Emilia Romagna

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.

 

A dreamy Tredozio seen from Villa La Collina

A dreamy Tredozio seen from Villa La Collina

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 holiday rentals, Villa La Collina.

Luxury on a hilltop

The main house of Villa La Collina

The main house of Villa La Collina

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.

A warm welcome to Villa La Collina by Countess Maria Teresa Vespignani Boselli

A warm welcome to Villa La Collina by Countess Maria Teresa Vespignani Boselli

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.

Art, books, and fine decor in the entrance of Villa Collina

Art, books, and fine decor in the entrance of Villa Collina

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.

The artistic essence of Villa Collina — paintings, sculptures, art book published by the countess (top right)

The artistic essence of Villa Collina — paintings, sculptures, art book published by the countess (top right)

 

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.

Admiring art and family portraits with the countess

Admiring art and family portraits with the countess

Another 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.

In the kitchen of Villa La Collina with the countess

In the kitchen of Villa La Collina with the countess

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.

Gorgeous wisteria draping over the gardens of Villa La Collina

Gorgeous wisteria draping over the gardens 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.

Enjoying an aperitivo in the living room before lunch at Villa La Collina

Enjoying an aperitivo in the living room before lunch at Villa La Collina

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.

Lunch and conversation at Villa La Collina; exquisite touches of the villa’s kitchen (bottom right)

Lunch and conversation at Villa La Collina; exquisite touches of the villa’s kitchen (bottom right)

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.

A little romance with a dance in the formal ballroom

A little romance with a dance in the formal ballroom

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.

Thanks to Countess Maria Teresa Vespignani Boselli and EsteVillas for their gracious hospitality during our stay in Tredozio.

By Catherine Sweeney Traveling with Sweeney

From Bologna to the villages of Emilia-Romagna

After a one hour train ride from the stylish bustle of cosmopolitan Milan, we arrived in Bologna, a historical and cultural center in northeast Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. It is a large city with an enormous, just-opened, new railway station — a destination for international visitors as well as a connecting point for business people and local residents. But our itinerary moved us quickly out of the city by car with our travel blogger friends to begin a 9-day journey through Emilia-Romagna beyond the locations commonly found in travel guides, Mr. TWS and I were to spend our first night in the village of Tredozio on the border of Tuscany about 40 miles southeast of Bologna.

Ponte della Signora in Modigliana

Ponte della Signora in Modigliana

 

Along the way in Modigliana

Exiting the busy main highway out of Bologna, our drive quickly turned scenic as we took winding roads through rural areas of vineyards and olive trees. A stop in the quiet village of Modigliana gave us the chance to cross the steeply-arched Ponte della Signora (San Donato Bridge) built in the 18th century and wander the streets of this town of under 5,000 residents. We met several friendly locals who helped us to find Antichi Sapori, a great place for a lunch of “pasta fresca”. This was our first experience with the authentic homemade pasta of the region, made from scratch in the kitchen. It was the start of a long series of wonderful meals as we ate our way through Italy.

Pasta

Pasta

Tredozio

After lunch, we continued on to Tredozio, a village of about 1,300 residents within the lush Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi (Casentinesi National Park). It is an ancient town once inhabited by the Romans which later became part of the province of Florence until Benito Mussolini changed the borders of Romagna in 1923, making Tredozio part of Forli in Emilia-Romagna.

We were told that we’d be staying in an 18th century vintner’s tower for our lodgings the first night and were looking forward to such a unique experience. As we approached the driveway of Torre Fantini we were amazed with an awesome view of the Apennines and the valley below with a farmer at work in the fields.

 

Torre Fantini

While we took deep breaths of the exceptionally fresh air, it was easy to imagine spending several days there, instead of just one night. The property has 3 double bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, a nice garden and a pool with great view over the valley. From our “Old Tower” room we had windows facing the hills from the bedroom and bath, as well as a view of a woodland from a window on another side of the room.

Bedroom

La Vecchia Torre bedroom at Torre Fantini

A walk around the grounds and a bit of relaxation at the gorgeous pool provided panoramic views — what a setting!

Panoramic pool at Torre Fantini

Settled in our room, we took a short 10 minute walk to the village of Tredozio where we enjoyed the feeling of a small Italian town and had an opportunity to interact with a few of the residents, who even with our language difficulties were friendly and helpful.

The town was quiet and irresistible. It captured exactly what we’d hoped from the trip, being able to experience a less-traveled, hidden part of Italy.

Tredozio

The village of Tredozio

Completing a circuit of the town, we snapped several photos of the 17th and 18th century buildings, as well as the 14th century church, Chiesa della Compagnia. We found that most of the shops were closed for siesta, but we did find a small restaurant open with an outdoor patio to enjoy a cold drink, the village sights and watch the locals while they strolled and conversed with friends and family.

Church

The Church of La Compagnia

Palazzo Fantini

GM-4443

Palazzo Fantini courtyard

In the evening, we met with Beatrice Fontaine, the owner of Torre Fantini, in Tredozio at Palazzo Fantini, an elegant residence belonging to her family since the time it was built in 1753. Beatrice gave us a tour of the Tuscan-baroque style house and beautiful grounds. From the modest presentation from the street front, the house and gardens were surprisingly large and exceptional.

The gardens created in the 1800s had been designed not by a famous architect but they appeared to be. The gardens were bursting with roses thriving after an unusually wet month of May in the area. Beside the roses, there were various flowers and trees all positioned uniquely to create a peaceful and beautiful floral setting, making it a perfect venue for weddings, concerts and other events.

Gardens 2

The Garden

 

Palazzo Fantini is listed by Great Italian Gardens, an organization that promotes the heritage of gardens in Italy.

We also toured the buildings that were once used for housing horses and other animals That area as well as two large courtyards and a granary were restored to their original design. These buildings are painted an intriguing pattern of red and gold stripes (the original design) to differentiate the living quarters from the farm buildings.

Striped buildings

Striped buildings at Palazzo Fantini

The living quarters are actually four different structures that had been joined, the original building constructed in the 17th century, enhanced in the 18th century, then restored as a project by Beatrice’s father in recent years.

Gardens

The Lemon House

The evening continued as we moved to the residence to the living area for conversation, then the warm and spacious kitchen/dining for dinner. Beatrice was a generous host; we enjoyed her conversation and appreciated her interest in our upcoming blog project in Emilia-Romagna officially starting the next day.

Dinner

Dinner at Palazzo Fantini

The kitchen was warm and welcoming and the company and conversation made for a memorable evening, enhanced by the inclusion of Mafalda, a charming woman who has worked with the family for many years. Despite our language differences, I felt that we communicated brilliantly with our smiles, Mafalda’s smile as she served being as warm as the pasta soup was hot. We devoured the steaming pasta soup, salad, and fruit which was prepared by Pierluigi Gentilini, chef of Tredozio’s Michelin–rated Il Mulino di San Michele. We now truly anticipated that this trip to Italy was going to be the culinary delight we hoped. It was also clear that we could expect to add a few pounds before our time in Italy was finished.

Mafalda

Mafalda cooked for us!

A fresh start to our fresh project

After a nearly silent night and peaceful sleep, delicious homemade pastries from the village bakery and flavorful coffee in Torre Fantini’s breakfast room were a perfect way to begin the day. From Tredozio, we would be heading off through Casentinesi National Park to Portico di Romagna to continue our project exploring more of hidden Emilia-Romagna. But our short stay at Torre Fantini has put Tredozio on our list of places to return someday.

Breakfast

Breakfast at Torre Fantini

 

Take a look at EsteVillas website for details, more photos and booking information for Torre Fantini and other properties in this area.

Posted on Jan 18 2016

Written by Catherine Sweeney – Travelling with Sweeney