A magazine editor and her music-industry executive husband leave Brooklyn for the Italian countryside, where despite numerous trials, they succeed in turning a pair of historic buildings into two chic boutique hotels — while recreating their lives in the process.
Driving up a steep and deeply rutted dirt road lined with statuesque cypress trees, we arrived at a high ridge with bird’s-eye views over the UNESCO-protected Val d’Orcia, in southern Tuscany. Further along the track, a deserted stone farmhouse, originally built in the 1920s, had become an impromptu barn, with bleating sheep holding court on the ground floor, pigeons building nests and romancing in the rafters and a pigsty whose views took in some 360 degrees of rolling green fields dotted with cloud-white flocks of sheep, hilltop medieval towns and, in the distance, the dormant volcano of Monte Amiata. The house had no plumbing, no electricity; the four-acre property not a single tree. No human being had resided here since the 1950s.
Today, this farmhouse is La Bandita Countryhouse, an eight-bedroom inn that my husband, John, and I opened in 2007, five years after this initial viewing. Last year, we added the 12-room La Bandita Townhouse to our improbable hospitality mini-empire. It’s located 20 minutes away from the farmhouse in a converted 14th-century former convent in the tiny hilltop town of Pienza, famous for its Renaissance architecture and as the setting for such artfully shot films as The English Patient and Gladiator.