Villa Lante

It is but an hour’s drive to Lazio and Bagnaia to visit Villa Lante the consumate water garden  designed during the Mannerist phase of the Italian renaissance. Cascades, fountains,  grottoes and even a public park for picnicking make for a wonderful day of walking and exploration.  It is named after the Lante della Rovere family, who owned the estate for three centuries until 1933. 

Villa Lante was designed for Cardinal Gambara, who had a modern taste for outdoor living and eating al fresco. The buildings are treated as garden ornaments, illustrating a good principle, and the overall design is attributed to Vignola. 

At the beginning of the 16th Century, Cardinal Raffaele Riario began creating Villa Lante, when he had a wall built to enclose 22 hectares of land. This came to include a garden and an adjacent hunting reserve, which is now a public park.  However, much of the credit goes to the Sienese architect Tommaso Ghinucci, who also completed Bagnaia’s urban planning.

The base of the garden is a formal Italian garden, arranged around the impressive Fontana del Quadrato or Fontana dei Quattro Mori, a lavishly embellished fountain surrounded by an expanse of water, complete with stone boats.

Villa Lante
Villa Lante

Above this formal garden, the property extends upwards 16 metres, in a number of differently-decorated levels. On either side stand twin buildings, the palazzine. These two villas, one to each side of the gardens, have frescoed interiors which have been furnished in keeping with their era. A lower-level loggia contains some charming frescoes – sadly damaged – showing this and other local gardens and villas.

Fresco Villa Lante

As the garden rises in steps, the mood changes. Water runs down through a variety of lively fountains and water features, and trees and hedges offer shade.  A long stone ‘table’ halfway up is said to be where the cardinals could entertain guests at feasts, keeping wine bottles cool in the central trough (and presumably their feet cool in the water channel below); a lovely idea whether or not it is true.

Cascading Fountain
Cascading Fountain


Keats and Shelley House

John Keats and Percy Shelley  came to Rome as did so many others before them for a century as the Grand Tour was considered to complete a gentleman’s cultural education and refinement.  In the case of John Keats, he also came to Rome for the mild climate in an effort to try and alleviate his poor health.

John Keats (31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821) was an English Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his works having been in publication for only four years before his death at age 25 in the year 1821.

I must admit I was clueless about these two writers, but without even knowing anything about their work, the house itself was a treasure.  You enter the historic home through an unimposing door to the right of the Spanish steps and work your way up the narrow staircase. You are transported back into a more seemingly serene time where books line the walls (more than 8,000 of them) and the wooden writing desks richly waxed  and deep mahogany in color seem to be waiting for their writers to return and resume their musings.

The Keats Shelley house is but an hour and a half train ride from Casa Le Crete and a perfect location to spend the day coupled with a visit to the chic shops in nearby Via dei Condotti.

Keats-Shelley House

Arezzo Antiques Market

My love of antiques has always made me hunger for the famous antique market held the first Saturday and Sunday of each month in Arezzo.    Arezzo is rich in art and dates to Etruscan times, when it was part of the Dodecapolis, i.e. one of the twelve most important Etruscan cities. Situated along via Cassia, during Roman times it played a crucial role and was well known for its pottery products.  The drive was under an hour from Ficulle and the GPS helped us find not only the beautiful city of Arezzo but the free parking located just outside the walls of the city.  A long escalator takes you to the upper level of the city where more than 500 vendors display their wares.

After an extensive morning of antiquing we rewarded ourselves with pranzo at the historic Logge Vasari.   This historic restaurant which is located on the Piazza Grande was converted from an old salt customs house within the monumental palace designed by the famous architect and artist Giorgio Vasari.  Overseen by the Fazzuoli family you can enjoy a wonderful meal as you sit outside under the portico and watch the shoppers pass by or in the interior romantic dining room.

Logge Vasari
Logge Vasari
Side street Arezzo Antique Market
Side street Arezzo Antique Market

Umbrian Pottery

Fabio Fattorini, Terrecotte Lavarazione artigianale

Via Roma, 40 Ficulle,, 338.7142649.  Master potter selling traditional Umbrian pottery  Fabio is still making pottery from the area’s clay in a medieval pattern that is uniquely Ficulle’s. He’s the very last of generations of terracotta artisans here.  If you are fortunate he might even invite you into his studio where he creates his work.

Tenuta Vitalonga

Vintage Wine Cart
Vintage Wine Cart

Tenuta Vitalonga Strada Montiano | Località Montiano, 05016 Ficulle, Italy

This wonderful vineyard, restaurant and inn is located in the hills of Ficulle a short drive from the house.

“Even though we did not have an appointment we drove to Ficulle to investigate Tenuta Vitalonga, the winery that my son in law had discovered on the internet. At first we were convinced that our efforts would not be rewarded as we drove the windy roads. Could this really be the way to the winery? Occasionally we caught sight of the small wooden signs that dotted the gravel road and encouraged us to continue driving. When we arrived we were welcomed into the tasting room by non other than the owner (who also happens to be the Mayor of Ficulle). The wines were just what we were looking for, representative of the area (Orvieto DOC), white, robust reds and rose’. After tasting several wines we made a plan to come back the following week for a full tasting and lunch. On the day of the lunch we confidently drove back to Vitalonga. The lunch and tasting were informal and relaxed as we sat on the patio admiring the Umbrian landscape. As truffles were in season we began (after the obligatory bruscetta) with what I would describe as a truffle souffle. Light and luscious. Next came the pasta followed by a chianna beef roulade. The dessert was a chocolate lovers delight served warm with the chocolate oozing out from the pudding/cake and whipped cream mounded on top. All our senses were in harmony as we drove back to Le Crete.”

La Locanda di Desideria

The restaurant is housed in a unique structure that dates back to 1400: The walls, the imposing columns and vaults are evidence of its antiquity.

The environment is warm, and casual plus there is a terrace for outdoor dining.

La Locanda di Desideria
La Locanda di Desideria


The pastas,  Umbricelli (like the Tuscan pici) are all hand-made and freshly prepared with traditional sauces.  Meat is the Florentine filet or “Chianina”.

Via Piave, 25-Carnaiola di Fabro, 0763.832892


Citta’ Buzziana

Montegiove – Montegabbione

Phone: (+39) 0763 837463

Fax: (+39) 0763 837463

The architect Tommaso Buzzi (1900 – 1981) bought the area surrounding the Scarzuola Convent in 1956 and he planned and realized the Città Buzziana, rising near the convent, in twenty years’ time.


The aim of his plan was to create a sort of “ideal” city where a blend between nature and culture could take place. The result has been an architectural complex where symbolisms, allegories and any kind of citations are scattered throughout it and where there are many small and empty rooms that make it appear like a giant termitarium.

Tommaso Buzzi is considered one of the most interesting Italian designers of the XX century and he has been a subject of research during the last years. He was a protagonist in Milan in the 20’s and the 30’s of the XX century. He played an important role as the organizer of numerous manifestations and reviews about national and international applied arts. He worked in the domain of furniture and planning.

Fantasy and irreverence, together with the continuous use of humanistic, literary and classical quotations that distinguished his works, earned him the sympathies and the loyalty of the nobles and the high society, even though they probably prevented the architect from being renowned outside these environments.

In 1956, when he retired, he decided to buy the convent of the Scarzuola and to transform it into a sort of “autobiography on stone” of his career as an artist, as he himself states in his book “Lettere Pensieri Appunti 1937-1979” (Silvana, Milano 2000). This is how he created this bridge between old and new, keeping the structure of the convent and adding his “ideal city” to it.

The Città Buzziana is an architectural composition inspired from neo-Mannerism as it can be inferred from the staircases that cross the complex and by the extension and the lack of proportion of its shapes, but also from the numerous statues that are present everywhere.

This work is divided into seven theatres: the Teatro delle Arnie, the Teatro della Torre, the Teatro sull’acqua, the Patio tondo, the Patio infinito, the Teatrino sportivo and, finally, the Teatro dell’ Acropoli, on top of the whole structure. The latter is the highest building that overlooks the complex and the landscape of Montegiove. The variety of figures that can be admired inside the Città Buzziana includes Pegaso, the Torre dell’Angelo Custode e del Tempo. There are temples dedicated to the most diverse deities and the Torre di Babele. Among the numerous staircases, the Scala Musicale delle Sette Ottave and the Scala di Giobbe stand out.