Villa Isabella is the longtime private home of a prominent Roman family of diplomats whose matriarch inherited the Renaissance-styled villa and its extensive holdings decades years ago. This is a place they gathered as children to visit their grandparents and take summers in the fresh country air. They got to know the workings of the farm and the lands they occupied with the cultivation of grapes, olives and wheat, and wood harvested from the surrounding forests.
With the passing of the generations came a new idea, the chance to bring the estate into the modern age for a family grown accustomed to ensuite bathrooms and the comfort of air conditioning in the warmer months. The main Villa itself is vast and remains one of the largest single homes currently available for private rental in Tuscany. The owner and her daughter devoted ten-years to the complete renovation of the entire estate. Along the way they thoughtfully reconfigured rooms and functions to provide both intimate and grand gatherings spaces for the up to 35 people who can comfortably be accommodated at Villa Isabella. Every guest is ensured ensuite accommodation and bathrooms with windows. The amusements include a pool, hot tub, sauna, tennis court and now a gym for guests. An entirely new professional kitchen was recently added, although the long-standing local cook has always turned out exceptional meals. Now a cooking class for up to 10 can be comfortably accommodated as well. In the years they have been opening their home, the owners have continued to lavish attention on the property, consistently making additional improvements to ensure guests' comfort while maintaining the proper, aristocratic atmosphere of this storied home.
Those familiar with Tuscany know Chianti, where the popular red wine was invented and continues to hold sway, its vines of Sangiovese patterning the hillsides between Florence and Siena. Villa Isabella is situated between these two destination cities, nearby Colle Val d'Elsa where the Montagnola Senese dominate the landscape to the south and create a stunning backdrop of forests, fields, vineyards and farms that define this sub-region of Tuscany. The position could not be more ideal for offering prompt access to the key sites of interest for a Chianti-based Tuscan itinerary. Both small towns and larger cities can easily be accommodated. San Gimignano with it prominent, famous towers lies to the north. Siena is 20 minutes to the south, Florence 40 minutes to the north. The benefit of the recent energetic road improvements throughout Tuscany is an easy and nearly straight-line drive from the fast 'raccordo' linking Florence and Siena to the house. If you are a runner or a walker or a strong biker favoring mountain bikes, you can reach Pievescuola in 4 kms on a quiet country road. When you dine outside the villa, you can choose among the full range from simple trattoria to fine dining, all within a manageable drive late at night.
Villa Isabella sits in a commanding position on its own hilltop alongside a small cluster of buildings that were once all a part of a single economic unit, under the control of the 'padrone' in the Villa. Now the village is essentially independent, a sleepy residential enclave of mostly pensioners. The position of the house affords exceptional views from most all of the rooms. The handful of bedrooms which look on the piazza or courtyard formed by the entrance drive have the charm of helping you envision what it might have been like 500 years ago when people, produce and the overall drama of life unfolded outside your window. Now tranquility reigns and the birdsong is heard and on the far hill you can watch a small herd of white Chianina cows forage and meander through the brush.
But on vacation, accommodations matter. The impeccable condition of each and every building and garden is immediately evident. The Villa, started in the 1300's and then added to and changed at the end of the 1800's, rises majestically as the focal point of the estate. Here 25 guests are welcome. The courtyard is ringed with additional accommodations for guests; six in the Dependence and four in the even more lavish Owners Quarters. You are ensured absolute privacy for your group, regardless of its size.
Gardens, patios and recreational facilities are all carefully designed to provide maximum privacy from the house and make full use of the lovely views. There are multiple sitting areas each well furnished and adapted for use by guests. A spacious outdoor lounge set above the vanishing-edge pool, open on two sides and fully furnished as an outdoor living room, where the apperativo is often served before dinner. A canvas-covered pergola plus four umbrellas provide shade pool-side, with hot tub for four adjacent. There are changing rooms and bathrooms, plus an outdoor shower (cold only), in an adjacent renovated dependence. This same structure includes a sauna. The tennis court is set below. Open car park set out of sight next to the tennis court.
A garden of 1 1/2 hectares immediately surrounds the house with fruit trees, flowering shrubs, roses, flowering vines and cypress trees. There are characteristic views of green-covered hills, olive groves and vineyards from virtually every vantage point on the property. Following around to the south facade, a broad paved terrace is furnished with iron tables and chairs for 36 people and can be arranged to suit the size and configuration of each group. Retractable awnings provide shade when needed. For informal dinners, a large barbecue is set on a lower terrace of impeccably maintained lawn. This also doubles as a croquet lawn for everyone's amusement.
What matters at Villa Isabella is the personal attention and dedication of the owners who ensure visitors feel like guests in their own home. Weddings, special celebrations and professional gatherings are all welcome to this truly exceptional Villa that combines the warmth and quality of a personal home with the infrastructure and service of an intimate boutique hotel.
© May 2013 by Homebase Abroad, Ltd. All rights reserved.