When Count and Countess Antonio Bolza bought a property in rural Umbria in 1984 they were just looking for a peaceful holiday retreat, and yet, to paraphrase Proust, instead of what they thought they were getting, life actually gave them something that they could hardly imagine: a 1,500-hectare pastoral estate of idyllic natural beauty, scattered with centuries-old abandoned farmhouses and a millennium-old castle. The family fell in love with the overgrown Reschio estate which they bought ten years later embarking on a colossal restoration endeavour with the help of Count Antonio’s son, London-trained architect, Count Benedikt Bolza. Twenty-six years later, half of the estate’s 50 derelict farmhouses have been meticulously restored into private residences, 10 of which are available to rent, while last summer saw the opening of Ristorante Alle Scuderie. Undoubtedly though the culmination of the decades-long project and the most ambitious chapter to date is the transformation of the ancient Castello di Reschio into a unique 36-bedroom hotel, complete with a farm-to-table restaurant and an ethereal subterranean spa, which will open its doors to the public in June 2020.
More than a commercial project, for the Bolzas, an aristocratic Austro-Hungarian family of Italian origin, the restoration of the Reschio estate was motivated by a desire to share their love for this unspoiled corner of the Italian countryside with like-minded travellers. The family’s passion and commitment is encapsulated by Count Benedikt’s decision in 1999 to move with his wife, Donna Nencia Corsini into the ancient castle. Dating back to 1050, this historical edifice may have been filled with stories of mystery and intrigue but it was also in a state disrepair with leaking roofs and crumbling plaster ceilings. Unfazed, the couple made it a home for themselves and their five children, all of which were born there, dedicating themselves to the restoration of the estate.
Working with local carpenters, stonemasons, tile makers, blacksmiths and other artisans in accordance with Umbria’s long tradition of craftsmanship, the Bolzas have been meticulously restoring the estate’s buildings ever since, which range from farmhouses to watchtowers to palazzos, keeping to their original footprints and respecting their vernacular architecture, all the while transforming them into contemporary residences. Leading the project, Count Benedikt’s architectural background and intimate knowledge of the estate allowed him to get involved with every aspect of the project, from the restoration of the crumbling structures, to interior design and landscaping, even prompting him to create his own bespoke interior line, B.B. for Reschio.
The interior design of both the refurbished castle and houses combines a modern sense of sophistication with historic panache and vernacular authenticity. Exposed stonework, ancient timber beams, terracotta-brick and wooden floors, are complemented by custom-made mosaics, intricate stucco work, hand-crafted marble counters and hand-stitched linen curtains, while a series of antique and bespoke furniture and decorative pieces bridge past and present. Just as enchanting is the design of the exterior spaces with neat rows of vineyards and elegant avenues of cypress and umbrella pines giving way to shady loggias and ornamental stonework.
Reschio’s creative heart however beats at The Tabaccia, a converted 1940s tobacco factory that houses the in-house design team overseeing the estate’s sprawling restoration project as well as serves as the industrial-chic headquarters of B.B. for Reschio. Encompassing a team of blacksmiths, carpenters, upholsters and other artisans, the studio produces a range of hand-crafted furniture and light fittings made from wood, brass, steel and leather that draw from both the modernist and classical canon. From the classical finesse of an ebonized oak and patinated bronze mounted window seat, to the modernist panache of The Copper Tube Chandelier, to the minimalist elegance of The Leather Armchair, Count Benedikt’s designs encapsulate both Reschio’s rich heritage and contemporary rebirth, as well as his eclectic sense of style.
The Tabaccia also hosts art exhibitions, recently showcasing works by British sculptor Nic Fiddian Green who creates lifelike bronze models of horses' heads, one of which permanently stands next to the Equestrian Theatre. Housing 40 Andalusian pure-bred horses, the equestrian facility is the brainchild of Count Antonio whose equine passion has made Reschio home to some of the world’s most skilled dressage horses. Weekly dressage performances offer guests the chance to both admire the skills set of Reschio’s trainers and socialize with other guests and homeowners while riding lessons and horseback excursions offer alternative ways to enjoy the pure-breds.
Horse riding is just one of many activities that the estate offers, from tennis, hiking and swimming in the estate’s picturesque lake, to clay pigeon shooting and truffle hunting, cooking and painting lessons, which allow guests to experience the Umbrian countryside in all its multifaceted glory. Featuring an ever-expanding organic vegetable garden, 5,000 olive trees, vineyards and bee hives, which supply Reschio’s restaurants, including the new Ristorante Alle Scuderie and the upcoming Ristorante Al Castello, with fresh, seasonal produce, wine and organic honey, the estate is a paradigm of rural development. Along with championing local craftsmanship, in preserving Umbria’s architectural heritage and promoting sustainable tourism, Reschio is a gift from the Bolza family that keeps giving.