Harvesting olives to make your own olive oil may not be everyone’s idea of a holiday, but for Margherita Piliero and her family, it’s splendid.
Margherita is an Italian who was living and working in the U.K. when she and her husband vacationed in Tuscany. The pair fell in love with the region and, secretly, Margherita began daydreaming about buying property in Italy someday.
It was especially tempting to fantasize about a sunny Tuscan retreat on days when her banking job in England seemed most dreary. It was on just such a day that Margherita clipped a magazine article about buying property in Italy. First the clipping sat on her desk, then it was covered by a stack of papers, and eventually it ended up in a drawer.
For a time, the clipping—and the dream—seemed to be forgotten.
Until one evening, when Margherita came across the article in the drawer. On a whim, she called an agent and within days had booked her flight to look at properties in Tuscany.
“It was all a bit of a whirlwind,” says Margherita. “But when we saw Le Pratola, we knew this was the place we’d been dreaming of.”
When the Pilieros purchased the property, it was a blank canvas. The previous owner, a developer, had ripped everything out. Rather than being discouraged by this, the Pilieros saw it as an opportunity to start anew with a vision for their Tuscan getaway.
From home remodeling to garden renovations, the project took three years to complete. Using a general contractor based in Italy, the Pilieros were able to oversee things remotely from their home in the UK. The project went smoothly because they used a local contractor who was familiar with the codes and processes of renovating property in Italy; also, it helped that Margherita is fluent in Italian.
“We consider our investment in this property as not just an investment in land and a house, but as in investment in the people in this community,” says Margherita. “Because all of the renovation work we’ve done supports local craftsmen and gives direct economic support to our community here, we see it as an investment in people.”
And that investment has continued—even past the initial renovation. The Pilieros contract carpenters, workmen, and gardeners to make changes from time to time and upkeep the property. They also maintain a team to run the house and manage things when they are away; this team includes a house manager, two to three maids, a gardener, and a pool keeper.
To help offset their ongoing costs, the Pilieros rent the house when they aren’t there. They visit about every six to eight weeks and spend close to two months at Le Pratola each year. Margherita says, “Owning a property in a foreign country is the closest thing to living another life.”
In that other life, Margherita and her family make wine, they harvest olives, and they press their own oil. They have two hectares of olives and vines—and the vines here are actually quite renowned. Because the house was originally part of the larger Rocola estate—which produces a well-known Super Tuscan wine—the wine that the Pilieros produce is quite good. In fact, the Rocola estate still produces a wine that is named after the Pilieros’s home.
In addition to vines and olives, the property is home to all kinds of wildlife, such as wild boar, deer, and all sorts of smaller mammals and birds.
“We try to respect the natural aspects of this place,” says Margherita. “Even though we don’t like the deer nibbling on the solar panels and the swallows nesting in the cottage, we try to find solutions that fit the land and respect the nature that surrounds this place. After all, that’s part of what makes this place so special.”
Everyone agrees: Le Pratola is a special place. The renters who come here treat it like their own home. The home and gardens have become a gathering place for happy events—marriages, family reunions, and vacationers looking for an authentic agriturismo holiday.
“We enjoy renting it out because we love sharing our home,” says Margherita. “If we have to be back in rainy England, we know that—until we can be here enjoying Le Pratola ourselves—someone else is enjoying it for us.”
Le Pratola can be booked here.
To book your dream holiday home in Italy, click here.