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Style and Travel

Having it all

Sarah Standing shares her husband’s dream of owning a house abroad — briefly

21 March 2007

4:08 PM

21 March 2007

4:08 PM

My husband always maintains that the best places in the world to visit are invariably the hardest to get to. I try to remember if his theory is accurate or just wishful thinking as we leave Pisa airport for what seems like an interminable car journey to reach our destination: the ancient 2,700-acre estate of Castello di Reschio sandwiched between Perugia and Arezzo. He was definitely right about Bali where he took me for our honeymoon (three plane changes), Patmos (a six-hour stopover during a heatwave in Athens, followed by an overnight boat journey sharing a berth with a Greek peasant and his two goats) and the week-long car journey from Delhi to Deogargh, but in my opinion wrong about our recent trip to Ikea. Ikea was hard to reach, yet I thought the end result almost worth the bumper-to-bumper slog up the Edgware Road. I love looking at furniture we’ll never bother to assemble and buying a dozen tumblers, a trio of dishcloths and enough tea lights to illuminate Pimlico. Weirdly, Johnnie didn’t share my keenness and rated that particular sojourn on a par with visiting Hades.

When we were first married I vetoed a reckless plan of buying an abandoned farmhouse near Todi in Umbria. It was a beautiful wreck, but because it lacked water and electricity I was unenthusiastic, unimpressed and ultimately intransigent. I bottled out. I just couldn’t see how it was possible to live on two continents (we’d just moved to America), juggle three babies and liaise with foreign builders, plumbers and electricians. My youthful lack of courage has become a watershed ‘road not taken’ moment: a sad mistake that hangs like a fiscal sword of Damocles over our otherwise harmonious marriage.

Conte Antonio Bolza — patently a gen-tleman genius with far greater vision, foresight, sense of adventure and business acumen than either of us — discovered a ravishing yet tumbledown estate surrounded by olive groves, woodlands and vineyards back in 1994. Castello di Reschio is a real peach; a Renaissance paradise that’s virtually untouched by modernity and boasts its own 13th-century castle as well as 50 farmhouses. Having successfully restored and converted one property for his family’s use, Conte Antonio realised there must be high-net-worth individuals who also wanted to ‘live the dream’ yet lacked the time, imagination and insider knowledge to deal with the complexities of owning and running a second home abroad.

With a design team headed by his son Benedikt, he developed a unique five-star service whereby interested parties could purchase a freehold property on his land assisted by experienced legal teams and architects. Clients would be given ‘turn-key’ contracts which guaranteed both costs and finishing dates. Once they are completed, Reschio offers a full maintenance and management service that elevates the rather devalued notion of ‘having it all’ to dazzling new heights. And here’s the best bit: having paid for, designed and decorated the house of your dreams, you’re given the enviable option of never having to deal with the boring nightmare of actually running it; you can just lie back and literally enjoy your place in the sun. They’ll do the rest for you. This is not some upmarket, fractional-ownership deal: this is pure irresponsible, hedonistic, sweat-free, stylish luxury. The estate is so private, remote, exclusive and vast even the most tenacious of paparazzi would leave empty-handed.

The villa we stayed in for the weekend was quite faultlessly perfect — decorated as though Lady Bamford had taken time out from her Cotswold fiefdom of Daylesford and had decamped to the heart of Italy.

It was simple, elegant and stylish. There were bowls of figs and ripe pears and a perfect chocolate cake waiting in the kitchen. A superb bottle of wine in the fridge. The pool was leaf-free and glistening in the weak afternoon sun. The beds were puffed-up and ready to sink into. The internet connection worked. The televisions worked. We were surrounded by bucolic beauty. Suddenly the telephone rang. ‘We thought you might be tired after your journey and have arranged for a chef to come to your house and cook you a light supper.’ This was heaven. I was obviously never cut out to be a desperate housewife. Having experienced Reschio, I realise what I want to be is a châtelaine. Sadly, the best parts — like places — are always the ones beyond my reach.

Castello Di Reschio, Fattoria Di Reschio, 06060 Lisciano Niccone, Perugia, Italy. Tel: +39 075 844 362. Email: There are also several properties available to rent.

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