Upscale Living Magazine - - Travel - By KEVIN PILLEY Pho­to­graphs cour­tesy of Vig­na­m­a­gio

Did Mona Lisa play ping pong? Did she wax, ex­fo­li­ate, book fa­cials and care about her bikini line? Or did she just leave it to Leonardo Da Vinci to make her skin look so lu­mi­nous, smooth and ra­di­ant and give her that fa­mous enig­matic ex­pres­sion of a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Tus­can “Qu­at­tro­cen­tro” gen­try and the look of a woman hid­ing bad teeth as well as per­haps a heav­ily sliced back­hand?

Mona (Monna in Ital­ian) Lisa’s for­mer fam­ily home in the Chi­anti hills above Greve and close to Pan­zano, forty min­utes south of Florence, now has a spa and well­ness cen­tre, In­fin­ity pool, moun­tain bikes and a ta­ble ten­nis ta­ble.

In 2014 ar­chi­tect and gar­den de­signer, 65-year-old Patrice Tar­avella bought the “Villa Ri­nasci­men­tale” (Re­nais­sance villa) and grounds and has be­gun restor­ing them to their for­mer glo­ries.

Born to Ital­ian par­ents in Falaise, Nor­mandy - also the birth­place of Wil­liam the Con­queror -Tar­avella stud­ied ar­chi­tec­ture at the Beaux Arts in Paris. For twenty years, he worked on var­i­ous projects - the­atres, schools and com­mer­cial malls. Be­fore fo­cussing on a new con­cept : the gar­den-farm-ho­tel and cre­at­ing the Prieure d’Or­san monas­tic kitchen gar­den in France’s Berry re­gion and Baby­lon­storen in the Cape Winelands of South Africa de­signed in an eco­log­i­cal way, in­te­grat­ing best or­ganic prac­tices with me­dieval-tapestry-in­spired walled gar­dens.

“The mo­ment I saw Vig­na­m­ag­gio I fell in love with it. Its po­si­tion in the mid­dle of forests near the source of the Greve river, the 1926 San­mini­atelli gar­den, box hedges, Lecci (holms) and 300-year-old cy­press trees as seen in

Sir Ken­neth Branagh’s 1993 “Much Ado About Noth­ing”, the re­gion’s long gar­den­ing cul­ture and the es­tate’s prox­im­ity to Florence air­port were the main rea­son to in­vest money and time in it.”

It is a work in progress and labour of love. A new spa is be­ing built and the villa given a makeover, of­fer­ing twelve lux­ury rooms. “I want to cre­ate some­thing that has con­ser­va­tion of the past at its heart, while be­ing a farm of the fu­ture.

“Vig­na­m­ag­gio’s land­scape was adapted by farm­ers’ ne­ces­si­ties. Its beauty was not an ob­jec­tive but a re­sult of hard farm­ing work. This har­mony is still rec­og­niz­able in Chi­anti. De­spite in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion. My aim is to res­cue the land­scape and at the same time cre­ate an avant-garde farm.

“We have 62 hectares of vines, 5000 olive trees - Fran­toio, Lec­cino, Mo­railolo ad Pen­dolino and 12 hectares of or­chards.”

The walk to break­fast in the Ca­solese Sala delle Co­lazioni is one of the pret­ti­est imag­in­able. A olive tree -flanked path takes you to your apri­cot jam “crostata” baked pies, “schi­ac­ciata alla Fiorentina” flat­bread cake, “torta alla yo­gurt”, honey tart, plum cake, “torta della nonna” (grand­mother’s tart) and “sfogli­atelle” stacked leaf pas­tries.

One of Tus­cany’s old­est farm­ing es­tates (orig­i­nally called Pren­zano), Vig­na­m­ag­gio has been mak­ing wine since 1404. The Gher­ar­di­nis moved from their Mon­tagliari cas­tle over the val­ley to Vig­na­m­a­gio in 1421 and lived there un­til 1831.

Mona Lisa was born in Via Mag­gio, Florence in 1479 liv­ing in var­i­ous ad­dresses around the city - near the Santa Trinita church, Basil­ica di Sant Spir­iti, Via dei Pepi , near the Fran­cis­can Santa Croce (burial place of Michelan­gelo, Galileo and Rossini) and over the road

“The mo­ment I saw Vig­na­m­ag­gio I fell in love with it”

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