Notes from The Bergamot and her siblings The Mandarin & The Kumquat
At last l have discovered just what l enjoy doing with my life, restoring these beautiful old houses and sharing them with my friends.
It’s just so wonderful when guests totally get the vibe. Ok for some it’s a bit strange without TV, but do we really need it in our life to bring doom and gloom into our 'front room'. Of course l know we should be informed about what is going on in the World. But maybe for a week we can live without it. Listening to music, watching the fire a drink in hand. Actually talking to one another or wandering the centuries old streets absorbing the very soul of the old town. A time to reflect on what is important in our lives, family, good friends, health, happiness, food on the table, the blessings of life.
My first project, The Bergamot named after the citrus tree on the terrace is seemingly very successful. Guests are loving the peace and tranquility, the way the sun slowly wakes you through the east facing glass brick. Hens clucking and cockerels crowing complete the feeling of being in the countryside whilst actually being in the Old Town.
When the balcony doors are opened the vista is breathtaking, first you see the 13th century Convent of San Francesco, decorated inside with fresco painted in 1377. Letting your eyes travel up you light on La Rabatana dating from 800 and settled for some time by the Arabs. They came to trade and stayed 300 years, hence the local dialect has its roots in their language. From La Rabatana they could see the sea in the distance and when ships arrived they travelled down to trade. I believe they left many traces behind them in the form of food products such as coriander which grows wild, pomegranates, so important in middle eastern cuisine and many other plants and fruits.
The Bergamot was a labour of love between my builders and l, and it has evolved just how l envisaged. Cosy in winter, ultra cool in the summer. Slonky, comfy but with touches of luxury that to me just make it special. The bedding is pure white Egyptian cotton, with Hungarian goose down pillows and comforter. The clawfoot bath from the UK's Cast Iron Bath Co is just fantastic to wallow in, olive and Bergamot essential oils to soak in. For foodies, kitchen equipment rarely seen in rental properties. A semi proffesional SMEG cooker, big American fridge with plenty of space for prosecco and some food. A juicer, robot etc etc. A pasta roller makes tagliatelle a breeze to produce to serve with a simple porcini or scampi sauce.
The beauty of The Bergamot is completed by the flower filled terrace, muslin curtains drifting lazily in the breeze, fire pit and barbecue.
The new restoration project is a beautiful 'noble ' house in the village of La Rabatana. I have been in love with this house for 10 years. Its five arches are one of the most photographed beauty spots in the whole of Basilicata. Featuring in Wedding photos, tourist pics, shots of the lovely Nichole with his donkey Bianca and magazine articles worldwide.
The Mandarin and its bijou small sister The Kumquat are all about re loving, up cycling and re using as much as possible. A black metal cauldron, roasted for 100 years over a wood fire turned out to be solid copper. Under the hard black crust of decades the copper was hand beaten with beautiful patterns. This 10 euro find will be the hand basin in The Mandarin bathroom. 15th century gifted handmade tiles line the very long balcony that also overlooks San Francesco with a view of the sea behind. A slightly different aspect to the sun means the balcony is warm until mid afternoon.
Both apartments will have the The Bergamot imprint of mezzanine floors for bedrooms, brick and marble kitchens and luxurious bathrooms. The Mandarin with its clawfoot bath will have as well a waterfall shower room.
The Kumquat with its 50s prettiness will be a Barbie doll, bijou apartment which will make a great pied de terre or an extra room for guests who need more than one double bed.
The restoration is moving ahead now that the time consuming removal of the old plaster, sand blasting and painstakingly slow pointing of the joints between the stone is nearly over. The exciting work of laying floors, building kitchens and bathrooms is next and will really start to give character to these apartments.
However the best news ever is that l am going to buy the other half of the house, in need of much TLC. We are going to start by creating a Moorish terrace. Palm trees, tinkling fountain, Majolica from Amalfi. An area to relax; totally walled and private; a floral entrance to The Mandarine. Tables and chairs to eat al fresco, a fireplace to sit around on chill evenings in the shoulder seasons. A jacuzzi to laze in....
...another little paradise in this paradise l call home.