Country houses for sale

Hidden Homes in Tuscany

Tuscany ? favoured holiday destination of Roman senators and British Prime Ministers, home to Florence and Siena, Cypress trees and undulating hills. And Palaia, a quintessential Tuscan village, unspoilt and unknown, set amongst olive groves and vineyards just 40 minutes from Pisa.

?Everyone knows Lucca and San Gimignano,? says Palaia resident Jenni Bird, ?But who has heard of Palaia?? According to Ms Bird, Palaia is a place where one drinks with the local priest in the village bar and everyone knows your name, ?I like the way you are not made to feel like another flipping tourist,? she laughs. Situated so close to Pisa airport, it is uncanny that Palaia has managed to evade the noose of tour operators, souvenir shops and over priced restaurants. Instead the village boasts a simple general store, a bar with wood decked terrace and a couple of shops selling miscellaneous Italian objects.

Borgo di Colleoli

A short walk up the hill from Palaia is Borgo di Colleoli (village of the hill of oil), a former olive estate and vineyard, transformed into Tuscan villas suitable for senators and prime ministers. It is easy to fantasise over owning one of these stone-built retreats in the unblemished hills near the town ? before the fear of committing to second home ownership overcomes you. But the new ?toe in the water? kind of second home ownership offered by Borgo, gives you the luxury of a Tuscan villa without full financial commitment.

Ronnie Hogg Cameron, the brains behind this new enterprise said, ?I recognised a hole in the market for people who want their own little piece of Tuscany but are put off by the sheer expense, uncertainty and stress of second home ownership.? The ?stepped? approach he has devised at Borgo plots a staggered route from booking a holiday to eventually buying a holiday retreat. ?Owners are able to choose how much they wish to invest in a property in the village and still enjoy it throughout the year ? without any of the usual worries that go hand in hand with property ownership,? says Mr Hogg Cameron.

the former granary

If the words ?time share? are setting of alarm bells, fear not. A villa at Borgo can be yours until you decide to sell it. Before signing any agreement future purchasers have the opportunity to stay in the Borgo?s world class hotel and get a feel for the surroundings. ?We don?t want people to commit themselves until they are 100% sure they like it,? says Ms Bird, who is in charge of marketing at Borgo. A Colleoli membership consisting of between 7 and 14 nights a year is the next available option. Members can enjoy returning to Tuscany on a yearly basis for up to 25 years but also have the option to rent out their nights or give them to friends. It is possible for members to upgrade to fractional ownership of 35 nights a year, the next rung of the ladder, followed by a quarter share of a villa and eventually full freehold ownership. Fractional freeholds and full ownership provide all the benefits of property possession ? your villa can be inherited by your children or sold on.

Clever restoration has ensured Borgo maintains its traditional character. The original manor, granary and barns have been converted into studios and villas with individual identities and unusual features. But the whitewashed stone walls, frescos and flagstone floors are accompanied by state of the art facilities. Bose sound systems, Sky television and enormous showers are installed in each house, as well as fully stocked minibars and top of the range cooking facilities. Comfortable yet classical furniture and sumptuous curtains fill the houses, making them perfect either for a family break or for renting out.

The use of two swimming pools and five-star hotel facilities including room service, haut cuisine restaurant and a speciality wine bar are just some of the ?extras? that accompany property ownership at Borgo. ?The estate is for people whose free time is precious,? says Ms Bird. You might scoff but a glass of champagne on your private terrace overlooking the Tuscan hills within four hours of leaving London cannot help but leave you feeling slightly smug.

But that is not to say that free time at Borgo is all about cocktails by the pool ? Hogg Cameron is determined not to let the estate go to waste and Borgo di Colleoli does not mean ?village of the hill of oil? for nothing. Olive oil production ceased in the 1970s but was rekindled last year with many homeowners pitching in to help. Needless to say the first batch of oil was minimal and the sacred bottles are hidden away but eventually all the owners will receive bottles of Borgo de Collioli olive oil, a product that was winning international awards in the nineteenth century.

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one of the swimming pools at Borgo

Prices range from £15,000 for a week’s Borgo di Colleoli membership to over £1 million for a freehold villa.

More details about Borgo di Colleoli can be found by clicking here or by telephoning +44 (0)870 2430314.