Locanda al Colle is a unique and beautifully designed small boutique hotel in Tuscany looking towards the sea and the hills of Camaiore.
How would you describe Il Fienile in a nutshell?
Il Fienile is a one-bedroom Bed & Breakfast in San Giovanni in Tuscany. The two owners and three cats will be the only other people on the property, allowing you to breathe and relax in an idyllic house in nature. Particularly enticing are the floors, as they are made of patterned Graniglia tiles. It’s a cosy retreat with a long outdoor swimming pool and a delicious organic breakfast.
What was your inspiration to rent it out a room as a Bed and Breakfast?
We bought the barn in 2002 and renovated it without much altering the openness of the existing loft-like structure. My background is in architecture and the arts even though I now work in fashion design. My daughter, who was involved in developing the designs for the house, is also an architect.
With our kids all grown, we thought why not share it with like-minded people as we have put a lot of love and effort into it.
How would you describe the style of the house?
Someone mentioned that it is like ‘new Tuscan’, but it’s not quite like that. On the outside, it is a rustic 14th century stone barn, so we decided to have the swimming pool designed to seem like an animal’s drinking fountain, like it’s always been there. Apart from that it is high tech in every other way with the machinery all well hidden away.
Approaching the house, you come out of the woods into a clearing on top of the hill with lovely views over rolling hills with the Pratomagno mountains far away on the horizon..
It is a constant challenge to make the woods morph into the garden without taking it over. We let the garden flow into the house through huge openings in the massive stone walls, merging the outside with the comfort and protection of the traditionally built refuge, cool and airy in the summer, warm and cosy in the colder months.
And the interior is more modern?
The best thing about the house are the floor tiles. They are traditional, hand-made Graniglia tiles, and there are 2500 of them. You can normally find them in houses built until the 1950s. Each square is different and they were originally used as decorative borders. We bought the whole lot not quite knowing what was hidden under the first layer of the pile! The floor pattern was laid outside first, and then the tiles were brought in meticulously one by one to a total bemusement of the local tiler. The floor often features in interior design magazines as it is truly one of a kind.
Fienile’s furniture is a mixture from the 40s, 50s, 60s, and the end of last century as well as some memorabilia we have brought from our trips.
What is so special about the house to you?
I’m not sure how to describe it, but when I arrive here every day after work, it’s like going on holiday. Just so special. Come and share this oasis with me and my three cats.
We’re very close to all the facilities, an eight minute drive from the train station and local shops, and 10 mins from the motorway. But it feels really secluded. There’s no traffic. We have neighbours, so it’s not totally isolated, but it’s private. But then if you need some retail therapy, we’re only 10 mins from the Prada outlet.
Is there anything you just have to do that’s not so obvious in this part of Italy?
There’s a beautiful museum of 19th and 20th century sculpture in Montevarchi. It’s quite a gem. There’s also the studio of famous Swiss ceramicist, Christiane Perrochon nearby. It’s a lovely place to go visit and buy her exquisite collectable pieces.
You can go for walks in the hills which served as the background to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, pop into the biggest rosary garden in Europe (Rosario Fineschi) which was created by a rose-loving surgeon over a 40-year period and now extends over more than eight acres just few minutes away from us.
And for sweet-tooth gelato connoisseurs, there’s an exceptional ice cream parlour (Cassia Vetus) in the next small town across the Arno river. It has been in the number one position in a lot of (sweet) opinion polls in Italy. There’s a story behind all of the flavours. From intense Bronte pistachios to local chestnuts, basil and olive oil, everything is churned into most delicious and palate-challenging flavour combinations.
That’s another wonderful thing about this region, people do care about what they eat, where and how far the produce comes from as well as using the ingredients according to the seasons.
We follow this at Il Fienile by serving a breakfast which is naturally and seasonally grown within 20 km of our home, if not directly from our garden and the veg patch!