Places Places

Postcards from Italy

Villa Lena, part agriturismo hotel, part artist residency, is a place to press pause – but for object and interior designer Albertine van Iterson, a trip to the property in the province of Pisa also meant a dreamy chance to reconnect with the past.

“One of my mother’s favourite painters is Piero Della Francesca (hence my second name Francesca) and she took us to see many of his works in Tuscany and Umbria when I was a child. It all made a huge impression on me and I wanted to go again now that I’m older to see if it would be just as magical as back then… And it was!,” explains Albertine. Along for the journey was her partner-in-crime Daniel Pannemann, publisher and editor in chief of Place Magazine.

Set on 500 hectares of woods, vineyards, olive groves and vegetable gardens, the rosy-hued 19th century property feels fresh out of a Luca Guadagnino film, all pastel panoramas and period charm – the whole year round. With five questions to accompany their visual travel diary, we follow their picturesque tour of the villa and the surrounding region, appropriately starring our Farniente collection.

1. Why Villa Lena?

I chose Villa Lena because it’s a combination of my three favourite things in life: nature, food and design. I can highly recommend the truffle hunt!

2. Best discovery of the trip?

If I had to choose, I’d say The Royal Victoria Hotel in Pisa. Located on the bank of the river Arno, the facade may not stand out, but while walking past the windows I caught a glimpse of the lobby. It had a black and white tiled floor and a red velvet Victorian chaise lounge. We snuck in to see more. The building is soaked in history and is really one of the most eclectic places I’ve seen with distinctive features like Art Nouveau decorations and frescos on the wall, Italian medieval architecture with domes and a tower yet also classic English staircases. The hotel’s prominent guests are as diverse as the building itself, from Charles Dickens, John Ruskin to the Rockefeller family, not to mention the many royals who stayed here while in Pisa. Its glory days are long past, but overall the place tells charming, sometimes even a little eerie, story. It was something between a Wes Anderson and an American Horror Story film set.

3. Most ‘Farniente’ moment?

At the end of the day, it was so calming to watch daylight turning into pink, orange and then a deep, fiery red above the Tuscan hills on the horizon. Once dark, the temperature quickly drops so we would move inside the San Michele building of the property, where we enjoyed our aperitif of local wine at the fireplace and admired artworks by previous artists in residence before savouring the great food served by Villa Lena’s visiting chef. After that, it was just a few steps to our room, and after lighting a scented candle we were off, fully satisfied, to dreamland.

4. Your approach to holiday photography?

For photography, I guess my approach is not having an approach. It’s all about the situations, spaces or landscapes that appeal or inspire me, I try to capture the best way I can to create certain visual memories. This is not necessarily linked to holidays, though, but in the everyday.


5. What did you most enjoy about local life?

The ‘nothing must and everything is fine’ state of mind.

Albertine van Iterson was born in the south of the Netherlands, now based in Berlin. She is an object and interior designer and is currently exploring painting and photography.

Daniel is publisher & editor in chief at Place magazine and Converse Cons ambassador. When not traveling around the world to skateboard or create stories for the magazine, he is based in Berlin.


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