Words by Carla Passino

Up a steep hillside, the taupe splash of ancient stone houses breaks the ocean of green stretching from jagged peak to wooded foot. The pretty jumble of red roofs, baby blue windows and cobbled streets soon resolves into the medieval village of Colletta di Castelbianco, in the Pennavaire valley, halfway between Genoa and Nice.
But hidden behind Colletta’s 13th-century façades lies a high tech secret—every home has fibre broadband Internet connection and satellite TV, and the village has a sophisticated business centre with teleconferencing, fax, e-mail and audio-visual equipment.
Once an abandoned hamlet, Colletta was little more than picturesque ruins when it was picked for conversion into one of Europe’s first e-villages some ten years ago. At the time, the project created quite a buzz because it gave prospective residents a chance to live in the peaceful seclusion of the Ligurian countryside without ever losing touch with work and world. A careful restoration, carried out by 1993 RIBA Royal Gold Medal architect Giancarlo De Carlo, incorporated cutting edge touches while respecting the original aesthetics, materials and building techniques.
The blend of 21st century technology and medieval architecture still goes a long way towards making Colletta an interesting place to buy—but there is more. The village will soon become home to a new sculpture park after the Bernard Noble Sculpture Foundation, a body which encourages and promotes emerging sculptors through an annual award, chose it to display the winners’ outdoor sculpture commissions. Each year, the winning artist will also spend a month in Colletta talking about his art and giving public demonstrations.
“Sculptures need light and contrast, and benefit from being situated outside the formal constraint of the four walls of a museum,” says Bruno Noble, who set up the foundation in memory of his father. “Colletta has verdant slopes of cherry and olive trees and its unique geographic location and many viewing perspectives make it a wonderful, natural place for a sculpture park.”
These vistas add equal drama to the village’s open air summer theatre, which is another reason Colletta draws cultured buyers. Of course, a sauna, a communal swimming pool perched high on a hill over a narrow verdant valley, and an osteria serving fresh seasonal food on a terrace overlooking the surrounding mountains also help.
And then there’s the homes themselves. Take the three-bedroom CME, the most expensive house on sale in the village at €587,000. It has all the rustic charm of exposed beams, a fireplace and vaulted ceilings combined with a slick fitted kitchen, shiny parquet flooring and panoramic terraces framing the views of the Ligurian hills.
More affordable homes are also available, starting from €137,000. Each is different but has something that makes it special—a garden, a terrace, vernacular features.
“We were shocked and stunned by the standard of the development, to such a degree that we decided there and then to purchase,” says British businessman Peter Moule, who bought an €600,000 house in Colletta with his wife Beverley. “it was like buying into a community – and the development is run to perfection.”
For further information on buying a property in Colletta, call Realitalia on +44 0870 89099 or visit www.realitalia.co.uk.