Casa Ursula, Italy

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Notwithstanding its firmly established status as one of Italy’s favourite and most dazzlingly beautiful islands, the tiny Sicilian island of Panarea’s reputation rests on considerably more than being merely a summer playground for international celebrities. Panarea was first discovered by tourists in the 1950s. They were mostly artists, art dealers and some aristocrats, and many decided to buy land and some of the abandoned or run down houses that peppered the slopes of the hilly island. Quite uniquely, they sought to create beautiful but very discreet houses that blended in with the stunning natural settings, and it is a tribute to their dedication and impeccable taste that the Panarea is still today free from much of the speculation and development that has marred practically every other Mediterranean. One of the most charming of these houses is the small villa named “L’Ursula”. Situated just off the only street on the hamlet of Iditella, it is however totally secluded behind tall eucalyptus and fruit trees, and luscious, flowering cactus plants. The house enchanted a count from Turin, Ippolito Reynaudi, who brought it back to life from an abandoned state by rebuilding the walls but keeping entirely the existing structure. Following traditional Aeolian style, the villa itself consists of three interjoining rooms, arranged laterally, each with its own door to the terrace in front. There are stunning views of the sea over the little stepped, colourful garden in front. The square geometries and whitewashed walls were softened with a plethora of decorative objects, tiles, lamps and other artefacts and furnishings, sought out by the count during travels to the Near and Far East, as well as around the antique shops and markets of Sicily. The count’s son Massimo now spends his entire summers secluded in this mesmerically beautiful villa, entertaining guests in an ambiance suffused with the scent of the many flowers of the patio and with a refined, cultivated atmosphere evoked by the ancient Sicilian and Oriental artefacts that are displayed throughout the stunning interiors. Writer Adam Butler

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