Inside Villa Lena: An Artsy Retreat In The Heart Of Tuscany

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Forbes Lifestyle Travel Inside Villa Lena: An Artsy Retreat In The Heart Of Tuscany Jim Dobson Senior Contributor Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Searching the world for the most amazing People, Places and Things Following May 28, 2023, 10:04am EDT | Press play to listen to this article! Got it! Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin Sunset at Villa Lena Jim Dobson for Forbes The long, winding drive through the rolling green hills of Toiana felt far removed from the bustle of nearby Florence. Like a mirage opening up before you, the magnificent 19th-century Villa Lena, with its stunning peach terracotta facade, is set high up on a hill surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. Originally built for an Italian aristocratic family, it was mostly abandoned for many years before being restored into a luxury hotel and artist haven. Art consultant Lena Evstafieva, her musician husband Jérôme Hadey, and their friend Lionel Bensemoun joined forces to create a charming escape for lovers of art and creativity. Fattoria room 30 (L) and San Michele room (R) Villa Lena Guests can choose from the 74 rooms and villas, from boutique hotel rooms to private villas, including Maison Stento. The private villa is a 20-minute walk from the hotel's reception. Maison Stento has a private pool and four double bedrooms, all with ensuites and oversized bathtubs, and is the perfect retreat for families. The Fattoria building is a lofty space converted from stables, including the reception, workspaces, and a yoga studio. The rooms all have wooden floors, dramatic vaulted beam ceilings, and checkerboard marble-tiled bathrooms. Villa Lena owner Lena Evstafieva Jim Dobson for Forbes MORE FOR YOU Biden Will ‘End Up Killing It’—Serious Crypto Warning Could Spell Chaos For The Price Of Bitcoin And Ethereum As Debt Ceiling Deal Reached Today’s ‘Quordle’ Answers And Clues For Sunday, May 28 Harry Kane To Real Madrid Boosts Aimless Tottenham Hotspur The Most Villa Lena has become well known as a creative retreat and a serious agriturismo hotel. The cultural offerings and workshops attract artists worldwide, including painters, writers, and designers, all there to focus on creating art. The Villa Lena Foundation offers a popular artist-in-residence program. During my visit, there was a diverse mix of refugee artists from different regions who sought a destination to hone their craft. Swimming pool with dramatic Tuscany views Jim Dobson for Forbes It all started many years ago when an Italian aristocratic family, Augusto and Tereza Del Frate, created a popular hunting lodge while cultivating olives, grapes, and wheat on the land. Lena and her partners bought the estate in 2007 and restored it to its former glory. "We had this idea to differentiate ourselves because there are so many agritourism properties and hotels here. We wanted to make this more of a creative experience, more of an organic experience," Lena said. "We wanted to have the artist residency, and my background is in contemporary art, and my husband is in music. So that felt natural, and we just played off the strengths of the land." Artists residency showcasing gallery of art pieces in the creative village. Jim Dobson for Forbes Lena is proud of her signature creative retreats that range from flower harvest to natural perfumery making. The retreats offer guests the unique opportunity to experience the creative and cultural day-to-day life of Villa Lena. Home to the intimate farm-to-table restaurant, Osteria San Michele, guests can choose from the fabulous local cuisine featuring homemade pasta, freshly made cheeses, and organic wines. I am a big fan of pastry chef Beatrice Quadrio and her amazing treats, including the best French toast in Italy. Handmade pasta and cooking class at Villa Lena Jim Dobson for Forbes Once a month, The Foundation welcomes curators, collectors, arts professionals, and hotel guests to visit the art studios and learn more about the work of the Villa Lena Foundation. Artists get the chance to meet guests to expand their international contacts. The property also uses much of the artwork throughout the hotel when the program alums leave it for guests to admire. The best french toast in Italy at Villa Lena Jim Dobson for Forbes Throughout the season, those staying at Villa Lena can participate in seasonal activities such as wine tasting, Italian pasta making, and daily yoga workshops, allowing themselves to experience the Tuscan culture. Guests can also take a stroll through Villa Lena's home-grown farm run by the charming Gigi, as well as their sustainably grown flower garden, many of which are used in the beautiful floral arrangements seen on the property. In fact, Lena herself is an accomplished floral designer who oversees much of the property's decor. Lena with her amazing team at Villa Lena Jim Dobson for Forbes Villa Lena also offers up excursions and activities in the area, from truffle hunting in the Fall to walking tours of the nearby ghost town of Toiano Vecchio, yoga classes with a visiting expert, wine tasting in their organic vineyard, and even a culinary kids workshop making gelato. Bring the family and enjoy this creative, barefoot paradise in Tuscany. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn . Check out my website . Jim Dobson Editorial Standards Print Reprints & Permissions

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