Travel Inspiration

Postcards from Villa Lena

A look inside the boutique hotel and artist residence Villa Lena, an 19th century villa nestled in the Tuscan hills. Villa Lena is a place where nature and creativity are celebrated and community is at the heart of every day.

Laidback luxury is the general ethos here at Villa Lena, a gorgeously curated boutique hotel that honours contemporary art and design, offsetting the ragged wilderness of the rural surroundings. Along with being at the forefront of modern style, the past is also glorified, what with the villa being in use and the conversion of the ancient stables into beautiful rooms, here it feels that the classical and contemporary are in harmony. 

Villa Lena is owned and run by contemporary art professional Lena Evstafieva and her music producer husband Jérôme Hadey, who set up the estate in 2007 along with the Parisian multifaceted curator of creative spaces Lionel Bensemoun, responsible for the 3,000-sq meter living space Le Consulat in Paris and recently added another string to his bow with La Folie Barbizon near Fontainebleau. Designed by Paris-based Clarisse Demory, the rooms and common areas in the fattoria (ancient stables) are simplistic, but adorned with beautiful sourced antiques and works done by the artists over the years (each creative leaves a trace to the villa art collection). The spaces inhabit a beautiful equilibrium of simple calm and carefully curated, becoming inspiring spaces primed for recharging. 

Villa Lena was built at the end of the 18th century by Ferrini Del Frate. There are frescoed ceilings, shimmering chandeliers, a grand staircase that leads to a balcony primed for a Shakespearean love-story, alpine dressers, artisan lamps, a little chapel, music room, dining room, the ultimate French-doors which back onto the villa garden - pure theatre. If you clamber to the top, you will reach either of the two towers which are joined by a long balcony, the ultimate viewpoint for dusk and dawn. 


"After a short train journey, I am in the passenger seat of a Land Rover Defender, the wind between my wings as we traverse through an evergreen sea of cypress trees to our destination – Villa Lena. Although one of the smallest villas in Tuscany, it is undoubtedly a place of great inspiration in Europe to young contemporary artists, a 500-hectare estate that is the ultimate playground for dreamers. Combining a hotel, farm-to-table restaurant and an artist residency housed within a formidable 19th century villa, here we have a Luca Guadanigno fever dream." 


"So what does a day at this beguiling artists retreat look like? To begin with, it is a swim in one of two beautiful pools on the San Michele estate. No better way to start the day than in a blue lagoon under a cloudless sky. Breakfast is cantucci (biscotti) and espresso, freshly squeezed orange juice, boiled eggs, Greek Yoghurt, fruit, maybe Manchego and prosciutto. Then time for a wilderness ramble on the estate, down to the woods or to the orto (vegetable garden) where there is everything from zucchini, basil, tomatoes, rucola and beetroot, to dahlias, cosmos and marigolds. Sustainability and farm-to-table cooking is at the heart of Villa Lena, where they also make their own wine and olive oil."


"The residency runs from April to October with multi-disciplinary creatives changing monthly. Some of the artists there are florist and fiddler Stuart Fenwick from Northumberland, Australian choreographer Zoë Bastin and American songwriter Megan Diana. Each artist has use of a large converted farm building for a studio, a space to play, talk and create. I attend one of Fenwick’s workshops, where a group of us help craft an installation piece out of bamboo from the estate for his studio."


"The restaurant has swooning views down into the valley. We eat delicious tomato and burrata salad with basil from the Orto, Chickpea fritters, seabass with salsa verde, crispy potatoes, ragu, aubergine and ricotta orecchiette, followed by pistachio gelato and ghost stories under the stars."

Written by Issy Carr for Villa Lena.

Photography by Daniele Civetta, Henrik Lundell, Niklas Adrian Vindelev & Frederik Vercruysse