What better place to begin the adventure of realizing a dream home in Italy than by contemplating ultimate dream homes. While the classical remains of a magnificent villa like the emperor Hadrian's Tivoli estate will forever tease our imagination as to what it must once have looked like; it doesn’t take much for dreams to take flight when considering these much photographed celebrity homes. Why are these homes and vineyards of special interest? Because you can actually visit and even stay at some of them!
Il Palagio's formal gardens
900 acres of lush forest, beautiful lakes, landscaped gardens, vineyards, olive groves and a five acre vegetable garden, IL Palagio is less than an hour southwest of Florence on the outskirts of the medieval town of Figline in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Astoundingly gorgeous views of undulating hills and surrounding countryside can be enjoyed from many areas of the estate and from the Villa windows.
The 16th century villa and grounds, from ancient olive groves to formal gardens, have been painstakingly restored over several years by Sting and his wife Trudie Styler. The couple announced recently their beautiful home and grounds are now available for special events and weddings! The estate accommodates up to 200 guests, the villa has nine bedrooms, and there are five guest cottages, a fully equipped recording studio, and wine cellars suitable for dining. Individual cottages rent for approximately $9500.00 per week.
Olive oil, salami, honey and 16 selections of Toscano wines produced at Il Palagio can be purchased at the estates Farm Shop, Tenuta Il Palagio, located at Via Sant Andrea II in Figline, as well as at Harrods’, London and Eli’s, New York. To order directly from the estate or inquire about accommodations go to: www.palagioproducts.com.
Lidia Bastianich’s Vineyards and Winery in the Region of Friuli
Famed chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich and son Joe founded Bastianich Vineyards and Winery, on their family ancestral grounds, to stimulate greater awareness of the extraordinary wines of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy near Austria. Two months ago, Lidia opened Orsone, a small intimate and informal restaurant and B&B with six bedrooms and one full suite on the grounds of the vineyard.
The restaurateur explains “the B&B is the best way for guests to leisurely explore the vineyards, take part in wine tastings and enjoy great food at the same time.” Orsone offers a contemporary interpretation of Italian food. Located about an hour and fifteen minutes from Venice, a car can be arranged to take guests to and from Marco Polo airport. Inquire: www.orsone.com, email@example.com, 39-043 273 2324.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Palazzo Margherita, Bernalda Basilicata
The Oscar winning director not long ago completed restorations on his 19th century palazzo in Bernalda, Basilicata. This tiny hill town, the birthplace of his grandfather, is in an area of Basilicata near the Ionian Sea still relatively untouched by mass tourism. Coppola originally acquired the property so family and friends could experience an Italy of the past--- “old Italy.”
Two years ago, Palazzo Margherita hosted daughter Sophia’s wedding to Thomas Mars. Coppola exclaims “for me Palazzo Margherita is a dream come true.” A dream he has decided to share with discriminating travelers who seek a unique experience in an area little known to tourists.
The Palazzo features understated luxury and all the intimacy of a private home with only nine suites, each different in character and personality. 20 minutes from miles of white sandy beaches, not far from two 18-hole golf courses and close to many picturesque villages, there’s a lot for visitors to explore. A state-of-the art theatre, with an extensive collection of classic Italian films, makes for special after dinner viewing. Rates: from about $1150 per night. Inquire: www.coppolaresorts.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 39-083 554 9060.
Jarno Trulli, The face of Podera Castorani
Formula One race car champion JarnoTrulli’s family have been in the wine business over 100 years, both his father and grandfather cultivated vineyards. When the Villa Castorani estate and its extensive vineyards 18 miles from his birthplace Pescara in southern Abruzzo became available in 1999, Jarno jumped at the opportunity to acquire the property.
Today, Podera Castorani cultivates a variety of grapes to produce a diverse selection of 26 wines. Castorani grapes have no chemical pesticides or fertilizers and wines are certified organic. Jarno travels the world introducing audiences to the exciting variety of wines produced in the Abruzzo region of Italy, although not as well know as wines from Chianti, Abruzzo produces more wine than Australia.
Podera Castorani is open for tours and wine tasting. Once renovations are complete on Villa Castorani, visitors will be able to enjoy the intimate luxury of a 30 suite boutique hotel, ideally situated on the highest elevation of the estate to offer magnificent views of the Adriatic on one side and mountain vistas of Majecca National Park on the other. Inquire: www.castorani.it, email@example.com, 39-346 635 5635.
Georgio Armani’s Forte dei Marmi Tuscany
Armani’s farmhouse near Versiliais on the Tuscan coast not far from the medieval town of Lucca is one of the famed designer’s many retreats. Although rustic in style, the classic stucco structure with hand-crafted clay tiles features every amenity of country-living to provide a welcome escape from the pace of cosmopolitan Milan, home to Armani corporate headquarters.
Andrea Bocelli with brother Alberto in the family vineyards, La Jatico Tuscany
The Bocelli Vineyard, La Jatico, located in the beautiful Val d'Arno region of Tuscany has been the family home for generations. A recently renovated Farmhouse on the estate features two private apartments for rent. Experience an unforgettable Bocelli vacation, visit the vineyards, taste the wines, sleep in the place where famed tenor Andrea was born, and perhaps see him (if he is not on tour or in concert) horseback riding on the estate. To find a Bocelli wine retailer near you contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. To book tours or accommodations, Inquire: www.bocellifarmhouse. com, www.bocellifamilywines.com.
Richard Branson’s Villa La Cagginella Lake Como
Secluded Villa La Cagginella, on the Ponta di Lavendo peninsula of picture perfect Lake Como, is only accessible by boat or helicopter. While this remote estate is for the billionaire’s personal use only, Sir Richard Branson does make his private Caribbean island retreat, Necker Island, available to guests. For $60,000 a week Necker Island can be your private get-a-way. Inquire: www.neckerisland.virgin.com.
Carole Bouquet’s Sanque D’ore Vineyards Pantelleria Sicily
French actress Carole Bouquet, best known to American audiences for her role as the Bond girl in For Your Eyes Only and as the face of Chanel #5, since 2004 has produced Passito wine (dessert wine).
Her vineyards' grapes hang in terraces high in the rugged mountains of Pantelleria, a tiny island in the Straits of Sicily, in the southern Mediterranean, 37 miles from North Africa. Known as the Black Pearl in the Mediterranean the islands soil, 70% volcanic stone and 30% clay and lemons, produces the Zibibbo grape, unique for its ability to withstand harsh North African (sirocco) winds and scorching sunlight. Winds are known to blow on Pantelleria 321 days a year!
Carole fell in love with the island and realized the potential to create a very special dessert wine. Back in 1994 she began purchasing small parcels of land from locals in the remote mountains areas, eventually accumulating over 32 acres, she has successfully revitalized the process of creating Passito wine. The tiny Island is a trek from Sicily but can be reached by ferry and hydrofoil from Trapani. Wines are available in fine restaurants throughout Europe and the US and at many wine retailers. Inquire: www.sanguedoro.it, 39-33 523 6220.
Dame Helen Mirren's Castle Le Matine in Apulia
A 500 year old Castle in the village of Tiggiano Apulia, complete with turrets, a moat, dungeons and massive fireplaces, was acquired by Dame Helen Mirren and her husband, Oscar winning director Taylor Hackford in 2007. The couple immediately set about renovating and restoring the long uninhabited property as well as landscaping the centuries old olive groves and rose gardens. Le Matine, just outside the beautiful Baroque town of Lecce (the Florence of Southern Italy), is not far from the Mediterranean coast, is the couples vacation retreat.
Like Frances Ford Coppola's Palazzo Margarita in Basilicata, Castle Le Matine is a distance removed from the tourist hordes that flock to the popular attractions of Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome. The abandoned Castle was purchased for under $500,000, evidence of the attractive property opportunities that still can be found in the more remote regions of Southern Italy. Dame Mirren will spend at least that amount in restorations.
Mario Batali’s La Mozza in the Maremma Region of Tuscany
La Mozza Vineyards, founded in 2000 is a joint venture between Mario Batali and Lidia and Joe Bastianich, was created to popularize the grapes and wines of the little known Maremma region. Caught between sea winds and an arid climate, this area of southern Tuscany produces a very special grape. In the midst of cattle country or the land of white bulls and Italian cowboys, La Mozza Vineyards is eight miles from the Tyrrhenian Sea and about an hour southwest of Montalcino. To visit inquire: www.lamozza.com. Find a wine merchant near you at: email@example.com.
George Clooney’s Villa Oleandra on Lake Como, Lombardy
No story about celebrity homes in Italy would be complete without mention of George Clooney’s exquisite Villa Oleandra. Perhaps the most famous part-time resident in the country his presence has been a boon to tourism. Single-handedly, he has influenced the appreciation of property values on the lake and in northern Lombardy.
Frequent visits, by his celebrity friends for weddings and honeymoons, and a featured location in Clooney's Ocean's 12, have brought to every travelers’ attention the stunning beauty of Lake Como and the mountains surrounding the lake as a vacation get-a-way. Italy is now the number One wedding and honeymoon destination in the world.
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Photos courtesy of: Palagio products, Bastianich Vineyards, Coppola resorts, Castorani Vineyards, Architectural Digest, Bocelli Farmhouse, www.sanguedoro.it, La Mozza Vineyards and AP.
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