Girl in Florence aka Georgette Jupe

I started this blog as a writing outlet for me to share what it is I adore about the beautiful city of Florence and Italy also sharing travel tips and stories along the way. Now 'Girl in Florence' includes advice for Florence, artisan features, interviews with locals, tips for life in Italy and travel posts from all over Europe. I'd love to think of myself as a fearless badass but If I am keeping it 100% real on this blog a quote that I sort of live by is"I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." I hope you enjoy this journey with me.

Contact Me! I don’t bite (hard)

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Subject

Your Message

Your Own Slice Of Tuscan Sun: Borgo Di Vagli

24.09.2015 9 Comments

Your Own Slice Of Tuscan Sun: Borgo Di Vagli

24.09.2015 9 Comments

It all started with the great Italian amorous past-time of a young couple looking for a place in the countryside to have well, let’s just say… ‘not lunch.’

I love when stories begin with a little naughty interlude, or rather the kind of openness and candor you often find when talking to a passionate Italian who knows how to laugh. My first night at Borgo di Vagli was a memorable one, Nico, Ginger and I headed straight to middle-on-nowhere Tuscany, to stay at this 14th century hamlet offering fractional ownership that I had read so much about, close to the 1,000 year old Pierle castle.

Nearby is the charming town of Cortona, Trasimeno Lake, Montepulciano, basically you are in what I consider to be the best area of Tuscany. In the Medieval times, this area was fractioned and ruled over by battling lordships, reach relative peace occurring only when the Medici Family stepped in and made Tuscany a nicer place to be. Those Medici’s had their hands in everything, didn’t they?

The way life worked here back in the day meant farmers gave half of their crop to the landowners in exchange for accommodation. It made this place a charming little self-sufficient little town, with villagers leaving only to visit the nearby town of Mercatale. This all changed during World War II, when the Fascists took power, cue the evil music, and changed the laws regarding rural land, causing the farmers to become salaried workers with no right to the land. Like many places in Italy, Borgo di Vagli slowly withered after villagers left to find more fruitful jobs in bigger cities around Italy, becoming completely abandoned in the 1980’s.

So how did it all change? I’m getting to that. Our dinner companions that night were Lee, the marketing and sales contact (and all around nice guy), and Fulvio di Rosa (who also can be heard in this podcast), the Italian engineer who was responsible for turning what was a derelict crumbling borgo – into twenty-one perfect little homes.

His career began like many careers in Italy, a sort of pleasant accident, also working with Pritzker Prize–winning modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer. After restoring an ancient home for his own family, his friends started to ask him to do the same. He is also held in high regard by Francis Mayes, you know Under the Tuscan Sun. Who claims (quote from Architectural Digest) “He asks himself at every decision point, how would the original owners have solved this problem?” By that deceptively simple guiding principle, he stays true to the spirit of place that one feels so strongly in the village. . . . His is the best work I have seen.”

borgo-di-vagli
The simple Tuscan kitchen of our home away from home for the weekend. I LOVED it

Nested in the countryside, this romantic hamlet hugs a view that could make a pope cry, and make my beagle happy. I could see why Francis was impressed, as we rolled up from a slightly scary 2 kilometer dirt road, our car covered in road dust, upon arrival it was the kind of place that takes your breath away.

borgo-di-vagli
Hello new home! (I wish)

We sipped prosecco and listened to the story of Borgo di Vagli’s beginnings. Fulvio is such an avid storyteller, simultaneously pouring us (excellent – Conte della Vipera) white wine because it was fish day Friday 😉 and he told his story. After his colleague found the crumbling ruin, which perhaps killed the mood because it is not a place you can spot by the main road, he rushed to tell Fulvio, who checked it out immediately with his pregnant wife. You could say it was love at first site for this seasoned architect, but for someone who was used to reviving old properties, this was quite a challenge. Namely getting ownership rights from the derelict leftovers.

Anyone who knows anything about buying a house, understand that this — is a challenge. Often properties are owned by multiple people in the same family and as you can imagine, that can cause problems. Since the place had been abandoned for so long and built in a sort of random hodgepodge way, it was a struggle for Fulvio to find the owners, in fact one of them was in a prison, and quite shocked that he even owned a home here.

But what Fulvio had on his side, was a law that essentially said that if 75% of the property was bought by him, the remaining owners would have to either sell or participate to the upkeep of the larger shareholder’s piece. It would come as no surprise that a few people would hold off selling their (unused) property in the hopes of getting double, or triple the market price, but in this case after the first two bills arrived during the restoration of the borgo, they quickly decided to sell.

All with the instrumental help of Dina Fragai, who was the owner of the largest property and share, and who is the on site Trattoria I’ cche c’è c’è (“whatever there is there is”) best name ever by the way, cook. I adore this lady because the two meals we had there, which were excellent, made with love and care – her family is as much part of the property as the place itself, her food a tasty homage to centuries past, hearty and filling, on Monday’s there is even a pizza night that the owners delighted in telling me was a lot of fun. I would have taken a photo of the place, but I was too busy having fun and eating, I hope you’ll forgive me for that one ;-).

A photo of fabulous Dina, as part of Borgo di Vagli as anything else!
A photo of fabulous Dina, as part of Borgo di Vagli as anything else!
Beautiful outdoor area for all owners to use and home to 'piazza night'
Beautiful outdoor area for all owners to use and home to ‘piazza night’

The restoration took over five years, with Fulvio at the helm to make everything as authentic as humanely possible. With 600 year old archways and wood beams that needed great care, this was no small feat. Colors like a cool mint green, soft salmon prevailed, our one-bedroom apartment was as cute as it gets. 100% rustic Tuscany, but slapped with 2015 modernity, like actual working WiFi ( I tested it), International Tv channels and modern kitchen appliances. I fell in love with the place instantly.

We stayed in a one-bedroom residence with a beautiful view of the countryside, a rustic kitchen had bottles of wine at the ready, and the bathroom and bedroom were outfitted with hotel-type amenities and luxurious Busatti linens. Small doorways and a tiny bathroom, but this is what it is really like living in a Medieval-era place, and we couldn’t be happier.Ginger had plenty of room to sniff the surrounding lavender and rosemary bushes and people staying that weekend were quite friendly.

borgo-di-vagliginger-borgo-di-vagli

I agree that this spot might not be to everyone’s tastes, namely for those looking for huge apartments, their own private villa and squeamish about a 2-kilometer white road where I actually did see wild boar. Once you get over the road, and that is important, the location is quite strategic, though I just longed to linger at the property over a good book and a jump in the pool. I have seen spots like Castelfalfi that have been revived from the dead and that sell property but this place feels less ‘resorty‘ and more authentic. It seems perfect for families, with a pool and plenty of space to run around, the staff is so utterly attentive. Our weekend was spent in a happy bliss, I woke up early on Saturday morning to take a walk around the property with Ginger, and we visited several towns in the area before dining at the trattoria at night.

before-after-borgodivagli
Before & After

How Does Fractional Ownership work

So probably the question you had, and the first one I had (after drooling over Dina’s incredible food) was how does this work. When I first heard about it, I mistakenly thought of it as a timeshare, which for any American, isn’t always a positive thing. This however, is completely different. Finding property in Tuscany is expensive and difficult, the idea of fractional ownership has a lot of appeal because you cut through a lot of the red-tape that normally comes with outright ownership.

At Vagli, they offer three purchase options/ownership types where owners receive either a 1/10th, 1/15th or 1/20th undivided interest in a residence category (one bedroom or two bedrooms) which incorporates a right over the corresponding common areas, title to which is held by an international trust company for the benefit of the owners.

It is important to note that owners receive 4 planned vacation week (28 days) plus space available and short notice vacations. Owners are not restricted to a particular residence; they can reserve more than one residence in their ownership category, if sufficient residences are available. Similar to other real estate, ownership may be sold, willed, transferred or placed in a trust at any time. Transfer of ownership is flexible and does not involve notary or notarial costs, or local land registry fees. Transfer of ownership can be executed from overseas.

Costs start at €40,250 for two weeks in a one bedroom and go to €127,000 for four weeks in a two bedroom. There’s a interest to suit all budgets, 80% has already been sold to people from countries all over the world, UK, USA, Canada, Norway, Belgium, Brazil, France etc. They offer discover visits at a discounted price so that people can meet other owners and check out the place (and that crazy road) for themselves.

The pool carved into the countryside like it belongs there
The pool carved into the countryside like it belongs there

I had the chance to sit down our second night there for dinner with a current owner, some friends of his visiting — and a couple on a discovery visit of the property. It was a delightful evening full of laughter, Dina’s awesome tagliata (sliced Tuscan steak) with green peppercorns and an interesting chance to meet people who are living the dream, right now. David Cooper was one such person, who apparently also follows my blog! He is Canadian and comes to Vagli during the fall months, a smart decision because this is harvest season and when tourism typically starts to lessen. A truly delightful person to talk with, his special connection with Tuscany keeps him coming back year after year, discovering new towns in the area and making long-lasting friendships with fellow owners at Borgo di Vagli.

In the warm comfort of the cozy trattoria, Nico and I really cherished being in the company of people who love Tuscany for what is, just an appreciation of being away from busy lives, careers and the sort, to take refuge in a rural paradise. It was paradise for me too, from the crowds on Ponte Vecchio and an email inbox that gets scarier by the day. Nico later told me, after talking with the discovery visitors from Philadelphia “This is why I love Americans so much, they are just so enthusiastic about how happy they are just to be here, no French person would ever say that.” Yes Nico, childish admiration does have its benefits :).

The borgo at dusk
The borgo at dusk

I bombarded the kind Lee with questions that I think anyone would, ‘what about making the place your own?’ obviously there are limitations to owning a property that is shared by others. On-site is a storage unit where owners typically leave their things, golf clubs, mountain bikes, hiking attire, family portraits and the like. There are laundry machines and housekeeping services, which are optional.

Ps. The only other fractional ownership I have heard of in Tuscany is Palazzo Tornabuoni in Florence. You can learn more about how it all works directly from the source, Borgo di Vagli was also mentioned in this NY Times article.

Beyond Vagli – A Sublime Location On The Tuscan/Umbrian Border

We also took the opportunity to visit a few towns nearby, starting with 3,000 year old Cortona, the place Francis Mayes made famous. On Saturday we had lunch in Cortona, reservations made by the lovely concierge at Vagli at a place we know quite well, Ristorante La Loggeta, home of the old fish market in the village. It was a beautiful day, market day to be precise, the humdrum of old women haggling over tea-towels, the clink of espresso cups being washed by the dozen. People fawned all over Ginger, who was more than happy to pee on a galleries dirt floor (oops) and make friends with a local barista, who knelt down in his pearly whites to give her a tummy rub.

God I love it here. 

We drank far to much coffee and checked out Cortona On The Move,  the first international festival dedicated to photography with exhibits peppered all over town. After lunch, we wandered around some of the more panoramic points, stopping at art galleries and the Il mondo di Amelie gift shop selling pretty trinkets and locally-made goods.

cortona-underthetuscansun-girlinflorence cortona-underthetuscansun-girlinflorence cortona-underthetuscansun-girlinflorence cortona-underthetuscansun-girlinflorence DSCcortona-underthetuscansun-girlinflorenceF0804cortonafood

We also made our way to Lake Trasimeno, in nearby Umbria, known for a battle between Hannibal and the Romans in 217 BC. Our first stop one of the prettiest villages in Italy, Castiglione del Lago, on what used to be an island. The funny thing about this town is that it appears to follow the rule of three’s, three gates, three squares and three churches. My friend Rebecca from Brigolante actually wrote this pretty funny, and truthful depiction of the town. When we were there, it was fairly quiet, a few bikers taking selfies along the end of the town were our only companions, we also heard some loud clapping from the local theater which led me to believe that’s where everyone was.

Lake Trasimeno is the largest lake in central Italy and is home to three islands, one of which was the temporary home of St Francis of Assisi. We took Ginger to the edges of the lake, I of course wanted her to jump in and be the swimming little beagle that I’ve seen on youtube. Nico naturally was against the idea, having spotted ‘lake froth’ thus convincing him of pollution nixed my innocent little idea, well that, and we had to drive a few hours with what would be a wet, stinky dog in a small Fiat 500.

image1 (2) image2 (2) image3 (2)


Useful Info

Borgo Di Vagli

Località Borgo di Vagli
52040 Mercatale di Cortona (Arezzo)
Tuscany, Italy

Europe +39 0575 61961
www.clubborgodivagli.com

We also have the place listed on ITALY Magazine here.

Additional services include: a mini-market on site, the awesome restaurant, large heated pool, housekeeping services, concierge services, hiking and walking trails, high-speed internet.

What I loved: The authenticity of the restoration, the food, the carefully curated grounds and the fact that they were dog-friendly. The nature in this area is stunning, perfect for amateur hikers like myself. People who worked there bend over backwards to make owners and guests happy, including notifying them about current events and festivals in the area – a HUGE bonus. I also liked the idea of a holiday home without the hassle of maintenance or upkeep.

What I didn’t love: The road is a little freaky for those who are not used to rural Tuscan at it’s unpaved best. The location is also quite remote but nothing I am not already used to.

Avatar
GirlInFlorence

Georgette Jupe is a 'Tuscan Texan' digital social media marketing maven based in Florence, Italy. When she's not at her day job as social media manager and content editor at ITALY Magazine, she's creating social strategies for international clients and providing travel, foodie & life tips via her blog 'Girl in Florence'. Hobbies include plenty of reading, hiking, beagle cuddles, the hunt for the 'perfect' Moscow mule and laughs with the girls.

All posts

9 Comments

  • Avatar
    Lucy Cichon 24.09.2015 at 22:26

    Ciao Georgette!
    My husband Mark and I had dinner with you and Nico along with Lee and the group at the Borgo. What a fabulous dinner and a fun night! It was wonderful to meet you both – we really enjoyed your company.
    Best wishes for continued success!
    Lucy

    • Avatar
      GirlInFlorence 25.09.2015 at 11:12

      Hello Lucy! We really had a wonderful night with you guys, what a place right? I hope you had an amazing rest of the time and sampled that franciacorta that I love so much ;-).

  • Avatar
    Noelle Pottier 25.09.2015 at 23:01

    Hello!

    Nice blog post.

    A small remark, however. You write:
    Nico later told me, after talking with the discovery visitors from Philadelphia “This is why I love Americans so much, they are just so enthusiastic about how happy they are just to be here, no French person would ever say that.”

    I would like to say that we are French, and very very enthusiastic owners at Borgo since 2009!

    Best wishes.

    • Avatar
      GirlInFlorence 26.09.2015 at 11:17

      Hello Noelle, thank you for reading the post and for the comment! Nico made this comment very tongue-in-cheek and I think out of us both, he was even the more enthusiastic. In fact we were planning on telling his parents, who perhaps would be interested in something like this that is easy to maintain. I will tell them that there are currently French owners like yourselves which would make them happy (they don’t speak a lot of English).

  • Avatar
    fulvio di rosa 26.09.2015 at 13:01

    wondeful piece Georgette…BUT this is NOT a surprise. Come back whenever you and Nico wish.
    You’ll be always very welcome. ciao Fulvio

    • Avatar
      GirlInFlorence 29.09.2015 at 10:54

      Fulvio it was completely our pleasure to spend some time with YOU, we had such a wonderful weekend and I am already dreaming about a next visit 😉

  • Avatar
    Donna Saiia 15.10.2015 at 17:46

    How wonderful to read your post about Borgo di Vagli. We stayed in the same residence as you at the beginning of September – just before you arrived. What a coincidence. I have never felt more at peace than I did at Borgo di Vagli. Leaving on our last day was heart-wrenching in a way I have never felt before and we sat on a terrace by the road soaking in the crisp morning air until it was time to head to Rome and home to Boston. We will visit again next year and stay longer, if we can. We still have much more to discover about Tuscany..and ourselves.

    • Avatar
      GirlInFlorence 16.10.2015 at 9:06

      Ciao Donna! How funny is that? I am STILL dreaming of Borgo di Vagli and our lovely weekend there. I too felt that same peace that you describe, not only because of the surroundings, but also the lovely borgo that they worked so hard to create. It is the perfect place to really unwind and soak in the best of Tuscany..

  • Avatar
    Jo 03.09.2018 at 14:25

    Georgette,
    I wanted to send you a quick not on this old blog post to let you know that YOU are responsible for the depletion of my savings! 😉 HAHA!

    I’ve been Italy-obsessed since our first trip with our kids back in 2006. Since then, my husband and I have made 4 trips and I have made 5 (once with just me and the girlfriends). This most recent trip was in June of this year. Guess where we stayed?!?! Yep, this post has been on my mind since I read it way back in September 2015, almost 3 years ago. I showed it to my husband when you posted it, and pestered him about it off and on. He was apparently listening without indicating that he was doing so, because for Christmas last year he presented me with a ‘certificate’ that he made conveying a one-week discovery visit to the Borgo. He had sneakily been in touch with them about it and all we had to do was pick our week. Lots of research (and excitement) ensued in the following months and on June 1 we headed off to the Borgo. LOVE. AT. FIRST. SITE.!!! It was by far exactly what I had envisioned when thinking about owning property in Italy. From the stunning views, to the meticulously restored residences, to the wonderful, welcoming staff (EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM), we were instantly smitten. There was zero sales pressure, mostly because it isn’t needed–the Borgo sells itself. We thoroughly enjoyed our week and upon returning home, it didn’t take us long to decide. We are now proud fractional owners at Borgo di Vagli–and my longtime dream of spending Christmas in Italy is going to come true this year! I know that sometimes bloggers wonder just how far the reach is for their blog, and I just wanted to let you know that this one had a 100% positive impact for me. I owe you a huge THANK YOU for turning us onto the Borgo with this post. Ciao!

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    About Me

    About Me

    Hi There!

    Ciao, I'm a curious American "Tuscan Texan" who calls Florence, Italy home for the past 11 years. I am the editor at Italy Magazine and I also work as an established digital social media marketing strategist (5+ years) as well as a freelance writer. My bylines have appeared in Lonely Planet, Luxos Magazine, and International Living. This blog is my way to share what life is like living and working abroad, as well as provide up-to-date true advice on traveling and living in Italy, weekend trips around Europe, and a monthly roundup of interesting events. I'm married to a wonderful Frenchman and we have a Florentine beagle who rules the household. Keep in touch with our adventures with your favorite glass of franciacorta or espresso!

    Georgette

    Subscribe & Follow

    Subscribe to our mailing list

    Get the news right in your inbox!

    As seen on

    Find us on Facebook

    Twitter Feed

    ×