Meet the owner: La Blanche
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A&K: What inspired you to create La Blanche, and have you overseen any similar projects before?
Owner: What inspired us above all was the place, which is magical. The marble used was entirely found on site. We wanted to build a house that is totally open to the outside, to enjoy the beautiful nature and the view. In order to open up the house completely, we chose large sliding windows as well as a sunroof that allows guests to sleep under the stars while indoors. To our knowledge, this is the first house in the world with a fully opening roof.
Q: What attracted you to this particular part of Tuscany?
A: The Lucca area has become the most popular part of the Tuscan province due to the beauty of the city, and its proximity to airports and the sea. We had this intuition 20 years ago, when we came to settle in Italy, and we are delighted with how it’s turned out.
Q: The design of the villa both inside and out is striking. Could you explain a little bit about how you devised it, and with whom you collaborated?
A: The architectural design is minimal, but with a lot of character. We have taken colours from nature, including poppy red, and yellow such as that of the mimosa flower. The shutters recall the closures of the old Tuscan haylofts, made at the time in wood but here translated into metal. All this was realised by local companies. Inside and outside, the architecture and most of the furniture was designed by us. My wife, Donia Maaoui, made the paintings and all the bronze sculptures.
Q: The property commands a dramatic hilltop position. Did the location pose any unique challenges in the design or construction phase?
A: It was not easy to get the lorries through for the construction site. All the concrete had to be made by hand, and the earthworks producing using small machines.
Q: From conception to being guest-ready, how long did construction take?
A: The construction of La Blanche took about nine years in total, with two interruptions of more-or-less two years. It is one of the few contemporary houses on the Tuscan hills.
Q: What is your favourite feature inside the villa?
A: I mainly love the magical atmosphere. The light passing through the shutters, even in rainy weather, makes us feel as if we are outside. Then there is the ubiquitous view of nature and Lucca. Not forgetting the modern technology, which includes a 64-inch Android TV and home cinema.
Q: …and what is your favourite feature outside?
A: I have many favourites. Certainly the views, the terraces, the swimming pool – which is 26-metres long and allows you to really swim – the hydro-massage, the gazebo in the middle of the olive trees, and the luminous, heated bathtub. You can put on music, even in the swimming pool, all managed by your mobile phone; and there is wifi connection everywhere, including on the terraces.
Q: When are the best times of year to stay?
A: The hottest and most beautiful time of the year is of course July—August. During July, there is the Lucca Summer Festival, which is very famous and plays host to international musicians such as Elton John, Pink Floyd and many more. But June and September are certainly as beautiful, and the garden is greener and more flowery.
Q: What’s the best view from the house?
A: All the views are spectacular; you can see the Apennine Mountains as well the attractive hills and city of Lucca. We are on the closest mountain to Lucca and there are no houses within 600 metres. The estate comprises 10 hectares of land, and the tranquillity is absolute.
Q: Where would you recommend guests visit during their stay?
A: The house is only 10 minutes away from Lucca, as well as motorway connections to wider Tuscany. Therefore, as well as visiting the wonderful city, I recommend visiting the coast. There are three types of seaside to choose from. Parco San Rossore is a nature reserve 30 minutes away and features 20 kilometres of fine sand and pine forest by the sea. If, on the contrary, you like organised beaches of soft sand, umbrellas and swimming pools, there is the Versilia, and in particular Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio – about half-an-hour’s drive from the house. Finally, for mountainous and romantic seaside, there is the Cinque Terre and Porto Venere village, around an hour away by car.
On the other hand, if you prefer cultural visits, Florence is 40 minutes away, and San Gemignano is about an hour away.
Q: Are there any regional delicacies you recommend your guests try whilst here?
A: I would say that we eat well or very well everywhere in Tuscany, but I recommend the tortelli lucchesi and the bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Q: What would you like your guests’ first and last impression of the house to be?
A: We want our guests to have an extraordinary experience, and to enjoy being immersed in our world and our creations – from the architecture and sculptures to the painting and design. They can be proud to have stayed in the only house in the world with a fully opening sunroof. In the guestbook, what stands out to us most is that people felt as if they had been in paradise for a week or two (before facing the harsh reality of having to return home). Others rented the house as a base to explore Tuscany, but ended up enjoying the property so much they spent most of their time in it.
La Blanche is a six-bedroom property in Lucca in Tuscany. To book your stay, speak to one of our villa specialists today.