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Australian Family Hoteliers in Italy
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Australian Family Hoteliers in Italy
  Florence Travel News ( Press Release )

We are immersed in the peaceful, green countryside of the rolling Umbrian-Tuscan hills, five kilometres from Cortona, near Lake Trasimeno, where an antique villa stands out against the sky, completely renovated, with a simple yellow facade, a stone and brick wing, and a tiled roof. It is the Hotel Villa di Piazzano, first built in 1464, later used as a hunting lodge during the Medici period, and then as a convent. The hotel, with fifteen rooms contained within a single building, is part of a small hamlet with 10,000 square metres of park, a beautiful Italianate garden, a swimming pool, and avenues of cypresses and linden trees.

The building was bought six years ago by the Wimpole family, which has quite a story to tell. "My great-great-grandfather emigrated from England to Australia, where he bought a beautiful hotel: the George Hotel in St. Kilda, a district of Melbourne", explains Alessandra Wimpole, who manages the hotel together with her father John Damian and her mother Adriana, who comes originally from Rome. "My family operated the hotel in Australia for a century and then sold it in the Sixties. My father, a diplomat by profession who lived abroad for long periods, was always very strongly tied to his memories of home". So much so that after many generations, the family antiques, such as the grandfather clock, that looks magnificent in the Cortona hotel, were brought back to Europe. Signs of travel can also be seen in the eclectic collection of furniture: the chests of drawers dating back to the Eighteenth or Nineteenth centuries, the old lamps, the paintings and the prints collected from all the countries where the Wimpoles have lived around the world. Even an antique cot, which has been slept in by all the Wimpole babies for generations.
It may seem strange, but there is most definitely a link between diplomacy, the profession of the father of the household, and the family's hotel business ... "There's more than one reason " explains Alessandra. "First of all, you have to understand that a hotel needs a soul, and that the ability to be a good host, to provide good service, to focus on human contact, is not something that you can just conjure up on the spur of the moment ". In other words, the guests must feel at home. "And then, my family's diplomatic experience - my father has travelled a lot, from the USA to Italy, from El Salvador to Spain, I was born in Sweden and we have lived in Sicily too, among other places - forced us, or rather allowed us, to live quite often in hotels. This led us to go through many different situations, and allowed us to make comparisons - in fact, it gave us an invaluable experience. It also enabled us to cultivate a truly international vocation". All the staff in the hotel are English-speaking and this, in places that are frequently visited by English and American tourists, definitely counts as an added value. "But Italians are are quite used to foreigners", Alessandra adds.
There must be quite a difference between Australia and Tuscany... "Yes, the countryside is very different, but I find I can enjoy contact with nature just as much. I adore Rome, but I have to say that Tuscany is fantastic for the peace and quiet, the horizons, the different rhythms, and the calm that you can breathe in ... And the beauty of the Tuscan countryside, the monuments of nearby Cortona, the magnificent food and wine have a huge success with international tourists. Also, this is a good stop-over coming from Cinque Terre and heading South and quite a good base for visiting southern Tuscany." The city of Cortona, only 5 kilometres away, was founded by the Etruscans and still maintains a fascinating maze of old streets and medieval buildings. The highlights are the Museo of the Accademia Etrusca and the Museo Diocesano.
Alessandra's life, so unusual and international, certainly arouses curiosity. I ask her how she sees her own identity, being at the same time Swedish (by birth), Australian (on her father's side), and Italian (on her mother's side, and by language, residence and current occupation). Alessandra smiles "I am not fully Italian or fully Australian. I feel a real citizen of the world, always at ease in every situation but a little envious of the strong sense of identity that my parents and my daughter Lisa have. Her daughter is seven years old and already has a vocation for the hotel business. Will she carry on the family tradition?"
How to get there:
Villa di Piazzano is easily reached by car from the A1 Rome-Florence motorway, taking the Bettolle-Val di Chiana exit, and following the road from Perugia to Castiglion del Lago, which is only a few kilometres away. Alternatively it may be reached by train.
VILLA DI PIAZZANO (five kilometres from Cortona) Località Piazzano, 06069 Tuoro sul Trasimeno, Perugia Tel. +39.075.826226, fax +.39.075.826336 e-mail info@villadipiazzano.com Internet www.villadipiazzano.com

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