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Rooftops at Villa di Pignano, Tuscany. A rose and jasmine pergola at Il Pico, Piedmont.

Copyright © 2010 by Marella Caracciolo Photographs copyright © 2010 by Oberto Gili All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. CLARKSON POTTER is a trademark and POTTER with colophon is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Caracciolo, Marella. For the love of Italy / Marella Caracciolo ; photography by Oberto Gili. — 1st ed. p. cm. Includes index. 1. Italy—Description and travel. 2. Agritourism—Italy. 3. Farms—Recreational use— Italy. 4. Italy—Pictorial works. I. Gili, Oberto. II. Title. DG430.2.C35 2010 914.504’93—dc22 2009047508 ISBN 978-0-307-45248-1 Printed in China Design by Stephanie Huntwork 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 First Edition




Northern Italy Tuscany 55


Central Italy

117 145

Southern Italy and Sicily

Useful Websites for Planning a Trip in Rural Italy An Insider’s Guide to Where to Stay in Rural Italy Acknowledgments Index 224 223

206 209

L I K E M O S T F R O N T I E R T E R R I T O R I E S , N O R T H E R N I TA LY is a land of extremes. Industrialization and mass tourism in some areas give way to vast expanses of land that have remained virtually untouched for centuries. This paradox is what makes traveling to the lesser-known areas of northern Italy an exciting and even exotic adventure. The regions closest to the border are defined by spectacular mountain ranges—the Alps and the Dolomites—and fertile valleys. When driving through rural areas, chances are you will be drawn into one of the many local food festivals or open markets that take place throughout the year. Some of the country’s favored cheeses, fruits—especially apples—and wines are produced in Trentino–Alto Adige. Truffles, nuts, and chocolate are among Piedmont’s trademark produce. The Euganean Hills, a volcanic formation rising in the mist of the Po river basin in the Veneto, provide an ideal terroir for wine. EmiliaRomagna, a region best known for its Parmesan cheese, prosciutto di Parma, and Ferrari, is deeply rooted in its agricultural traditions and yet is barely visited, even by Italians. Travelers will be mesmerized by the cultural wealth of northern Italian cities. Torino is an architectural gem, sheltering world-class museums. Vicenza, Verona, and Padua in the Veneto hold many treasures, as do the towns of Brixen and Merano in Trentino–Alto Adige. Emilia-Romagna hosts some of the country’s glorious historic cities, such as Bologna, Ferrara, and Ravenna.

P e n s ion Br iol
a soaring vision among the dolomites

Built in 1928, Pension Briol’s clear mountain water swimming pool (left) is chemical free and a favorite of children. The facade (right) faces north onto a stunning view of the Dolomites. Designed in the 1920s by Hubert Lanzinger, a well-known local artist, Briol was conceived as “a temple to the sun.”
P R E V I O U S PAG E S : O P P O S I T E : Breakfast on the sun-drenched terrace. Breads, jams, and marmalades are all homemade.

P E N S I O N B R I O L is situated on a volcanic

mountain in the Dolomites, in the Germanspeaking region of Trentino–Alto Adige, in northeastern Italy. A boxlike structure of brick and wood, Briol—which recalls the linear simplicity of Bauhaus architecture—stands on a clearing in the woods at an altitude of 4,300 feet. For decades the only way to get here was by train, followed by a donkey ride or a long walk. Nowadays there is a one-man taxi service that waits for guests at the parking lot about halfway up the mountain (private cars are not allowed near Pension Briol). “Most travelers, however, prefer to entrust their luggage to the taxi driver and walk up,” says owner Johanna von Klebelsberg. Cars are not the only modern-day amenities guests of Briol must learn to do without. TVs, radios, and Internet facilities are also banned. For six months a year Pension Briol is buried under a thick coat of snow and is virtually unreachable. When the snow thaws in April, uncovering the mountain’s gray rocks, red earth, and fields of wild grasses and orchids, Briol returns to be what it has been for the last eighty years: one of the world’s best-kept holiday retreats. Briol’s mountain is called Tre Chiese, after three ancient churches built near a water spring, but locals refer to it as “the mountain of women.” It belongs to the descendants of a local matriarch, Johanna Settari, whose lifelong obsession, it

seems, was to own the entire mountain she used to play on as a child. “Johanna, who started this whole family community on the mountain, was my great-great-grandmother,” says Johanna von Klebelsberg, who manages Pension Briol with the help of her husband, winemaker Urban. The first Johanna, who was born in the mid-nineteenth century, grew up on this mountain, leading what sounds like an idyllic, Heidi-like childhood. “Her father owned a hotel here, so she spent most of her childhood exploring the woods and immersing herself completely in nature.” When Johanna married a wealthy merchant from nearby Bolzano and started having children, she had an idea. Instead of receiving the customary piece of jewelry for every child, she asked her husband to buy her a piece of the mountain. So, by the time her fifteenth child (fourteen girls, one boy) was born, she owned the entire thing. “Her love for this landscape and what she saw as a way of life was so profound that she dreaded the idea of her mountain, or even pieces of it, ending up in the wrong hands. She felt she had to protect it and devised a way to keep it within the family,” says Johanna von Klebelsberg. Johanna the matriarch built a house for every one of her fifteen children, each one accompanied by a set of three simple but unbending rules. First, no one should ever sell their house to a third party: the mountain and everything on it was to remain perpetually within the family.



Homemade elderflower syrup (above) is a regional specialty. Briol owner and chef Johanna von Klebelsberg (right) makes it with the flowers from her own trees. Briol’s woodpaneled dining room is intimate, with room for just thirty guests. The pine furniture and much of the crockery and cutlery were all designed by Hubert Lanzinger in the 1920s specifically for these interiors.

Second, there should be no visible boundaries dividing the property. And third, Johanna’s descendants had to “take care of the woodland but not too much.” In other words, nature should simply be helped on its course. Johanna wanted to preserve the woods and fields of wildflowers intact, as they had always been. The amazing thing, which romantic travelers will relish, is that four generations later her rules are still applied unflinchingly. No one at Tre Chiese has ever sold their property, the landscape is still remarkably intact, and everyone on the mountain lives in a friendly and cooperative spirit.

The first Johanna initially built Briol in 1898 to serve as a mountain refuge. As the family grew, Johanna decided to turn the refuge into a kind of family hotel where they all could come and stay. It was entirely rebuilt for this purpose in the 1920s by one of the matriarch’s sons-in-law, a well-known local artist named Hubert Lanzinger. “He transformed the old refuge, with its poky windows and somber interiors, into a modern-day temple to the sun. This he did by creating huge windows, which are a very unusual feature in mountain architecture,” says Johanna, who, together with her husband and their four young



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For the Love of Italy
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