Giulia Cangianiello, April 2019
In one of the rooms of the Palazzo Collacchioni, built at the start of the twentieth century on the ruins of the Aldobrand fortress of Capalbio, the Conrad Graf fortepiano, in walnut, is preserved. The instrument belonged to Giacomo Puccini, and presents the defining wooden frame – a cast iron frame would make it a pianoforte. The serial number bears 1823 as the invoice date and is a testimony to how Puccini, a native of Lucca and solitary by nature, used to take refuge in the woods of the lower Maremma, away from the clamor of Versilia.
The comune of Capalbio stands on the southernmost tip of continental Tuscany, on a hill covered by the Mediterranean maquis. The medieval village retains the imprint of the vicissitudes that it wore witness to: from its inception in the Etruscan period, the splendor of its Renaissance – which gave it the nickname of “Little Athens” – to the economic crisis under the Medici family, and the banditry that for years devastated the entire region of Maremma. It is in Capalbio that Giacomo Puccini, seated at the Conrad Graf, composed some passages from Turandot.
During a stay in Barcelona in 1955, Niki de Saint Phalle was struck by Gaudí’s work at Parc Güell. Back in St. Moritz, she shared her dream of creating an artistic park with Marella Agnelli, who introduced her to her brothers. Carlo and Nicola Caracciolo gave her a parcel of their estate in Gravicchio, in the Tuscan region of Maremma. It was here that, in 1996, Niki de Saint Phalle created her Tarot Garden: esoteric sculptures, between twelve and fifteen meters high, overflowing with color and criss-crossed by geometric motifs, stand out to represent the twenty-two Major Arcana in the Tarot deck.
Halfway between the Tarot Garden and the ancient village of Capalbio stands Locanda Rossa, which opened its doors in 2008. Lorenza Jona Celesia has restored an old country farmhouse. The property extends over twenty-one hectares of land, covered by 3,200 olive trees. Italian extra virgin olive oil – PGI, of superior quality – is produced and bottled on site, and sold at the inn’s boutique.
The menu at La Cucina is determined by the seasonal offerings of the vegetable garden. Head chef Valeria Piccini – who can also be found at two-Michelin star restaurant Da Caino in Montemerano, Manciano – revisits traditional Maremmian recipes. The menu exclusively lists local DOC wines: the Terenzi estate, in Scansano, supplies the Morellino di Scansano. Fifty hives on the inn’s grounds, entrusted to a family of beekeepers, produce wildflower honey for breakfast. It is served with homemade cakes, cheeses and cured meats from the neighboring farms.
The various areas of the main building face into an octagonal garden. Bare of plants or trees, without any furniture, a plain green expanse. It is the work of landscape architect Paolo Pejrone, of Villar Perosa fame. Plants and flowers typical of the Maremma maquis – rosemary, eucalyptus, laurel, cypress, holm oak and teucrium.
The renovation of the inn’s buildings has been a joint effort. Architect Paolo Cattaneo, from Turin, took care of the exteriors. He tried to establish a balance with the surrounding rural setting, honoring the original function of the farmhouse – the brick red color remained and gave the hotel its name. There are twelve rooms, two suites, four apartments, a spa, a gym, two swimming pools, an outdoor bar, and the restaurant. The structure is heated by a photovoltaic system and high-performance solar panels.
The interior furnishings are the work of designer Valeria Giuliani, who collects art along with husband Giovanni (the couple established the Giuliani Foundation for Contemporary Art in 2010). Each room has been conceived as a stand-alone space, different from all other rooms. The color palette and fabrics draw inspiration from the artwork that it houses. The works of Flavio Favelli, Giuseppe Pietroniro, Paolo Canevari, and Giulio Paolini are exhibited, among others.
Translated from the Original Italian by Chiara Manni
Strada Capalbio Pescia Fiorentina, 11b, 58011
Capalbio GR, Italy