mountain high
    A family of creative environmentalists have transformed a once abandoned, centuries-old property into a bucket list-worthy bed and breakfast

    Back to nature

    Her eco-builder husband Riccardo experimented with clay, straw and limestone when restoring the main homestead, adding a green roof, rain water recycling system and solar energy to suit the off-the-grid location.

    Gut feeling

    “The first time we walked down the path to the property, we both had the feeling of coming home,” says Nicoletta Piazza of her historic farmhouse in the Italian hills.

    Take a seat

    Nicoletta stumbled upon the vintage green and timber dining chairs at an old outdoor cinema, and knew they would be the perfect addition to the home’s dining areas. “I don’t usually buy new furniture,” she says. “I use what I find, what people don’t want or forget they have.”

    who lives here?

    Nicoletta Piazza, a fashion designer and textile craftsman, her husband Riccardo, an eco-builder, their three children Nina, 14, Pepe, 9, and Ravi, 3, along with their four dogs, two cats and pet turtle! Casaditano.it

    WHEN NICOLETTA AND RICCARDO Piazza first laid eyes on their historic home in Italy’s Veneto region 10 years ago, they immediately felt at home, despite its almost derelict condition. Nestled within a chestnut tree forest in the Lessini mountains, “the house had been abandoned for around 60 years and was completely overgrown, but it was magic,” says Nicoletta.

    STRENGTH AND SPIRIT Before moving in, she and Riccardo, an eco-builder, completed a series of major works, including restoring the property’s main stone house, which was still intact but missing its roof. They used eco-building techniques while paying homage to its rich history and untouched surrounds, filling the home with natural materials and pre-loved finds.

    BE OUR GUEST Elsewhere on the property, two barn buildings have been similarly restored, and it’s here that guests can stay and enjoy homecooked meals made with organic produce from the kitchen garden, attend workshops and most importantly, unplug and reconnect with nature. “Casa di Tano is a place of experimentation where you can learn how to make things by yourself and where you can meet people who share your passions and curiosity,” says Nicoletta. “For this reason, we’re very pleased to host people who understand and share our lifestyle.”

    NEXT CHAPTER While Casa di Tano might already fulfil the Piazza family’s – and their guests’ – wants and needs, they confirm it will continue to evolve and grow for decades to come. “Our nature is to always change and improve – in the future, we would like to build a sauna in the forest and a bio lake,” Nicoletta says. Now that’s what you call a dream existence.

    Garden seat

    A U-shaped outdoor bench seat is made from recycled broken bricks and covered with green outdoor fabric.

    Scenic space

    The wraparound verandah offers views of the valley and ancient chestnut tree forest.

    In good health

    Food and cooking is extremely important to the Piazza family, who produce 80 per cent of their own food.

    Child’s play

    The old tractor, rescued from the garbage, is popular with young visitors to the property.

    And, relax

    A hammock purchased during a trip to India swings within the verdant garden and offers the perfect spot to relax in the dappled sunlight.

    Family heirloom

    A cowhide rug once owned by Nicoletta’s mother connects the two communal areas, where guests can enjoy thematic dinners or attend workshops.

    Baker’s delight

    Nicoletta’s happy place, preparing food at the recycled timber table in her kitchen, which has been painted a vibrant cerulean blue, “the colour of depth”.

    Well preserved

    Bottles of homemade kombucha and jars of sauerkraut and kimchi line the pantry shelves and are sold to guests and at markets.

    New light

    The spacious guest rooms give occupants unparalleled views of the valley and are filled with “old objects and tools with their own history and energy”, Nicoletta says. A prime example of this: the pendant light made from the skeleton of a cow!

    Nature’s way

    “The kitchen and garden are my favourite areas, because that’s where I like to experiment,” she adds.

    (text lauren steel)

    how to create a communal setting at home

    1 Create a number of seating areas inside and out so guests can put their feet up and enjoy their surrounds. Cater for small and large groups in your seating, and be sure to take advantage of scenic outlooks.

    2 You’ll also need adequate beds for overnight visitors to sleep on. Fold-out and rollaway options can be packed away when not in use, and consider a simple cabinet to house spare bedding.

    3 Fill rooms with items that encourage conversation along with relaxation. Think a healthy collection of books and CDs, plus some potted plants for colour (they last longer than fresh flowers, too).

    4 Opening up your kitchen to guests will help them feel truly at home. Plan meals where everyone can get involved, from picking ingredients fresh from the patch to fun communal cooking sessions.

    Sun roof

    The geodetic dome in the roof lets light into the dining space below.

    Ceiling goals

    Nicoletta and Riccardo wanted to create a sacred space in this room, using raw materials and refined techniques, so they built a spiral-like reciprocal roof with a temple-inspired skylight. Riccardo made the round resin table.

    shop it!

    Mix rustic and refined items for a farmhouse vibe

    1 Collective Sol ‘Lorne’ hammock in Natural Cream Finish, $69, The Block Shop. 2 Mardi denim cushion, $59.95, Rapee. 3 Heritage rectangular board, $99, Papaya. 4 Sweet Emma artwork by Jennifer Tarry-Smith, $1380, Modern Times. 5 Aqua spoons in Grey/White, $24.95 for 3, Papaya. 6 Home Republic ‘Malmo’ linen throw in Honey, $119.99, Adairs. 7 Palissade dining armchair in Olive Powdercoated Steel, $530, Hay. 8 Cicely round woven baskets, $64.95 for small and $139.95 for large, Papaya. 9 Leather hide rug in Brown & White, $499, Freedom. 10 Flask floor lamp in Natural with Java White Shade, $799, OZ Design Furniture. 11 Ella Bendrups ‘Flusso’ vessel in Dark Terracotta, $150 for medium, Modern Times. 12 Lily vase in Cream, about $220*, A&C Homestore. 13 Carrington scatter cushion in Copper, $169, The Family Love Tree. 14 Jak & Co Design velvet floor cushion cover in Teal, $199, The Block Shop. 15 HK Living ‘Retro’ webbing cabinet in Light Grey, $3995, House of Orange. 16 Swindon dining table, $699, Amart Furniture. 17 Bison ‘Birgit’ carafe in Amber, $45, Aura Home. 18 Blue Elements bowls, $129 for 28cm and $149 for 19cm, Royal Copenhagen. 19 Raami tumbler in Moss Green, $29.95 for pair, Iittala.
    (still-life styling lisa burden)

    Colours and finishes

    Plantino engineered oak elemental flooring in Rouen, from $72.05 per sq m, Choices Flooring. Bianco Drift quartz surface, from $900 per sq m installed, Caesarstone. Lime paint in Bondi and Cornflower, $120 each for 4L, Bauwerk Colour.

    *conversion correct at time of print