Meet the Ladies of Piegaro

The odyssey we took to restore this long abandoned gem is the stuff of stories: how we met the mayor within days of arrival, were welcomed into a beautiful village, adopted by four generations of a warm Umbrian family, struggled to finish a massive restoration in time for arriving guests, vaulted months of red tape with the help of our amazing “fixer”, the geometra who became our dear friend, how we get involved in village festivals and are now continuing to discover what “living our dream” actually means.              With these stories, I share my own reality, much like a mosaic of brilliant ancient glass overlaid with the patina of true grit: life in a small village. I will take you with me as I explore the historical sites in Umbria and Tuscany that are so near and discover the meanings beneath the layers of that first romance with our dear, sometimes inscrutable, Umbria. Meet the Ladies of Piegaro:

Before and After!

Turning a vast abandoned glass factory into a thing of great beauty was a great work, one enabled and joined by the best local working team we could have had. They worked from sunup to sunset with a small break for lunch. I know, because I worked beside them for the last three months of the renovation. Today, after eleven years of welcoming guests from every corner of the globe, I look back with a sense of wonder and, yes, surprise. Take an armchair ride to see “Before and After”: Don’t forget to visit a whole lot of links at the website of L’Antica Vetreria: which will always mean “The Ancient Glassworks”!

Our Friendship with Castello Monte Vibiano Winery

On our journey we have made many good friends. Soon after we opened for guests, we heard about a winery that a noble family, the Fasola-Bologna’s, from Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio, have transformed with great vision and passion into the world’s first carbon-neutral grower. Not only are their wines and olive oil organic, but all power is generated by the sun. Their passion to keep the pure air surrounding their paradise is inspiring. My father, part Indian, Oglala Lakota Sioux, always told us that each decision has to be good for seven generations. At our first meeting in 2009, when we shared our values, we found soulmates in Count Lorenzo and his sister, Countess Maria Camilla, who are preserving thousands of years of history. Every week we have the pleasure of sharing this piece of paradise on a free tour and tasting of four award-winning wines and special olive oil. Take an armchair tour of the magnificent, inspiring Castello Monte Vibiano Cantina:

Our Renovation Starts

We found it in 2004, a vast glassworks, abandoned since 1943, and set forth on an evolving journey to rescue this historic jewel, one of the most important structures in the village of Piegaro with its 750 years of glassmaking history.  Our vision for a beautiful resort captured the imagination of our architect and the mayor who immediately made land available for our pool and terraces, built a private road, and helped us to find the best local craftsmen who took great pride in restoring this beautiful, but long neglected, gem.  Using only locally sourced ancient stone, wooden beams and ironwork made by hand, we lovingly brought this remarkable property to life and, in the process, contributed to the life and energy of a welcoming village.  We have integrated ourselves into village life, we live here full-time and are on hand to make our guests’ experience of authentic Umbria a reality.  Making a life within the nurturing and embracing arms of an entire village is really a dream-come-true.

Colleen was asked to write a guest column for “Renovating Italy”; and there is so much more about our story here:

How Our Adventure Began

Our guests always ask us how we began this grand adventure of renovating a vast abandoned glass works into a luxury villa and four apartments with a pool, panoramic views, located within an medieval hilltop village named Piegaro. We reply, “Do you want the long or short version?”

The long version is that we fell in love with Umbria on our honeymoon in 1993, when we took the road less traveled. Called “The Green Heart of Italy”, Umbria is studded with hilltop villages, towers, castles and verdant valleys. Welcomed heartily everywhere we went in Umbria, we loved the wine, the food, the art, the culture…..but always in the end, it was the people who loved us back. Returning year after year, we started looking for a place to transform into a retreat for guests who love the same things we do. We wanted to share our little slice of paradise and meet guests from around the world. We crawled up ancient towers, explored an abandoned castle, walked through farm houses with spider webs, but none in a village. We soon found that our desired combination of a large property in a hilltop village with room for a pool and with views, was impossible to find. It took years of looking until we discovered a realtor’s website with properties for sale and a tagline “Industrial Archeology”. Intrigued, we clicked on the tag and up popped a photo of a vine-encrusted tower, a vast arch with missing roof tiles and a photo of glass artisans from the 1800’s inside a glass factory. With four levels and over 9,000 square feet located on the western wall of a little village in Umbria, we quickly telephoned the owner and said “We can be there in two days. Is it still for sale?” Gianni Romizi replied, “Of course it is. She has been waiting for you.” We did, she was and after years of renovation, we opened our paradise for guests in 2008. We have been welcoming adventurous souls for eleven years. Originally from Seattle, we now live full time in Piegaro and have been embraced by the villagers. To see photos of our amazing renovation visit this link: More to follow….