Stay: Podere Palazzo

Tuscany, Italy
08.12.2010 | by: Meghan

modern tuscan farmhouse

When Chicago designer Patrizio Fradiani bought this abandoned stone farmhouse from the 1700s, he tore it down. But instilled with an architect’s appreciation for historical significance, he studied and photographed the way it was built, using traditional construction techniques (down to the joinery in the exposed wood beams) to reconstruct it. He made use of local craftsman and resources whenever possible, and nearly every building material he used came from within a 10-mile radius: wood from the chestnut trees across the valley, rocks from the river below, matching bricks from the surrounding grounds. He recycled 100 percent of the stonework (using leftovers for the area around the pool), but when he needed additional terra cotta tiles, he went to a 400-year-old mill down the street where they were crafted by hand and dried by the wind.

“It’s just the way things have always been done here,” says Fradiani, who bought the place (with his partner Mark) because he was pining for a physical connection to his native Italy. Eschewing all the greenwashing hype that accompanies most environmentally conscious projects, Fradiani is so humble about his efforts. He went to lengths most people would never dream of—all for the integrity of the old and crumbling stone farmhouse, its first floor a former stable for pigs and cows.

Now a thoroughly modern, mountain-top villa with Donald Judd-like art installations, an infinity pool and patchwork views of the Tuscan countryside, Podere Palazzo is a design and foodie dreamscape. Berries, grapes, flowers, herbs, local variety of olive trees selected for producing a strong and fruity oil—and now, an orchard of 40 rare fruit trees all unique and different (an homage to the lost biodiversity of trees in the world)—grow among the spindly cypress trees and are free for the picking and cooking. Trails wind down the mountain. A flock of sheep rumbles by every morning (to our 17-month-old’s delight). Wild boars scurry about while we relax outside on the patio every night with a bottle of wine. Even taking a shower is transformed into a transcendental experience. Open-air, oversized farmhouse windows in the natural stone shower provide endless views of the wildly different landscapes—undulating golden fields, verdant hillside pastures, and deep, dense forests—that all come together in this one magical place.

The Details

Five bedrooms, five bathrooms, three fireplaces, one heated pool. Do not miss indulging in a three-hour dinner at nearby La Parolina, a restaurant by two young hotshot expat chefs from Rome, who chose the countryside over the big city. Rent it at poderepalazzo.com.

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