The Tuscan retreat where you can live like a Ferragamo

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The Tuscan retreat where you can live like a Ferragamo
© Francesca Pagliai The Il Borro estate in Tuscany. Photo: Francesca Pagliai

Tucked into the hills of Tuscany, a small, unassuming medieval village is home to one of Italy’s most luxurious properties. Il Borro, the 1,100-hectare Relais & Chateaux estate, belongs to Ferruccio Ferragamo, son of designer Salvatore Ferragamo.

The Tuscan retreat where you can live like a Ferragamo
© Provided by The National The 2,700-acre Relais & Chateaux estate belongs to Ferruccio Ferragamo. Photo: Rebecca Holland

For years it was the Ferragamo family’s private retreat. “My father has a huge passion for hunting,” explains Vittoria Ferragamo, Ferruccio’s daughter. “He used to rent it out for hunting retreats.”

The Borgo, or main home on the reserve, was bombed extensively during the Second World War. “Half the house was still destroyed, but my father always believed in the place,” she says.

The Tuscan retreat where you can live like a Ferragamo
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In 1993, he gathered the family together and told them he wanted to buy the estate, but wanted them to all be involved. “He was like: ‘This is a huge family project, are we going to do this?’” recalls Vittoria, who was eight years old at the time.

The Tuscan retreat where you can live like a Ferragamo
© Provided by The National One of the property’s swimming pools. Photo: Francesca Pagliai

So began more than a decade of restoration. It wasn’t only the Borgo that needed rehabilitation – the estate includes an entire village that was passed between the Medici family of Florence, the Torriani family of Milan, a princess from the Savoy dynasty and eventually Prince Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of Aosta, who sold it to the Ferragamos. Today, former homes in the village have been transformed into suites and boutiques.

“It was so much fun,” Vittoria says, of the early days at Il Borro, when she and her siblings would play with children in the village. Residents were given a hand in how restoration should go. “It was collaborative,” she says. “We wanted their input to help bring the place back to life, and to its former beauty.”

The Tuscan retreat where you can live like a Ferragamo
© Provided by The National The property is nestled in the Tuscan countryside. Photo: Il Borro

The Ferragamos created a beautiful agriturismo hotel, but a few years later Relais & Chateaux approached them about elevating it to a higher level of hospitality. Now a luxury retreat with a fine-dining restaurant, several pools, horse riding facilities and more, the estate is still in flux. A golf course is being expanded, for example, and a new horse breeding and training programme is just taking off.

Guests can rent rooms of various sizes in the medieval village or countryside, or an entire private home. Villa Casetta has four bedrooms, a garden, an infinity swimming pool, a living room with fireplace and views of vineyards. Villa Mulino comprises two homes, a main villa with a living room, kitchen, three bedrooms and two bathrooms; and a smaller villa with an additional kitchen, living area and two bedrooms. Once a watermill, Villa Mulino has been renovated to keep its cottage charm while meeting luxury standards. An old reservoir has been transformed into a private pool. Finally, Villa Il Borro is a 10 Bedroom property in the heart of the estate, and often hosts weddings and other parties. All rooms feature Ferragamo-branded toiletries and other luxury amenities.

The Tuscan retreat where you can live like a Ferragamo
© Provided by The National A room at Il Borro. Photo: Francesca Pagliai

The Ferragamos have homes on the estate as well, and can be seen riding horses or working in the garden with their children. “It’s really in our philosophy and way of living as a family to do sports, eat organically,” says Vittoria “We always wanted to share these passions and create hospitality.”

Guests can lounge at one of two pools – one overlooking the medieval village and one facing the Tuscan hills – play golf with views of the mountains, take a horse riding tour, visit the private art collection (featuring Picassos, a Renoir and Warhol, among others), or pay a visit to the artisans in the village.

The Tuscan retreat where you can live like a Ferragamo
© Provided by The National Guests can take part in horseriding tours. Photo: Rebecca Holland

There’s a jeweller who has worked with the family for 30 years, a textile shop called Busatti that once made the uniforms for Napoleon’s troops, a ceramicist and furniture restorer, and more. One highlight, and fitting for the Ferragamo family, is a custom shoemaker from Florence. Guests can pick out their materials and shoe style, have their measurements taken and wait for their new, custom-made footwear to be shipped to their home. Artisans in the village also host classes for children, such as embroidery and ceramics. Each artisan receives a free space from the Ferragamo family under the condition that the shop is also a laboratory. “We want things to be made on-site,” says Vittoria.

That’s also the case with the restaurants. Il Borro has a massive vegetable garden where all produce for the outlets are grown. “Gardening is a huge love of mine,” says Vittoria. “I think it’s so important to know where your food is coming from and to eat healthily.”

The Tuscan retreat where you can live like a Ferragamo
© Provided by The National The village is home to traditional artisans. Photo: Francesca Pagliai

The family also owns a mill that makes all the flour for the hotel’s bread and pizzas. There are 190 chickens on the property for eggs, and the Ferragamos have agreements with local sheep and cow farmers to receive cheese.

Chef Andrea Campani takes all of this local food and turns it into elevated country-style Italian cooking at Osteria del Borro, with wood-fired dishes made in a traditional oven. At the more casual Il Borro Tuscan Bistro, which also has a home in Dubai, guests can dine poolside and attend a nightly pizza party.

The entire Il Borro property is solar-powered. The family’s solar field produces enough energy to power more than 500 households. That’s more than the hotel can use, so it sells the energy back to the government for use in surrounding towns. Water consumption is also carefully managed. The estate’s lakes are used as reservoirs to store rainfall over the year, which is used for farming and irrigation.

Vittoria has lived at or near Il Borro for most of her life, and it has become a part of her. When I ask if it’s odd to have strangers staying in what was once her family home, she laughs. “We love it,” she says. “We get to share the beauty of this place, and it helps keep it alive. That is the best thing.”

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