Sustainable — naturally.
Welcome to an Old World estate, with a fresh, forward-thinking attitude: original art works are created in Villa Lena’s studios; the restaurant serves dishes of produce grown organically on the estate; aperitivi are infused with foraged fruits; and apartments are furnished with carefully selected ‘upcycled’ furnishings spanning decades. The deftly managed rebirth of Villa Lena respects the past as much as it looks to the future. Ancient tradition complements renewable technology and next-generation thinking.
Ancient Soil, Slow Foods
This is wild, rural Tuscany—a world apart from the genteel hills most tourists know. Set in 500 hectares of hillside olive groves, vineyards, vegetable gardens and woodland, Villa Lena is as close to nature as it gets. Passionately managed by Pietro on biodynamic principles, the farm survives on a ‘closed-loop system’—we buy no seeds, we create no waste.
Underpinned by a traditional Tuscan diet of whole grains, beans, olive oil, nuts, fruits and vegetables, 75% of the food served at Villa Lena is produced on the estate. The remaining 25% —the drinks, handmade pasta and organic meat— comes from local suppliers and family-run farms. Everything served, from the cola to the butter, is of Tuscan origin. The estate’s 2,000 species of olive trees and Sangiovese vines are certified organic—with 600 litres of olive oil produced a year, as well as a unique sparkling rosé, which many guests buy to take home.
Conservation is symbiotic with the estate’s management. When the thriving wild boar population starts to take a negative toll on the land, digging up so much vegetation that landslides become a risk, they are ethically hunted as game — along with other indigenous species including pheasant, red deer, mouflon and rabbits. Recently discovered flora on the estate includes the strawberry tree and wild asparagus. Arts and agriculture also meet science at Villa Lena: inspired by nature, resident artists have documented the estates’s unique ecology and this effort is being lovingly translated into a beautifully curated conservation log.
Recalibrating for a more efficient future and committed to reducing energy consumption, Villa Lena’s owners are conserving the historic buildings with sensitivity to the environment. The focus in the main turn-of-the-century villa has been restoration and ‘upcycling’. A local carpenter made the dining tables using locally sourced wood and reclaimed tiles from the picturesque seaside town of Forte di Marmi, famous for its marble throughout Italy.
Dilapidated wardrobes found gathering dust in the villa have been brought back to life and, wherever possible, the original stonework has been exposed to reveal the villa’s true age. In contrast, the recently renovated San Michelle building, which houses accommodation and the restaurant, is powered entirely by renewable energy. The winning combination of solar panels and a ground source air pump is something Villa Lena’s owners plan to replicate in other buildings in the future.
Rainwater is collected throughout the estate and channels help irrigate the land during dry months. By filtering a natural water source, drinking water comes straight from the taps, removing any need for plastic bottles. The combination of these efforts makes the estate completely self-sufficient in its water use. Waste is sorted and recycled in line with stringent regulations, and organic food scraps are fed to the resident DOP-status Cinta Senese pigs.
Purpose-driven Arts, Crafts and Culture
Whether a guest, artist or chef, it’s hard to leave Villa Lena without a renewed sense of purpose and a heightened respect for nature, an appreciation of the slower things in life, and a passion for using creativity to inspire and educate others. As well as inspiring today’s travellers and creatives, it also pays forward to the next generation. Every year the Villa Lena Foundation encourages a resident artist to collaborate with the local community. Last year, New York street artist Chris ‘Daze’ Ellis worked with schoolchildren in Palaia to create a mural. For the piece, entitled ‘Quest for Knowledge’, the pupils of the local school used spray paint to explore themes relating to nature and science.