Grotto on the hill, Italy

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Dug into the precipitous, solid rock sides of a hill-top town in central Italy is this remarkable grotto. It is serenely cocooned, secluded within the solid stone walls from which this living space was carved, and it is clear that this small but eminently cosy dwelling is really a retreat not only from the noisy and overcrowded cities, but also from life itself. Local legend has it that such grottoes were originally carved by the Etruscans who once inhabited this area; they probably originally served as storage vaults for provisions or to store farming implements and produce. Today, however, this grotto serves no such mundane purpose. Almost Zen-like in its contemplative peacefulness (there is an almost eerie silence inside) it has been turned into a den of reflection and meditation, an effect enhanced by the dozens of candles flickering in the niches that crown the walls. The owners of the grotto wanted to make the dwelling comfortable but they did not wish to hide the fact that it is to all intents and purposes an ancient cave simply dug out of the rockface. Electricity was brought to the grotto, but only sparsely used to illuminate the darkest extremities of the interior, running water and plumbing was laid down (a “luxury” one cannot do without!) and even telephone lines were brought in for those times when you just must check your emails. This remarkable grotto is used today by its owners and friends when they feel the need to spending a few nights away from it all here. Certainly, no other more dramatic setting could be imagined for candle lit dinners! Writer Adam Butler

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