Interview: A portrait on synchronising with the land in Villa Roberta
Step into the ecosystem and refuge that Roberta Manfredi has built atop a hill in the Province of Grosseto, Italy.
Having travelled immensely for work all her life, Roberta Manfredi decided to build her own refuge and ecosystem, Villa Roberta, which now sits atop a hill in the province of Grosseto. Her stunning home is an invitation to disconnect in order to reconnect with yourself, and your loved ones, but it’s also her manifestation of a life project to make Earth a better place, one refuge at a time.
The moment she and her husband saw the landscape, with its amazing view, they fell in love with this piece of property boasting 6 hectares and endless possibilities. Seemingly classically Italian on the outside, the house is contrastingly contemporary on the inside.
Roberta isn't a fan of extremely modern homes but also not of maximalist design. Her goal was to find the right balance between them; not too empty, but not too full. Her favourite hobby, as she laughingly recounts, is interior decorating, so she simply didn’t want to entrust the task of bringing her vision to life to interior designers or architects.
Roberta came from a family of 12 and it’s clear as soon as you walk in. Everything is designed to bring people together, as her overall inspiration was her huge family and her beloved friends. Her favourite piece is the 16-seater vintage Thonet dining table, found during one of her travels in Buenos Aires, that has hosted many Christmas dinners with her loved ones.
The idea was to create a community; to have the house full of friends, kids, and family at all times.
The open space and loft-vibe highlights both shared and private moments. She created it with the purpose of ensuring that while you can join in the fun at any given time, you can also step away and be private and find a spot where you can be by yourself.
Aside from its design, the house is an ecosystem in itself, well-known for its stunning landscape and vegetable gardens that were designed by famous landscaper Marta Fegiz. Roberta states that Marta was crucial to the whole process, as she herself was totally oblivious to plants and gardening in the beginning. Her interest in creating this ecological space also came with the desire to eat well.
The idea was to build a landscape that would have a very low impact on the environment and allow its visitors to reconnect with the ground that provides such rich sustenance. So every plant, every tree, every flower, fruit, and vegetable, was planted and cultivated with care. It’s an unforgettable pleasure to pick these fruits from the trees; figs, prunes, peaches, that are in bloom and you can eat fresh from the picking.
"When people come to stay for one week, incredibly, they simply stay on the grounds. They don’t leave! They feel pampered, they love the atmosphere; and that’s a great compliment."
Roberta’s lifestyle is led by the need to reconnect to the land: in paying attention to everything that she consumes but also to produce much less waste, whether it’s through the water, or cleaning products used.
When Roberta had started to build this home 13 years ago however, she didn’t know many things about creating a sustainable home. In that, Villa Roberta has always been a work in progress; something it shares with its owner. The house is a study in doing the best you can and always getting better.
You see it everywhere: from the special filter for the water, to the solar panels, the water heating system, the overall philosophy to lessen plastic waste, and the fresh vegetable gardens. This villa was and continues to be an interesting and rich opportunity for Roberta to let her imagination and creativity run wild, far from the confines of just the walls of the house.
Aside from making this place her own personal safe space, she desires for others to find their inner peace here as well– through the beauty of sharing the energy of the land and all it has to offer.