My afternoon with the countess
Tredozio: Returning to a dream destination
Since our first visit to Tredozio, Italy in June of 2013, I’ve dreamed of a return to this serene village of Emilia-Romagna in the Apennine mountains. During our April trip to Italy, my dream was fulfilled. We once again enjoyed the hospitality of our host at Torre Fantini (you may remember reading about our stay here in 2013) and were royally welcomed at another lovely estate in the EsteVillas portfolio of luxury holiday rentals, Villa La Collina.
Luxury on a hilltop
Near the border of Tuscany on a wooded hilltop, a tree-lined lane in the hills above Tredozio leads to the courtyard and grand entrance of Villa La Collina’s main house and adjacent chapel. For a few moments, I paused to admire the elegant facade and imagine the carriages of past centuries arriving in this very spot with their noble guests and residents.
Our initial greeting was from the beautiful dogs of villa owner Countess Maria Teresa Vespignani Boselli, who quickly followed with a warm welcome. Where the countess is — her devoted dogs will be nearby.
The villa has been in the countess’s family for over 400 years. Once exclusively their private home, it is now available for holiday guests to enjoy. It has been carefully maintained, but its luxurious and inviting appearance also resulted from a massive restoration project by the countess and her husband completed eight years ago. The renovation was overseen by Faenza architect Paolo Baccherini with advice by the countess’s sister Bettina, an architect who has specialized in restored historic buildings in Florence, and with the labors of local craftsmen.
The spacious interior has a number of living areas and 12 individually-decorated bedrooms and suites ideal for a variety of events, including family vacations and/or reunions; weddings (and the chapel, where the family wedding ceremonies have been held, can be used for the ceremonies); filming and photo shoots; business meetings; cooking classes and other events for immersing in Italian culture. The villa can be used for extravagant entertaining or intimate dining.
The countess and her charming friends who were visiting at the time were delightful company as they graciously took time to show us the intriguing villa and surrounding grounds. I really liked the layout of the villa’s rooms on three levels, anticipating surprises around every corner and through each doorway. I wasn’t disappointed as the tour led to formal living and entertaining areas to cozy sitting rooms.
When we found out that we were to have lunch with a countess we weren’t sure what to expect since it would be a first for us. The countess shared stories of her notable ancestors and of her own interesting background and career in the publishing world of New York and Italy which made our tour even more fascinating.
Amazing art is central to the decor of Villa La Collina, and each piece has a personal and insightful story. Framed family portraits adorn antique furnishings and the walls bear beautiful drawings and paintings, including some of those created by her grandfather, acclaimed Post-Impressionist artist and sculptor, Giuseppe Graziosi. His works can be found in many of the galleries and public venues in Italian cities.
Another compelling story the countess told us was about her father, Jacopino Vespignani, whose courageous acts for the community during the Nazi-Fascist occupations of World War II gained him historic notoriety. A dramatic play about his life and notable deeds was performed at the villa in July, 2016.
The large, warm kitchen is decorated with authentic and intriguing touches such as tiles from the city of Faenza, renowned for its ceramics, and an interesting chestnut table built around a central pillar. With its state-of-the-art appliances, the kitchen accommodates the preparation a large formal dining as well as intimate family meals. A chef can be hired for the guests or they can be completely independent using the kitchen to cook themselves. By special request, Chef Gentilini, owner of the Restaurant Il Mulino di San Michele in Tredozio, will serve a typical 19th century dinner for guests at the villa. And why not book a cooking class in the kitchen? It’s a popular activity for guests of Villa La Collina.
Beautiful gardens surround the villa, and in April they were beginning to show some of the beautiful blossoms. Hearing only our footsteps on the stone path through the gardens, I enjoyed the peaceful ambiance.
The countess’s hospitality continued with an aperitivo served in the sitting room, followed by a multi-course lunch of traditional Romagna dishes and Tuscan wines with the engaging company of the countess and her friends. It was a joy to share laughs and interesting conversation as we would typically with good close friends.
Feeling like a princess at a ball, although woefully underdressed, I took a few steps on the ballroom dance floor with Mr. TWS. It was easy to picture formal balls here especially since the renovations had uncovered original 18th century frescoes.
Following our delightful afternoon at Villa La Collina, we took a short drive to get a glimpse of the other holiday rentals owned by the countess on the estate — each with its own character in lovely settings with accommodations ranging from an intimate chapel retreat for two to a villa accommodating 14 guests. Seeing these accommodations in their beautiful settings, I started to dream about another return to Tredozio.
Activities while staying at Villa La Collina and Torre Fantini
- While at Villa La Collina, you might opt to spend a good deal of time at the amazing pool that seemed to be immersed in the beautiful rolling green hills of Emilia-Romagna, but there are plenty of nearby outdoor activities, including walks, mountain biking, and horseback riding in the countryside. There are also public tennis courts in Tredozio and golf courses within easy reach in Forlì and Riolo Terme.
- Take drives through the countryside and relish the panoramic vistas of Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.
- Visit Brisighella, about 25 km north reached by a scenic route with panoramic vistas of Emilia-Romagna. Known for its abundant olive groves, Brishighella is also great place for having lunch, walking around town, and taking in its historic sanctuary and clock tower.
- Have a gourmet dining experience at Al Vecchio Convento. It’s about 45 minutes south over the mountain in the medieval village of Portico di Romagna, a town very special to Mr. TWS and me. While there, stroll around town and see the house of Dante’s beloved Beatrice and the 14th century Ponte della Maestà over the Montone River.
- Visit Faenza to walk around the city and visit the International Museum of Ceramics.
- Pack a lunch and take a walk in the Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi where you’ll see the famous Acquacheta waterfall (of which Dante wrote).
- Enjoy concerts and visit the gardens at Palazzo Fantini in the city center of Tredozio.
Getting to Tredozio
The nearest airports to Tredozio are in Bologna and Florence (80 km each) Trenitalia train service with many connections is available in Faenza, 40 minutes away.