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Property in Tuscany ~ Borgo di Colleoli

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The History of Borgo di Colleoli

Borgo di Colleoli

Location:

Borgo di Colleoli (meaning village of the hill of olives) is a hilltop medieval estate close to Palaia in the Valdera region of Tuscany, Italy. The village’s location affords beautiful views across the hills, vineyards and olive groves in a region famed for its varied landscape.


The Agostini Family
For most of its history (around 400 years) Borgo di Colleoli was owned
By a well known aristocratic Pisan family called Agostini Fantini Venerosi Della Seta (I will refer to them from now on as the Agostini family for brevity). Borgo di Colleoli was one of the numerous properties that they owned in the countryside of Colleoli.

The first reference to the Agostini family in local records shows that they have occupied their position in public life since 1461. They were very much involved in the economic resurgence of Pisa in the 16th and 17th centuries when they dedicated themselves to the sale of cloths, fabrics and valuable yarns from Italy to Fiandre. In the 16th century they managed the firm inherited by Cosimo Fantini in order to produce silk, an industry that greatly flourished in Pisa.


TuscanyBorgo di Colleoli Estate
Originally a small farmhouse with outbuildings, the village’s use has changed over the centuries, moving away from solely agricultural to more recreational purposes. This has involved several refurbishments, upgrades, building and extensions at different points over the years.

It is probable that the estate’s land was purchased in 1424 by the Agostini family and that construction began on the first building(s) around this time. The Agostini crest above the front door of the Palazzo shows the date 1494 and it is probable that this date refers to the year the main building was completed and registered.

The Palazzo
The Palazzo building is the borgo’s luxury hotel and restaurant
The Palazzo building is characterized by an elegant sobriety, with an underlined serried and regular sequence of windows.
The main home on the estate, where the Palazzo now stands, would have originally been far less grand that the current building, probably originally built as a small farmhouse. The Agostini family did not originally live on the estate but would have hired a farmer and his family to tend the olive groves and vineyards and to produce the wine and olive oil. In addition to the farmer’s family residence, the farmhouse would also have served as a shop where locals would come to buy the farm’s produce.

The estate of Colleoli has a marked practical and functional feature which is similar to the mostly rustic styles of the villas of Valdera. During the Middle Ages many castles, fortresses and monasteries were in the hills, with a privileged location, “…organizing structures of the territory bound to countryside by economical relations of feudal kind which are maintained transferring the potential aggregation of a so often fragmented land property. Their conversion is gradually fulfilled between the end of the 15th century…”

During the 17th and 18th centuries a number of changes are made to the Palazzo building. At this time it is not only used as base of a productive centre, but also as a summer holiday home for the family. Renovation and extension projects in the villa were undertaken around this time to improve the comfort and beauty of the accommodation. This transformed the original rustic construction to a more elaborate, palatial style with frescoed walls and ceilings. It was mostly in 1785 that, thanks to Guiseppe Muzzi, the concept of elegance was introduced on the architecture of the rural houses, even though it was based on the “simple beauty which consists in the proportion and harmony of the parts”.

At the end of the 18th century extension works were carried out and the Palazzo was renovated again modifying the original design and renovated to include rich decors. In 1882 an extension was completed to the west side of the building creating the ‘L’ shape the building has today.

BorgoThe basement of Palazzo, with arched roof, records the awards won internationally for the estate’s olive oil. Dates, locations and awards won are stencilled into the ceiling beginning with Dublin in 1865 and ending with Paris in 1985. Other locations where they won awards include Milan, Liverpool, Philadelphia and Melbourne. It is interesting to note that these dates coincide with major extension and renovation work being carried out on the estate.

The main entrance hall with barrel vaults, which gives access to difference rooms, is decorated with 19th century monochromatic geometrical motifs and coats of arms of the Agostini family’s women.

All the rooms in the Palazzo contain original frescoes on the walls and ceilings.

Centro Aziendale
The Centro Aziendale includes apartments and the enoteca
Centro aziendale is located to the right of the villa. The far end of the centro aziendale would originally have been used as store rooms and stables for the farm. The end closest to the Palazzo still contains the vats used to store the wine that was produced on the estate. A wing to house farm staff was added in the mid 19th century.
The centro aziendale is composed of three floors, including the ground floor, and of a lower one with “L” shape. Nowadays it is entirely crowned by a brick balustrade with lengthened hexagonal openings.

Storage Buildings
The estate/farms other buildings have been converted to apartments.
Small rustic buildings and wide holdings, where vines and olive trees were cultivated, surround the Palazzo building. It was only in 1847 that the main part of the farm and stable were built, close to the pre-existing hayloft.
Buildings in this part of the estate include the Olivaio (olive oil storage), Granaio (grain storage – granary) and a cattle and tool shed.

Chapel
From the large square of the farm, going through an avenue of lime trees lies the estate’s chapel, with a nave and two small side aisles. The front represents the most conventional canons of a neoclassical architecture. The family coat of arms is found on the front façade of the chapel. Inside it there are four other coats of arms representing further relationships established with noble families over the centuries.

Gatehouse
Originally just one large room, the Gatehouse was used as a school for some of the 20th century.

Estate Landscaping
The predominant rustic feature of the property is underlined by the absence of a garden. While the entire property has been renovated, the field around, because of the steep slope, was not converted to gardens as normally happened in the Renaissance villas. The agricultural field had never been converted to landscape park, thanks also to the excellent output of the olive oil the owners had always succeeded in getting.
After the Agostini Family
At the end of the 19th century the ownership of the property passed, after 500 years, to the Ogna family. After a further several passing of the titles, the last owners used it as a tourist and hunting farm.

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