Conversation with Luca Fumagalli of Borgo Silentio
After 17 years living in Milan and working in the fast-paced fashion industry, Luca Fumagalli and Valentina Zago decided they needed a change of speed. Their pursuit of a slower lifestyle brought them to Puglia where they bought a piece of land with an ancient masseria, or farmhouse, and a cluster of trulli, the otherworldly conical structures the Italian region is famous for.
Their shared passion for design and antique, authentic objects has turned the setting into a unique vacation rental, Borgo Silentio, which translates into English as "the silent village". They've also just opened a small store, Officine Silentio ("silent workshops"), nearby in the white city of Ostuni. It couldn't be more different from the world they left behind them and sells one-of-a-kind products handmade around the globe, using traditional printing and embroidery techniques.
Intrigued, we dug a little deeper into this silent world.
Can you tell us how your pursuit of the slow life came about?
Luca Fumagalli: "Before moving to Puglia, we were living in the countryside south of Milan. Living downtown had been amazing when we were both young and without children. But when we decided to have our son, we felt that the city life was not good for raising him, and so we decided to move to the countryside for a more relaxed and slow life. But still this wasn’t exactly our idea of slow living, having to commute every day to go to Milan for work!
"After the birth of our son Edoardo, we decided to buy a property in Ostuni, Puglia, restore it, preserving the antique DNA of the old masseria and its trulli and use it as our holiday retreat. And then Covid came, we spent two months there, during the first lockdown back in March 2020, and nothing was the same when we came back to Milan to our 'real lives'.
"I quit my job in January 2021 to start running my own business. Since then, I live in the masseria, with the two greyhounds we adopted back in 2019. Valentina still lives in Milan with our son, but they come to Ostuni almost every weekend."
How did you find the property that is now Borgo Silentio?
LF: "The first time we went to Ostuni, we got lost driving around the little roads in between stone walls and olive groves. It was April, and it was all about the green of the olive trees, the white of the stones, the blue of the sky, and the red of the poppies. We immediately felt we wanted to live there and somehow set up our lives there. And so, we started looking for a property to buy and the first one we saw, it was the one now called Borgo Silentio."
What influenced your design choices there?
LF: "I have a strong passion for everything that is antique and has a history. While renovating the masseria and the trulli, I wanted to preserve the original look and feel of these houses, using traditional materials and colors, and the savoir faire of local craftsmen who have been able to translate his vision into the Borgo Silentio project. Stone is the key element of the restoration, and they tried to preserve it and mix it with traditional furniture and objects."
Can you tell us about the store you've opened in Ostuni?
LF: "I was also dreaming of creating my own label, Silentio. Silentio is a concept that comes from passion and falling in love with the land of Puglia, its scents and colors, its slow living, and its profound culture of living. Officine Silentio is a concept store in the heart of Ostuni, where you can find a selection of clothes and accessories, vintage and new ones, designed and created using local craftsmanship from all over the world. The common threads are the elements of the land of Puglia: colors, scents, and slow living."
Have you achieved the slow life you were hoping for?
LF: "As for now, there’s still so much to do that maybe we don’t really feel we have achieved that goal! But waking up every morning surrounded by almost pristine nature, with a blue sky and sun almost every day, is just amazing, and it was exactly what we needed. The Silentio project is still at its early stage, but for sure, when everything is set, the so-much-desired slow living will become an important component and companion of our lives!"