A panoramic, two-story loft with a secret pool in a historic Tuscan setting.
Overall, it’s a work of art — maybe that’s a stretch! But we’ve managed to put our style in there and it’s just a pleasant space to be in.
What is the story behind Palazzo Taja, what was your inspiration to create it?
I have lived in Siena for over 14 years now. While I was still working and living in Germany, I met my wife through an international project — we both work for a global vaccine company.
My wife, on the other hand, was born in Düsseldorf and left Germany at the age of 18 to study medicine in Rome before finishing her studies in Siena. The university here has a good reputation. She has spent most of her life in Italy and has always had a love for this country, its light and its culture.
After we met, I had the opportunity to move to Italy for a few years and manage projects here. As we got closer, I decided to move on a more permanent basis and convert my German contract into an Italian contract, with all of the consequences! That was around 2010/2011.
We have always known about the palazzo, as it’s on the main shopping street of Siena. It’s one of the older and more prestigious palazzos in Siena and is typical of a Tuscan tower built in the Middle Ages, which more or less showed the wealth of the families behind them. Today, we drive big cars. In the past, you built high towers to show off.
And that made you fall in love with the palazzo?
Yes. At its core is a tower, which is still preserved today, with the surrounding building expanded in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. In fact, Palazzo Taja spans three or four hundred years, from the front door to the final room. That’s starting from the core, from the 16th century, then moving into the main room, which is predominantly from the 18th century. The kitchen area is from the 17th century while the sleeping area is from the 19th century.
What particularly fascinated us, and this is really the gem of the palazzo, is that many of its frescoes have been preserved. Those in the kitchen date from the 17th century while the living area has frescoes from around 150 years later in the 18th century. And they are still in very good condition.
That was part of the challenge in restoring the property as the frescoes are very colourful and offer a lot of information. So we matched the architecture to that — it was something we immediately found exciting.
We completed the restoration in August 2019 and got the habitability stamp from the authorities shortly after. Then a colleague from Brussels mentioned that she was looking for a place to live as she works in Siena once or twice a month. She signed a three-year deal ahead of the pandemic and it will expire at the end of March when we will open it up for short-term rentals.
Who was responsible for the refurbishment?
The apartment was renovated and designed by Siena-based architect Paolo Mori. His objective was to preserve and enhance the features of the rooms such as the stunningly intact frescoes by contrasting the historic aspects with clean, contemporary design and materials characterized by a sharp black and white palette and warm neutrals.
How would you describe the atmosphere and the interior design of Palazzo Taja?
It’s very generous, with a ceiling height of 4.3 metres, so the rooms are really spacious. The design is shaped by the frescoes and I think we really succeeded with our architect, Paolo Mori, who has realized great projects here in the region.
The two main rooms — the living room and the kitchen — are the centrepiece of Palazzo Taja and when you’re there, you always discover something new. The frescoes provide you with a lot of information and I think the spaces have beautiful architecture in them. It's very simplistic and we kept the colours really simple to contrast with the frescoes and create a nice flow of energy.
The kitchen island is a block of marble and the appliances are high quality. It’s a great opportunity to invite people in to cook. The bedroom is very classic and calm — you can have a great rest there — with locally processed Tuscan beams on the ceiling. While the front of the house aligns with the main street (when you open the window you are in the middle of the hustle and bustle), the sleeping area faces the courtyard and is completely quiet.
A staircase leads to a mezzanine area above the main sleeping space where you could work by the window in peace. So it is very versatile and super centrally located. It’s also brand new too, so everything is in great condition.
To you personally, what makes the palazzo so special?
The house is mine — it’s “Prima Casa” for me. But it also has positive energy. We worked with Paolo Mori, who is a really great architect, and with the high ceilings, the frescoes, the choice of flooring coverings, the wall colours and furnishings, there’s a flow of energy similar to Feng Shui.
It's all very clear. I don't want to say “purist” but the decor we put in the palazzo just seems simple. It was super fascinating for me when I stayed there. Despite being in the middle of the hustle and bustle on the main street, you are in complete peace and you can’t hear anything in the bedroom. Healthy sleep is so important!
Overall, it's a work of art — maybe that’s a stretch! But we’ve managed to put our style in there and it’s just a pleasant space to be in.
The building in which Palazzo Taja is located has three floors and we are on the second floor. You enter the building through a huge portona (gate), which used to accommodate carriages and horses, and is at least six metres high with beautiful old wood. It is currently being restored.
A stairwell leads up to the second floor (we will soon have an elevator) that is flooded with light from above. You enter the apartment through a narrow corridor that we've kept very modern and on the right-hand side are stone structures from the tower that we have restored. We illuminated them, just as you find in classic New York industrial architecture. The floor is resin art, so it's very smooth.
There’s a cloakroom, then a small step into the living area, which kills you at first because of the frescoes and their colours. It’s really such a “wow” effect. We have a bar and a simple parquet floor with underfloor heating. From the living area, you go through a large, two-part door built in the 17th century.
When you open it, you have another “wow” moment with the kitchen island’s block of marble in front of you. The rear part of the kitchen is kept very light and we built a structure to create this depth of space from behind. There’s also another fresco in the kitchen that is around 170 years old. When you come into the kitchen, there is a table with chairs on the right-hand side where you can eat.
I think we did really well with the lighting. We put a ring of light upstairs at around 3.8 metres to illuminate the ceilings. It also divides the space a bit and takes away the height but it creates a really great effect. All of the lights can be dimmed so you can create different atmospheres.
A small corridor leads from the kitchen to a bathroom, which features original marble work — the shower and wall are half lined with marble while the floor is resin art. The bathroom is relatively small but well-designed and functional — it’s all there.
From the corridor, you arrive at the bedroom and have a completely different effect. It has a high ceiling (about 4.2 metres) and an extra-large bed with really great lighting. A band runs along the wall above the bed and separates the room. On the left and right sides are small tables made from steel.
When you turn around, you see the steel staircase that leads up to a mezzanine floor with a bed and a chest of drawers. Under the stairs is a beautiful built-in closet. So the sleeping area is an open space, designed for two people or a small family. We suggest children from five or six years old, as toddlers won’t be able to climb the stairs yet and it might be dangerous if they were to play up there alone.
There are two windows in the bedroom and in the summertime, the sun shines in. We also have air-conditioning to ensure the right temperature if it gets a little warmer. Overall, the building is very well insulated because the walls are thick. But in recent summers when the temperature has reached 40°C, it's nice to have the air-conditioning.
Palazzo Taja has a fully equipped kitchen, which means you can cook there and do everything in it. But if you’re visiting between May and October, I don’t think anyone will cook as you can eat outside at the local restaurants and enjoy the Mediterranean flair. We don’t offer any additional food services because you have the Piazza del Campo so close by.
In terms of others services, we have Netflix and free-to-air local TV. We also offer additional cleaning on request.
The highlight is the Palio di Siena, which takes place twice a year on July 2nd and August 15th. Siena is really in the heart of Tuscany. I'm not just saying that to promote it, it’s just the way it is. We are 45 kilometres from Florence and 60 kilometres from Pisa.
If you drive from Siena towards Lazio in the southern part of Tuscany, you will enter the beautiful wine-growing regions of Montalcino and Montepulciano where Brunello and Vino Nobile grapes are grown. Then there is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed area of Val d'Orcia where “Gladiator” was filmed, with these very classic, beautiful paths lined with cypress and olive trees.
Siena is also in the heart of the Chianti Classico, the Sangiovese cultivation area, so you can go on wonderful wine tours here. As I said, the food is always great and that's why I stayed here! In an hour, you can be at the sea in Grosseto eating fish. The atmosphere of outdoor living is a really nice experience in this region.
There are also ancient Etruscan towns to explore, such as Volterra and San Gimignano, which are reachable between 40 and 60 minutes’ drive. Depending on which direction you drive, you will encounter a completely different landscape. To the south are the hills depicted in “Gladiator” while to the north, you have the typical Chianti Classico vineyards and olive groves. If you drive towards the sea, you traverse dense forest and in the east is the Crete Senesi. It looks like a lunar landscape and for me, it is the most fascinating — very barren and hard.
When you arrive in Pisa or Florence, you enter a Baroque city with big streets — the architecture was shaped by the Medici. In Siena, you have an almost perfect medieval structure and it is characterised by towers. The streets are relatively narrow and all paved, with three-storey houses made from this classic stone.
Everything runs towards the Piazza del Campo, the city’s famous square, and there is the cathedral, which was designed to be larger than St. Peter's Basilica. Those were the plans. However, construction stopped in the 17th century when workers were no longer available due to the plague. In the middle of the square is the bell tower and there are churches in every direction.
Palazzo Taja is on the main connecting street between the Piazza del Campo and the Porta Camollia, the main gate through which most tourists enter the city. We are located near the Duomo and the Piazza del Campo, everything is within walking distance and at your doorstep in this magnificent UNESCO city.
Siena is very busy and has a typical Italian-Mediterranean culture, with everything outdoors, including lots of great restaurants and even some jazz bars. Surrounding the city are elegant hills, olive groves and lots of villas — that’s what makes it so attractive.
I would say you can visit any time — each season has its advantages and different impressions. From the end of April to June, it's wonderful because that's when everything really sprout and grows. July and August are the main season and this is also driven by the Palio di Siena.
In terms of temperature, September and October are also wonderful months. This coincides with the wine and olive harvest, so you have the opportunity to eat fresh olive oil, which you don't get at other times of the year. You can even visit in late October through to November.
The season traditionally extended from Easter until mid-November but it is getting longer. Now, we have people who come in December because Christmas is presented in a big way. We've staggered the pricing structure to reflect the high seasons in July/August and December.
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