high & mighty
Perched on the edge of the Amalfi Coast, Silvia Lefebvre’s historic fortress is now a relaxing holiday retreat with breathtaking views
An old Italian watchtower on the Amalfi Coast is transformed into a stunning weekend retreat
Every morning, a pink light drenches the stone walls of the old Italian watchtower, which Silvia Lefebvre inherited from her parents several years ago. It’s a magical sight which is repeated at sunset – but then everything about this place is special.
Built in the 13th century as part of a number of square fortress towers dotted along the Italian coastline, its main purpose was to ward off the marauding Moors. Today, these huge stone sentries act as a reminder of the country’s colourful history.
‘Before my parents bought this tower, it was owned by a dentist from Rome who did a lot of work to it,’ says Silvia. ‘He added the dining room and inserted several large windows in the three-metre-thick walls in the sitting room. Before that, the only openings were slots for shooting arrows.’
The property’s remote location made quite an impact on Silvia when she holidayed here as a child. ‘ When we first came in 1968, all of our luggage had to be brought down to the tower from the car park by donkeys,’ she recalls. ‘These days, it’s a fiveminute drive by electric buggy or a 15-minute steep walk to and from the front door, which does keep me fit!’
When Silvia took over the property, she wanted to bring her two daughters, Lavinia and Gala, then toddlers, for the summer, so her first task was to make the house child friendly. ‘I started by resurfacing the drive to accommodate a small car so the girls could avoid the climb,’ Silvia explains. ‘Then I installed a children’s paddling pool beside the grown-up plunge pool near the lemon grove.’
The next thing to figure out was how to link the dining room extension to the main body of the tower. ‘In the past, the only access was along an exterior walkway that wrapped its way along two sides of the
tower,’ explains Silvia. ‘Food from the kitchen had a long way to travel.’ She solved this problem by knocking through an internal wall to install a door for a more practical layout.
Thankfully for Silvia, this was one of the few structural alterations that needed to be made to the tower. ‘The previous owner had cut out alcoves and niches in the thick walls where I now store books and pretty china, as well as flower arrangements gathered from the garden,’ she says.
Upstairs, the bedrooms are decorated with antiques inherited from Silvia’s parents, but she made the bold decision to furnish the reception rooms with contemporary pieces. ‘Interior designer Alessandra Rapationi was a huge help,’ says Silvia. ‘She was very clever at being able to blend historical elements with modern furnishings.’ Between the two of them, they chose impactful designs, together with new china and soft furnishings to add a punch of colour against the backdrop of white walls, occasionally leaving areas of natural stone as a reminder of the building’s historic past.
A country girl at heart, Silvia is passionate about animals and so was keen to introduce them to the surrounding land. Now, while her friends soak up the sun on the terraces which dramatically project over the sea, Silvia likes nothing more than watching the rabbits, donkeys, sheep and horses rambling wild in the grounds. ‘This place is an escape into another world,’ she says. ‘Living here is a truly restorative experience.’
design tip‘ Use cowhides and lots of rich textures in cushions and throws to lighten and soften tiled walls and floors’
KITCHEN Marble appears on the flooring, cabinetry and surfaces for a sleek finish. Try Belgravia polished marble tiles, from £ 49.99sq m, Mandarin Stone
GUEST Bedroom The curved fireplace is the focal point of this simply styled space. tatli tiles, £29.95sq m, Walls and floors, are comparable. to rent the watchtower for holidays, visit carpediemtravel.co.uk
GUEST Bedroom An Edwardian dressing table was converted to fit a marble basin. for a similar table, £ 475, try loveantiques.com