You don’t have to take a trip to Italy to dream of someday discovering and restoring an old farmhouse in Tuscany.

It’s the theme of best-selling movies and books. Lucky us, for the second summer in a row, Jerry, and I have lived the fruits of this dream thanks to our good friends Marc Camens and Allie Frick.

Marc is a well-known architect based in Kiawah. He has designed and built projects all over the world. One such project was the renovation of Podere Collalto, a farmhouse situated between Trequanda and Sinalunga about 30 miles from Siena.

The Villa, Podere Collalto
The Villa, Podere Collalto.

During a year’s study in Florence he fell in love with Italy, learned to speak the language and never stopped dreaming of one-day living in Italy. He has returned every year for over two decades. When a Kiawah client asked him to restore a 19th Century (1867) farmhouse it was a dream come true.

Collalto sits on one of the highest point in the Tuscany hills, hence its name “high hill”. A fantastic 360-degree view reveals Valdichiana, Cortona and Lake Trasimeno in the east, Montepulciano and Montalcino in the south, and Siena in the west with the sun setting behind it’s iconic clock tower.

This is a working farm. The seven-bedroom villa and infinity swimming pool are surrounded by acres of grape vineyards, olive trees, a kitchen garden, chicken coop and a newly completed wine tasting room to promote their Buli brand of fine wines and olive oil.

Tucany was well represented by Charlotteans. L to R. Lamar and Kristin Perrotta, Jerry and Vicki Donatelli, Barbara and Ken Kopald, Joanie Mashburn, Allie Frick, Mark Camens, Pat Johnson, Jessie and Bryam Frick.
Tucany was well represented by Charlotteans. L to R. Lamar and Kristin Perrotta, Jerry and Vicki Donatelli, Barbara and Ken Kopald, Joanie Mashburn, Allie Frick, Mark Camens, Pat Johnson, Jessie and Bryam Frick.

We were invited to join ten of our closest friends for a week at this beautiful Tuscan villa. Having never traveled with folks before we were a little concerned, but not to worry, we all eased into the relaxed ebb and flow of Tuscan life.

Guests more athletic than myself, were up early for a morning bike ride through the hillsides. This is not a sport for the faint of heart. Skinned knees, quick prayers and heart racing experiences were all part of the fun.

Meanwhile, back at the villa, the rest of us slept in, enjoyed a cup of espresso and an easy hike through the vineyards and olive trees. Others gathered eggs from the chickens, picked tomatoes from the kitchen garden and prepared a laid-back breakfast feast.

A typical breakfast at the villa. Everything fresh and local. Eggs from the chicken and tomatoes from the villa garden.
A typical breakfast at the villa. Everything fresh and local. Eggs from the chicken and tomatoes from the villa garden.

Marc speaks Italian and cooks like a celebrity chef. He loves to share his skills, providing hands on pasta making classes and his special Bolognese sauce. We all took turns cooking, cleaning and shopping. Meals were shared around a long farm table in the kitchen or alfresco overlooking the vineyard.

Day tours included famous towns like Montalcino, Montepulciano and Siena. Touring vineyards, wine tastings and leisurely lunches in little village restaurants provided perfect experiences for first time and seasoned visitors to Tuscany.

Shopping at local markets in small villages yielded delicious ingredients and inspiration. We bought Burratta cheese right out of the vats from the cheesemaker himself. At the butcher shop, we marveled at expert hands as he sliced aged Prosciutto and homemade salamis. We even left with bones for the two farm dogs that call the villa home.

A view of the Piazza del Duomo in Florence.
A view of the Piazza del Duomo in Florence.

Our good friends, Barb and Ken Kopald from California joined us for a day trip to Florence. We caught an early morning train and arrived in time for a two-hour walking tour of the city. Great way to find your bearings in any town. From there we had lunch on a roof top overlooking the Piazza del Duomo.

Florence from the roof top bar.
Florence from the roof top bar.

After an afternoon of culture, history and shopping we caught the train back to the villa in time to enjoy a homemade pasta dinner and star gazing.

Vicki heads to dinner in Trequanda.
Vicki heads to dinner in Trequanda.

What was my favorite memory? It’s not a town or a specific day, it is the spirit of Italy. The pace of life, even in the cities, has an easy contagious rhythm. Mismatched plates, eating tomatoes like apples, fresh from the garden, an appreciation for history and restoring it not tearing it down and sleeping with the windows open.

Around every corner are beautiful flowers and adventure.
Around every corner are beautiful flowers and adventure.

Rows and rows of grapevines laden with purple grapes waiting for the winemaker to call harvest. Pouring a glass of wine with the Tuscan sunset shining through its amethyst glow and reflecting on how I can incorporate just a little of this lifestyle into my world back home.

It’s a way of life that I could easily get used to. Our hosts Marc and Allie are as easy and comfortable as the country itself. Thank you both for another wonderful summer at the farm.

Ciao!

To learn more about Collalto’s history visit www.poderecollalto.com

A great moto for anyone’s trip to Tuscany.
A great moto for anyone’s trip to Tuscany.