My name is Rita, and my husband is Giuseppe. We are the owners of Nicalù.
Our adventure began back in 2001 when our eldest son was just one year old, I was pregnant with our second son, and we were living abroad thousands of miles from Italy, in Singapore.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a house in Tuscany, grow olives, make our own oil, drink wine in the sun, and create something for the boys?” said Giuseppe. A dream was born.
The search began, and we heard about some land in south west Tuscany, in the heart of the Maremma region, about ten miles from the sea and around 130 miles north of Rome. “Come on, let’s go visit it!” said Giuseppe, full of crazy excitement and enthusiasm. On our summer break, we went. We followed the directions up a windy road just outside Vetulonia and took a turn onto an old mulattiera (mule path) and found the house and grove. The view was just breath-taking.
The house, vineyard and olive grove belonged to a family from Vetulonia, but had been neglected for years, the olive trees were covered in brambles and there was hardly an olive to be seen. The house was dilapidated. Where was our place in the sun? “Let’s buy it!” said Giuseppe, full of enthusiasm…I couldn't wait to start rebuilding the house and Giuseppe looked forward to reviving the land and plants. Within a couple of months it was ours.
There was a lot to do to begin restoring the trees back to health, and I had a baby to look after and another on the way. Giuseppe bought an old tractor and got down to work non-stop clearing the brambles. We had to look at getting all the permits to start building which was not easy. Lots of rules and regulation, architects, contractors and finally work began! In the village we met Lido, a local farmer with huge experience of olive tree cultivation learnt over generations. And Lido told Giuseppe about Mirko and Riccardo, two brothers who could help take care of working the land. We had a winning team.
We started work on the land and house simultaneously. Intense pruning got underway, removing dead wood, crossed and diseased branches, thinning out to let light into the centre of the tree and improve air circulation. Some of our olive trees are more than 70 years old and needed great skill to rejuvenate. The older part of the house is from the 1800s so we had to follow strict regulations. Slowly but surely, 'Il Peperoncino' turned into reality from what was a dream, a place in the sun for our family! We chose to name our olive grove and its oil ‘Nicalu’ after our three young sons who one day will take over responsibility for nurturing the trees for their own next generation. Nicalu' combines letters from our sons’ names, and from luna - ‘moon’ in Italian – after the beautiful moonlight that shines over the grove on a summers’ evening.
In 2010, Casa della Gioia in Florence came about when the family decided that a city had to be our next step and 'adult' home. Not just any city, it had to be a place where the boys could walk and breath history, elegance, culture and at the same time be cosmopolitan and safe. Once again our love for restructuring and refurbishing homes got the better of us. We redid the whole apartment which is a mix of styles. I bought a lot of things from the Florentine antique markets and shops. And of course there are pieces from our travels in South East Asia and the US.
We are happy to share our homes with you. Two very different experiences with some special elements in common - love, relaxation, wine, sunny days and most of all 'la dolce vita!'
Luca, Niccolò, Alec, Rita and Giuseppe