Maria is listed among the top 365 restaurants in all of Italy.  

My husband and I spent two quiet, winter days here when flowers and town activities were still dormant, and yet everything seemed to whisper the promise of the warm, flowery days ahead.  Sitting on our balcony, with a view of the sea, I found myself dreaming of what the spring and summer in Ravello must be like.

Read more about my books featuring this and other lovely restaurants and hotels, Rooms with a View and Italian Wanderlust, by clicking on their covers:

Rooms cover      italian wanderlust 2

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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“In all Rome there is no more delightful spot”

          View for Hassler Roma rooftop terraceoriginal watercolor paintingcopyright - Ginda Simpson

View for Hassler Roma rooftop terrace
original watercolor painting, copyright – Ginda Simpson

Hassler Roma
Piazza Trinità dei Monti, 6
00187 Rome
39-06-699-340
www.hotelhasslerroma.com
booking@hotelhassler.it

Non est in tota laetior Urbe locus – In all Rome there is no more delightful spot.

When the Friars built the Convent of the Trinity on the Pincian Hill in the 14th century, these words were inscribed in their library.  Both prophetic and poetic, these words imprint themselves on my heart now, as I gaze at the unparalleled panorama of the Eternal City from the terrace of the Hotel Hassler.  The twin bell-towers of the 16th century church of Trinità dei Monti are to my right, overlooking the triple Travertine marble stairway of the Spanish Steps and the lovely Piazza di Spagna below.

Wondrous gardens have graced the Pincio from earliest Roman times, creating peaceful oases where, throughout the centuries, the wealthy built sumptuous villas. The Hotel Hassler came into being towards the end of the 19th century when it was not uncommon for families to open their private villas and palazzi to entertain the city’s high society.  The Hassler’s position, elegant atmosphere and impeccable service made it one the most sought-after destinations for visitors to Rome.  In the 1921, the Wirths took over the management and in 1940, it opened its famous Rooftop Restaurant, the first panoramic restaurant ever built in Rome.

During my stay, Mr. Roberto Wirth, fifth-generation member of the famous Swiss hotelier family, welcomed me personally.  A passionate collector of art and fine wines, Mr. Wirth is a charming gentleman who has made countless visitors feel perfectly at home in this exquisite hotel – visitors that have included royalty, celebrities, diplomats, writers and artists, and certainly those who seek the very best in Roman hospitality.

Hassler’s Palm Court, where breakfast and afternoon drinks are served, has ivy-covered walls with Roman statuary and marble fragments that embrace a tranquil and shaded courtyard, an oasis within an oasis.  Here, as in the sitting room, our bedroom and the rooftop terrace, it happens – everyday cares evaporate like the misty spray of the city’s fountains. In all Rome, there really is no more delightful spot.

Read more about my books featuring this and other lovely restaurants and hotels, Rooms with a View and Italian Wanderlust, by clicking on their covers:

Rooms cover      italian wanderlust 2

More about my books.

********************************************************************************
All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.