A beautiful old Tuscany farmhouse for sale in Maremma. And a way of life. A simple one. That will give your heart what it longs for.
I had seen the photographs of this farmhouse before I visited one early Sunday evening, but I wasn't expecting what I found.
Nine years ago, Maria Grazia found it. An old Tuscan farmhouse with some land. It took her a year of looking, and in the end it was by chance that she did so. Having driven from Firenze to Massa Marittima to see another that just wasn't what she was looking for. She knew what she wanted. She could see it in her mind. An old property to love and restore. With some land. Land on which grew wild Mediterranean macchia.
And there is a lot of macchia in this part of Tuscany. And a lot of farmhouses to boot. But the real estate agents just didn't seem to be on the same wavelength as her! They kept taking her to, albeit really lovely, farmhouses. Beautiful places to live. Places where she could have lived. But which didn't make her heart leap.
And then, after a year of searching across Tuscany. And after visiting the Massa Marittima farmhouse with the agent, back in his office he said, "There is this one. It isn't much. It's stuck up on a hill. But it isn't Massa Marittima. If you can wait an hour I can take you".
She said yes. She didn't know why. But as the hour and the end of the day started to pass, she began to have doubts. She was never going to find the home she was looking for. Not today, not ever.
But when she reached the wreck of the farmhouse on the top of the hill. Surrounded by dense macchia. She knew. Instantly, she knew. This was the one. Where she was meant to be.
And you too will need to make the drive up through the woodland to the top of the hill. To understand. To understand what this old, restored, Tuscany farmhouse. And it's hill. Are all about.
For, try as I might, the photographs I took for this article don't show you. Just like the photos I had seen before I got out of my car and walked across the brow of the hill into its garden.
This Maremma farmhouse doesn't show all of itself in photos. It is discrete, private. And only opens up to those who are invited into its garden and through its doors.
Beeping our horn on the bends. The leaping hare. Then left. Leaving the tarmacked lane, up a track. (You don't need four wheel drive, but it will help.)
Up. Up. Then a right. Too tight for my estate family car to do in one go. Along a short track to the wooden gate. Closing the gate behind us and entering the driveway. Shooing three wild boar away that have made a hole in the fence and were thinking of making their way down into the garden for dinner.
Four hectares of the eleven hectare property are fenced to prevent them wandering in and helping themselves to the garden and turning over the grass. But they still do!
It isn't just a beautiful farmhouse. Restored with huge blocks of local stone and thick, thick solid wood. Sat within the stunning carpet of the green and wild woodlands of Maremma's metal rich Colline Metallifere.
But a way of life. A simple one. And. A place to live in and die in. For, strange as it may seem to say such words, once you are stood there on the the hill. With the farmhouse behind you and the view in front of you. You will either feel exactly that. In which case, it is the property for you. No matter whether you end up staying forever.
Or you won't. And it isn't.
All of the cultivated land and garden that you can see today has been cut out of thick macchia by hand. Taking its own natural shape and form as Maria worked her way down the hillside.
The farmhouse had stood empty for more than 35 years when Maria started work on it and it's garden.
Around huge stones, placing old oak ceiling beams as steps. Willowing tall garden lights from long, long chestnut "canes".
Leaving in place every native Tuscan fruit tree that she found.
For that was Maria's reason for wanting a farmhouse with land on which wild macchia grew. She wanted to cultivate, in their own natural habitat, the wild, and protected, fruits of Maremma Toscana.
Onlookers told her that the only way she could ever clear a garden here would be with heavy machinery and chemicals. But she was having none of it.
This is a home with a garden to work in. To till, dig and pull all day. To clear a path. A patch. To plant.
To work until your muscles and back ache. To soak in the bath in. Sleep and dream in. And then to wake up and want to do it all over again. Unfathomably. All again.
(That. Or hire someone to keep a handle on it for you!)
The evening light - this was taken at 19:30 on an early July evening - over the garden and its fruit trees.
The allotment. Home to ladybirds, lavender, bees and butterflies. Tomatoes, basil, courgettes, carrots, cabbages, marigolds and more.
The woodland path that passes the farmhouse. What remains of an ancient road that used to pass over the hill. It doesn't take you into the valley and up another hillside now. But Maria still laid spare stone after stone that came from the garden, or was left over from the farmhouse restoration, along its length. To bring it back to what it was.
Much to the disbelief of local men who didn't know another Italian woman who would carry out such a labour of love.
And the nine hectares of woodland around it. Woodland and Mediterranean macchia that in the spring and summer, and delightfully sometimes after summer storms and downpours, downpours that manage to drench the woodland floor. You will find your own mushrooms.
Porcini for your pasta :)
The washing line.
The hammock by the front door under the old tree.
The three front doors.
The old "lavatoio" where the farmer's wife and women living on the farm used to wash the sheets and clothes on it's sloping stone slabs. And the animal watering trough. Both once fed by an old (covered) cistern in the garden.
The last rays of the evening sun catching the huge old oak tree.
And hitting the tops of the trees in the garden. The garden with a view and some.
The vines planted by Maria's own hands. Enough for your own vintage each year. :)
And whilst you won't be able to press your grapes in the old press found near the farmhouse, farmers from around these parts did so not so long ago. Because it was the only one in the area. The summer-laden grapes were taken by mule and then, later, by tractor up the hill to the old "fattoria".
Engraved on the dial is the name, "Tommaso Bellini a T'islow", and the date 1847.
The pergola with a canopy of "fragola" (strawberry) grapes. The perfect place for a cool spritzer on a summers evening.
This Maremma stone farmhouse is a large one, with a floor area of about 460 square metres. Currently divided into three apartments - although easily transformed into one country house - two on the ground floor and one covering the entire top floor.
Walking up the stone steps through the front door you are greeted by an unexpected elegance. Simple lines. High quality finishes. And touches of colour that unite the whole place and make it feel as though, for time in memorial, it has always been like this. Yet. You know, because the furnishings are modern and that the building was uninhabitable when Maria found it, that it wasn't so. But still. Everything feels at home here.
And then something else strikes you. As you walk from room to room. Light and air move in and out of this building, from one side to the other. Wherever you stand, you are touched by sunlight streaming in from window to window, across the width of the farmhouse.
In the morning the sun rises on one side of the farmhouse. And in the evening it sets on the other.
At night there is complete darkness except for the incredible silver glow of the moon. The sparkle and swirl of the milky way above your head. And the transient - but you'll lay on your back on the grass on the hill below the house with all the lights turned off for hours anyway just to see them - brilliance of summer shooting stars.
The entrance lobby is huge with room to dance in.
The spacious studio has a huge wooden desk, the width of the double windows, and a view of the garden. A wonderful space in which to work. Or a second double bedroom.
Next to the dining room.
Opening onto the glazed terrace.
Sit and watch the wildlife who just won't know that you are there.
In spring, summer, autumn and winter. With it's own wood-burning stove, this is a cosy place to have breakfast or a mug of hot chocolate. But even in winter the stove is rarely lit as the wood-fired central heating and thick cork insulation in the walls keep the whole farmhouse really snug and warm throughout the year.
The farmhouse has a Class A energy rating. With solar panels that supply the hot water.
The wood for the wood-fired boiler comes from the farmhouse's own woodland.
The living room with a traditional Tuscan fireplace. And doors onto the snug.
The bases of the beds in the farmhouse are all solid wood and homemade, using the spare wooden planks used for the new upstairs floor. No thin veneer of parquet here, but thick, solid planks.
The main bathroom comes with a large shower and a bath to lay and laze in whilst staring at the tree-tops.
Every girls dream, a walk-in wardrobe!
Coming back outside again and walking down the stone steps the evening sun has started to set aglow the stones of the farmhouse. As it only does in Tuscany.
It is here in the first of the two apartments that Maria lived whilst the upstairs was being restored.
Under the wide archway is a traditional wood-burning oven. Perfect for pizza. And plenty of room for a sofa to lounge on in front of its embers on an autumn or winter's evening.
At around 8pm on a summers evening. The sun sets gloriously over Massa Marittima behind the Island of Elba.
Although the farmhouse is fully restored - and beautifully so - there is still room to make it your own and continue it's story. With the stone and terracotta floors, wooden beamed and terracotta ceilings, walls glazed in natural paints and streaming sunlight as your decorating base, you really can't go wrong.
The second downstairs apartment, for example, has a large room that has yet to be furnished as a very large en suite bedroom. Or a studio. Opening onto the floor to glazed sun room.
Both the apartments could, easily, be connected into one.
Or. You could just leave it as it is. (I would!) And walk straight in and live there. As though you always had and you always will.
Open the front door for the first time. Put the keys down on the kitchen table. And go outside with pruners in hand and a basket.
Wander down to the vegetable patch and cut a "zucchine" or two. Squeeze a bright red cherry tomato in your mouth until it bursts. Rinse your picks under running water being hit by their scent as you do. And, with the radio on and the water for the pasta boiling, nibble on a shaving of parmigiano as your heart fills with that view. And the wonder of it all. Life. The simple way.
With a little bit of hard work in the garden!
For more information, details of the asking price and location etc.
Plus professional wide lens photos so that you get to see the whole of a room - my camera just doesn't capture what a wide lens can - contact Rita and Riccardo of the Tuscanary real estate agents who are handling the sale and, who also happen to be the best on the block when it comes to properties bursting with character and a story to tell here in Maremma Tuscany.
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