Two decades ago, a fire destroyed this 300-year-old villa in Treia, a four-hour drive east from Florence. The story goes that the farmer who lived there, Oscar Olivi, jumped out a window, broke his leg and never returned. Swiss architects Markus Wespi and Jérôme de Meuron spent four years restoring the gorgeous stone building. Inside, it’s white-washed and wood-beamed, with five spacious bedrooms.
When Chicago-based designer Patrizio Fradiani bought this 18th-century house, it had been abandoned since the early 1950s. Before tearing down the crumbling building, he meticulously photographed and studied it so he could rebuild, using original and locally sourced materials. All of the stonework is recycled; the reclaimed handmade floor tiles are from a 400-year-old mill nearby. For contrast, there’s modernist furniture, minimalist Donald Judd-like art and an infinity pool.
A Puglian stone masseria (fortified farmhouse) 10 miles from Brindisi, Villa Pizzorusso dates back to the 1500s. That makes it new by local standards: The archeological ruins in the nearby town of Matera, where houses and churches are built into cliffs, are thought to be from the Paleolithic era—making the town older than Jerusalem. The villa’s Moorish and neoclassical style includes grand arches, colorful floor tiles and original frescoes on the bedroom ceilings.
Opera 02; Levizzano in Castelvetro, Emilia-Romagna
Since 2002, Mattia Montanari and his family have been making exceptional Lambrusco, Emilia-Romagna’s signature sparkling red wine, in a town outside Modena. They farm the vineyards organically—working, one might say, in harmony with the earth. That idea of harmony extends to the name Opera 02 di Cà Montanari, given to the winery, balsamic-vinegar operation and contemporary agriturismo (farmhouse inn), where each of the eight rooms has its own terrace.
In 2006, the municipality of Venice requested bids for a project to make use of an abandoned vineyard and estate on the teeny, dreamy island of Mazzorbo. Winemaker Gianluca Bisol focused his winning proposal on reviving the Veneto’s native Dorona grape, which hadn’t been used to make wine commercially since the Renaissance. Bisol converted the old manor house into a simple, lovely wood-beamed inn filled with Venetian antiques. Some of the A-frame rooms feel like they’re in a tree house.