A Visit to Casa Leopoldo Villa
One of the highlights of our recent trip to Italy was visiting Casa Leopoldo Villa, a late 18th-century country manor restored by architect Monika Unger that is perched on a hilltop overlooking the Ligurian countryside.
It's a steep ascent up a winding mountain road to get to the home but well worth the effort for its views of the undulating landscape, the picturesque town of Castiglione Chiavarese just below it, and the Mediterranean in the distance.
Before meeting Monika that day, I hadn't realized she had purchased the property as a ruin. She showed us a book of photos she had made that illustrated how it looked just a few years ago and the extensive work she did on it. It was very interesting to hear the story of how it was transformed.
Inside the house, I felt instantly at home. It is exactly the style of furnishings that I love – vintage pieces mixed with contemporary designs, lots of oranges and reds.
Monika grew up in Warsaw, was educated at La Cambre, a post-Bauhaus school in Brussels founded by architect Henry van de Velde, and then studied environmental design at MIT. She's passionate about modernist furniture and lighting, collecting in particular pieces from Scandinavia, Italy and Brazil.
Alongside her colleague Cinzia Ferrara, she curates the Be Modern XX Century Design Collection that's based in a gallery space in Navigli, Milan. When you visit Casa Leopoldo Villa, you really get a sense of her background in the imagination and attention to detail that has been put into the space.
The garden around the villa is also enchanting. The old, ruined walls run like seams through the various levels and up the side of the house, creating a blend of old and new that is amazing.
That day, Monika introduced us to her friend, architect Dante Donegani, who lives nearby. He invited us to see his home Casa Dante. It's a typical village house located in a perfect little hamlet, almost like a movie set, in the mountains 10 minutes farther above Castiglione Chiavarese. It's already in the BoutiqueHomes collection, and you can see it here.
Then he took us to see another home he is working on right now, just below Monika's home. It's all stone and an amazing project that we'll be adding to the collection when it's ready. We'll keep you posted on that!
After our visit, we drove back down to the coast where we discovered another enchanting spot, a little seaside village called Sestri Levante, which is located between Portofino and Cinque Terre.
Set on a promontory, it has a bay on each side and has a very poetic feel. We stopped for drinks in the bar of a little hotel on the bay and ended up booking a hotel for a few nights. I could easily have stayed a week. It's a delightful part of Italy, which we hope to return to soon.