Only a few short weeks away from our long-awaited Tuscan retreat—we hope everyone is as excited as we are.
Since you will all be arriving at different times, we thought it would be nice to formally introduce the two people who will be at Villa il Trebbiolo to greet you when you walk through the door. That is, unless they’ve just stepped away for a coffee. In that case, you might see a handwritten sign saying torno subito, which of course means – I’ll be right back. Actually, that often-seen Italian note on the door will only appear IF you have missed the personal invitation, “Volete prendere un caffè, do you want to take a coffee?” In any case, the casual atmosphere will immediately put you at ease and in the mood to dream a little.
Sabrina and Roberto
You’ll find that the Villa proprietors, Roberto Bartolini and Sabrina Villani have boundless energy and they’re the ones who will help make everything happen—and we mean everything! The two of them seem to be able to do anything they set their minds to, since what they’ve accomplished together is truly amazing. This isn’t just any villa in Tuscany, but rather, a unique and ongoing labor of love—a work of art that has truly been created personally by the owners.
In June of 2000, they opened the doors of the villa to the public and began their journey together. They saw a possibility that no one else imagined, and have been transforming their shared vision into reality ever since. Before acquiring the villa, they had worked in construction and design and knew how to make things real. Today, over a decade later, they’re well on their way, though it seems to be a perpetual work in progress. Every time we think we’ve seen the finished product, they begin realizing another surprising addition. Their progress and passionate restoration is now recorded in the history books alongside the centuries old stories about their beloved home. In fact, a couple of years ago, they worked with a local historian to write their own book, Villa Il Trebbiolo. This year, they are offering a second book, just finished, called Nature in Il Trebbiolo, documenting over 200 species of wild flowers that can be found on the grounds of the villa. The book includes a map of three walking trails.
Beginning of a new era
We first wandered down the cypress-lined drive on a late spring morning in 2000, curious as to what the place was all about. Of course, we like to think we were their first customers—but probably not. Little did we know that the villa and adjacent properties had been sold-off over the years. Roberto and Sabrina stepped in to purchase and reunite them once again after years of neglect, into one grand estate. Although it had once been very beautiful, the buildings and grounds needed lots of love, years of hard work and money. Two dreamers who knew that they could recover this diamond in the rough, Sabrina and Roberto, shared the passion to make it all happen.
Our lunch that spring day was delightful, but only a faint glimmer of what was to come. We’ve watched them renovate the villa and recover the annexes (dependenze, as they call them) over the years. Painstakingly, step-by well-planned step, they’ve created what has become a surprising oasis destination for weary travelers, with a focus on fine dining, wedding celebrations, and now a transformative retreat.
New pool in the old olive grove
You will surely enjoy the new pool nestled among the 36 rooms—each one unique. They’re also interested in the environment and just finished a new central heating plant, fueled completely on sunflower seed oil—one of the first in all of Italy (Roberto might even let you take a look if you’d like). Oh, and by the way . . . the Il Trebbiolo olive oil is absolutely fantastic and worth waiting for. You might want to buy some oil from last November’s pressing to take home.
The magic of Roberto and Sabrina is grounded in their admiration and respect for one another, but also in their working partnership. They’re the perfect team, combining individual know-how, capability as master chefs, maitre’d’s, and whatever else has been needed. They have their own orto, vegetable and herb garden, and have been known to raise their own free range chickens as well. In the early days, they ran the villa by day, waited tables at night, ran the kitchen and nearly single-handedly rebuilt the buildings, as their vision grew. Now, they can relax a little (although they usually don’t), since they have added a wonderful chef, Gabrielle, as well as other staff to make sure things run smoothly.
The latest creation
By now, we’ve gotten used to their “constant re-do,” knowing there’s always more to come. They’re currently putting the final touches on the restoration of the last historic barn, creating 9 more rooms for your next visit, bringing the total to 45. Soon they will install stone columns and grand iron gates at the new entrance. Is this the final phase? Probably not. With only the help of a few others, Roberto and Sabrina will continue to make their dream a physical reality. All we have to do is sit back, relax and watch the progress—and of course, enjoy the results. What they’ve done and how they’ve done it is an inspiration to all who visit.
June 14th, 2011 Villa il Trebbiolo becomes our “home away from home” for reflection and transformation with the first retreat led by the one and only Scott. It’s our hope to be part of the continuing story, offering relaxing and life-changing experiences at this historic Tuscan site.
We hope that when you meet Roberto and Sabrina, you’ll not only feel at home, but will have a better understanding of what Il Trebbiolo is all about. It’s far more than just a retreat destination. It’s a loving work-in-progress that will lend its own magic and charm to the stories that we all bring to share, in addition to the one that we will create together during those inspirational days in June.
A presto, see you soon
Cheryl, Emerson, Scott and Marti