Villa Bella Vista – Tuscan Sea View
In the gentle hills above the coastline south of Livorno a stone farmhouse called Villa Bella Vista restored to host family holidays succeeds, with an extended roof and a palette of blues, to make summer days a thing of celebration. Understanding that much of Tuscan life unfolds outdoors, early in their renovation the owners created what is likely the largest wrap-around portico in Tuscany and made of it an oft-used place to gather.
Under its terracotta tiles a fireplace, a dining table large enough to host a ping-pong tournament, cushioned sofas and strategically set rocking chairs and sun-beds all find a harmony that allows guests to do whatever strikes them no matter what the weather. The ease with which life can be lived outside carries over to the spacious interiors where the owners’ artistry and love of colour add whimsy and comfort to living spaces throughout. That a large pool sparkles in the lawn near the house and a glimpse of the Mediterranean is seen in the distance can only add to the sense of festivity.
The outer sky blue wooden doors open to the largest part of the expansive portico, and flagstone paving leads round to the many French doors accessing the ground floor. One entrance leads into a well-equipped country kitchen, with a hand-painted table, a sofa, and a pantry extension with a second large refrigerator. A step down through a wide, open arch leads to the main sitting/dining room with a corner fireplace, a sofa and a long painted dining table for 10 in front of an arched picture window overlooking the olive grove. Across the adjacent entry hall, also with doors to the furnished terrace, are short corridors to a downstairs shower room and a study lined with bookshelves and furnished with a desk and a cosy sofa positioned in front of a fireplace. This room, which looks out towards the pool, has two further sets of doors to the covered terrace and is next to the first of two painted staircases leading up to the sleeping accommodations.
On the first floor there is a bathroom whose whimsical painted mermaid keeps bathers company, a laundry room, and two double bedrooms, one with bold blue walls and windows facing the pool and the distant sea and another smaller bedroom with a splash of orange. Two further bedrooms one floor higher may be under tall pastel beams, but they are large and can be set up as a double or a twin and have trundle beds that can make room for an extra child or two. Guests in these bedrooms share the shower room located between them. The comfortable good-quality furnishings and walls in the house bear the artistic imprint of the family – birds fly up the stairs with the climbers, bedsteads are a study of joyful geometry and any corner could hold a delightful surprise.
The generous swimming pool with sunning mattresses is uncluttered as the nearby portico provides any shade needed with showering and changing facilities around one corner of the veranda. Both pool and portico are lighted for evening use and it takes only a bit of teamwork or a local caterer to make a dinner an occasion.
The villa is a short drive from two villages – Castellina Marittima, a fortified medieval village once prized for its alabaster, and Pomaia, now famed for the Tibetan Buddhist monastery that sits on its outskirts and brings Richard Gere or the Dalai Lama to town on occasion. Yet the property is also not far from the sea, and in less that half an hour one could be throwing a towel on the white sands of Vada or perched on the shore of charming Castiglioncello, a renowned sea resort and 19th century inspiration to the Macchiaioli impressionists.
For devotees of the grape, the respected Bolgheri wineries along the coast near Castagneto Carducci illustrate what a Super Tuscan is all about, while those dedicated to their guidebooks will be happy to know that the tower of Pisa, the encircling ramparts of Lucca and the Etruscan remnants of Volterra are all an hour away. That is, of course, assuming you can bear to leave the easy comforts of the portico. Best to come and find out.
Top 3 best tours and experiences near Villa Bella Vista – Tuscan Sea View: