It’s so hard to know when you’re looking at photos online if a rental house is in fact appropriate for a family. I can assure you that this Tuscan farmhouse–infinity pool (floaties in the closet inside), endless acres for running wild and all–is a dream for families. Especially if your family appreciates good food that doesn’t involve a fancy restaurant and good design that doesn’t involve trailing your toddler through a minefield of handblown Venetian glass. And if you’re anything like me, a good story doesn’t hurt either.
When Chicago architect and designer Patrizio Fradiani bought this abandoned stone 18th-century farmhouse, he tore it down. But he also studied its construction and used traditional techniques—down to the joinery in the exposed wood beams—to reconstruct it. Patrizio made use of local craftsman and resources whenever possible, and nearly every building material he used came from within a 10-mile radius: wood from the chestnut trees across the valley and rocks from the river below, which matched bricks from the surrounding grounds. He recycled 100 percent of the stonework, using leftovers for the area around the pool, but when he needed additional terra cotta tiles, he went to a 400-year-old mill down the street where they were crafted by hand and dried by the wind.
“It’s just the way things have always been done here,” says Patrizio of his unwittingly green project. He bought the place with his partner Mark because he was pining for a physical connection to his native Italy and has lovingly restored as one should, employing local builders and mason workers. His humility is incredibly charming: Patrizio eschews all the greenwashing hype that accompanies most environmentally conscious projects.
The crumbling stone farmhouse was once a stable for pigs and cows. Now a thoroughly modern, mountain-top villa with Donald Judd-like art installations, an infinity pool and patchwork views of the Tuscan countryside, Podere Palazzo is a design and foodie dreamscape. Berries, grapes, flowers, herbs, local variety of olive trees selected for producing a strong and fruity oil—and now, an orchard of 40 rare fruit trees all unique and different (an homage to the lost biodiversity of trees in the world)—grow among the spindly cypress trees and are free for the picking and cooking. Trails wind down the mountain. A flock of sheep pass by every morning (to our 17-month-old’s delight). Wild boars scurry about while we relax outside on the patio every night with a bottle of wine and kids snoozing upstairs. Even taking a shower is an experience. Open-air, oversized farmhouse windows in the natural stone shower provide endless views of the different landscapes—golden fields, lush hillside pastures, and dense forests.
Five bedrooms, five bathrooms, three fireplaces, one heated pool. Rent it at poderepalazzo.com. If you can manage a night out sans kids, do not miss indulging in a three-hour dinner at nearby La Parolina, a restaurant run by two young hotshot expat chefs from Rome, who chose the countryside over the big city.