When you fall in love with Italy, you fall hard, and you fall fast. This intoxicating land can take your breath away and fill your soul with overwhelming joy, all in a solitary second. Sharon Kilby meets British-born interior designer Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs and her husband Michael who have set up a property business in Le Marche.
Often, an Italian romance starts gently, yet very swiftly becomes an everlasting, passionate affair that envelops the mind, body and soul. This is when you experience the heartfelt desire to enjoy more and more of the dolce vita and the draw becomes simply irresistible. It’s no surprise that so many people make Italy their part-time home, or at least spend many of their regular holidays here. One couple who fell head-over-heels in love with Italy not only made it their home, but also launched a thriving property business sharing their experience and expertise with other families worldwide.
British-born interior designer Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs, husband Michael and their family had originally been keen to set down some roots in the city of Florence or in the heart of the wine-growing region of Chianti. After several visits it was clear that while Tuscany was and still is picture-postcard beautiful, it is also extremely popular and very busy in the summer tourist season. After a few extended visits to Italy, Dawn decided to explore a little further afield and following a tip-off from a friend headed east, to the lesser known region of Le Marche…
Authentic Italy First impressions were dramatic and, in an instant, Dawn knew this was the place she needed to be. An unspoilt, authentic hideaway, resting gently between the Sibillini Mountains and the Adriatic coast, Le Marche offers a tranquil yet vibrant setting, rich in culture and history, with some of the best wines and cuisine in Italy.
“We loved Italy and initially started our search in Tuscany. A beautiful region, but for us it had lost some of the ‘Italianness’ we were looking for. We were looking for authenticity. Within ten minutes of arriving in Le Marche I turned to Michael and said, ‘This is place.’ It has everything we were looking for – sea, mountains, rolling hills, medieval towns, vineyards and olive groves. It was not overrun with tourists and the locals were very friendly. For us, this was the real thing.
“I knew when we found our first restoration property that I wanted others to enjoy what we were experiencing first hand, but in a professional and hassle-free way. Appassionata evolved instinctively from our love and passion for Italy; we fell in love with the language, the people, art, history, food and wine. Le Marche has it all, and we wanted to find a way to share this piece of paradise with others.” With a shared vision of creating the perfect Italian lifestyle vacation, Dawn and Michael decided to pool their shared knowledge of entrepreneurial business, property development and interior design and create something magical, reflecting their life experiences and incorporating their strong family values. Appassionata was born out of a desire to offer a turnkey, affordable solution to international homeowners.
“We are delighted to offer something unique – a boutique family-owned fractional ownership business”
Investing in Le Marche Dawn’s background in property development and design combined with Michael’s savvy business acumen allowed them the opportunity to invest more than just euros into their Le Marche property portfolio. With the help of a team of local experts each house has been lovingly restored from a state of dereliction. Dawn’s project management expertise means that each property has been renovated to the very highest standard, where function and form work in perfect harmony.
Original architectural features have been preserved where possible and local materials sourced for the construction process. The finishing touches are truly personal and Dawn enlists the input of local suppliers wherever possible. “Collaborating with artisans and local craftspeople is one of the great joys of working as an interior designer in Le Marche. Over the years I have met so many talented people. For example, the wall lights we use are handmade by Alfio. I choose the design, size and colour and his grandmother makes the shades. Each piece is unique.”
Since launching Appassionata in 2007 the business has gone from strength to strength and Dawn and Michael have successfully bought, sensitively restored and fractionally sold four historic properties in Le Marche. Appassionata currently has over 50 global owners and just one remaining opportunity for purchase available in their recent project Il Riposo. To further enhance Appassionata’s Le Marche property portfolio, Dawn and Michael have just started the restoration of beautiful Liberty Villa which will be available for fractional ownership in September 2019.
Luxury travel specialist Firefly Collection, which offers over 600 ski chalets and villas across 74 destinations, has selected five of the finest winter addresses offering the ultimate in wellness. For the French Alps, this means entire spa floors, expert therapists on call to ease aching muscles, splendid swimming pools and steaming hot tubs, and serene settings to inspire mindfulness.
Chalet Marco Polo, Val d’Isere - sleeps 10-14, from 22,800 Euros per week Set in the heart of Val d’Isere, Chalet Marco Polo retains its privacy due to being set back from the road and at 1,000 square metres, there’s plenty of opportunity to find head space - either with or away from family and friends. The super-stylish main living area commands enviable views of La Face piste and watching the action on the slopes is hypnotic. An entire floor is dedicated to wellness with an indoor jet stream pool - finished in gold leaf - a Jacuzzi and hammam. The massage room - which enjoys a dedicated therapist on stand-by - sits next to an automatic hydro massage area. For those of a romantic bent who simply cannot tear themselves away from their beloved, the chalet gymnasium offers two of every piece of equipment, so a couple can work out together. SEE PROPERTY HERE >>> www.firefly-collection.com/properties/chalet-marco-polo
La Bergerie, Courchevel 1850 - sleeps 14, from 125,000 Euros per week Costing £20 million to construct and finesse, La Bergerie is understandably extravagant yet maintains a discreet presence just five-minutes from the heart of Courchevel 1850, neighbouring the Bellecote piste. Guests in the seven suites - each of which boasts a freestanding bathtub and rainfall shower - enjoy the expertise of a dedicated deep tissue massage therapist and a deluxe chalet spa, Technogym-equipped gymnasium and 20-metre swimming pool. The numerous staff, including chauffeur and butler, ensure that guests’ needs are anticipated round the clock and worry is a world away. SEE PROPERTY HERE >>> www.firefly-collection.com/properties/la-bergerie/luxury-ski-chalet
Firefly Collection founder Tim Latimer said: “As these five super-chic chalets show, a winter sports escape can be the ideal way to kick off the New Year’s resolutions of sobriety and self-care .Lavish and luxurious, they also provide opportunities for keeping - or getting - slope-fit, maintaining exercise programmes, rejuvenating mind and body with specialist therapies, and relaxing indoor or al fresco dips.”
Beachfront Family Villa with 74ft Jungle Water Slide on South Coast of Sri Lanka
Ranked Number One by Lonely Planet as THE country to visit this 2019, Sri Lanka has it all; miles of white sandy beaches and the turquoise Indian Ocean, ancient hidden temples, dazzling festivals, traditional tea plantations, a Unesco historic fort, a wealth of local culture and an abundance of wildlife. Meda Gedara villa nestled on the South Coast is also THE number one luxurious family villa to stay in whilst visiting this beautiful country. www.medagedara.com
Hidden within a unique paradise setting, Meda Gedara, a beautiful colonial beachfront villa in Dikwella delivers the ultimate in tropical luxury; a blend of Robinson Crusoe adventure meets Nicole Fahri elegant style. The spectacular seven-bedroom villa features impressive split levelled swimming pools and a heart racing 74ft jungle water slide, a yoga shala and unrivalled facilities.
It combes incredible natural beauty with sophisticated five star services. It can sleep up to 18 guests (10 adults and 8 children). Boasting its own private chef who lovingly prepares mouthwatering menus, attentive yet discreet staff, an al fresco Jacuzzi, a cinema room for the ultimate movie night and a kids TV room with viewing window for attentive parents.
Palatial yet elegantly informal, the architecture and interior fuse British luxury with intricate local craftsmanship. Each original piece of furniture or artwork has been handmade by local artisans or sourced by the English owner in Antique Auction Houses across the UK.
Guests enter the villa via traditional antique temple doors into an impressive hallway, flanked to the left by a majestic curved teak staircase and opening onto a traditional hand finished tiled floor. The spacious living room boasts several relaxed seating areas, and is styled with authentic furniture pieces.
Seven bedrooms (with an eighth available by converting the cinema). The layout has been carefully designed with families in mind. The ocean facing master suite with an en suite has an adjoining twin room that can sleep two children or blocked off and used as a separate bedroom. Two further master bedrooms with super king size four poster beds canopied with light linen fabric create restful havens of calm. Each with en suite and all three master bedrooms open out to a generous teak balcony where guests can relax on charming outdoor seating and take in the breath taking panoramic Ocean views. A fourth jungle facing twin bedded room with en suite has its own romantic Juliette balcony. An impressive triple tiered bunk bed room sleeps six with an en suite. A romantic garden suite with super king size bed, set within the lush tropical gardens offers the villa’s best ocean view.
At Meda Gedara, families will love the ample space for dining and relaxing whilst the beach offers a coastal and marine wonderland for adventurous children. The warm waters of the Indian Ocean are perfect for thrilling body surfing or an energising dip. The villa with its easy going vibe offers tailored activities for children from cooking classes, beach sand castle competitions, hermit crab racing, the thrill seekers water flume, cricket on the lawn, beach volley ball and tons of family games. Parents can while away the time relaxing on luxurious sun beds, enjoying yoga sessions in the private shala, sampling traditional Sri Lankan tea in the Umpires hut in the garden, snoozing blissfully on the colourful hammock set between palm trees or indulging in a pampering massage in the yoga shala with just the ocean waves as beachside tempo.
Sri Lanka has become the country to discover in 2019. With fabulous tuk tuk rides, markets to temples, amazing safaris to watch wildlife enjoying their natural habitat at one of the Island’s lush nature reserves. Grab a board and go surfing or simply sit back and indulge in the phenomenal flavours of the region’s delicacies.
Meda Gedara is an unparalleled hideaway for adventurous and sophisticated family holidays, glamorous group get togethers, yoga retreats, refined social gatherings, tropical island jamborees or to celebrate a special occasion; it’s for those who want to experience the magic of Meda Gedara and create unforgettable memories.
Meda Gedara, Dikwella on the South Coast. Local surf mecca Hiriketiya has relaxed beachside bars and Galle Fort is an hour away. The villa is three hours drive from Colombo International Airport. There is 24-hour security and free Wi-Fi throughout.
When to go: The best time to visit the South Coast is from December to April and July to September. Sri Lanka's position close to the Equator means that temperatures remain fairly constant year-round. For further info and high res images contact Hannah@medagedara.com or +44 (0)7785 776591 or visit >>> www.medagedara.com
Leeu Estates named South Africa’s Leading Wine Country Hotel by World Travel Awards for second year running
For the second year running, World Travel Awards has named Leeu Estates, the Leeu Collection’s flagship property located in Franschhoek, as South Africa’s Leading Wine Country Hotel. The award was announced at the glamorous black-tie Gala Ceremony that celebrated all the African winners in Durban, South Africa.
Given the country’s reputation as a wine holiday destination, Leeu Estates had to fight off strong competition to take South Africa’s Leading Wine Country Hotel 2018 award. The World Travel Awards, which this year celebrate their 25th anniversary of honouring excellence in the international hospitality industry, are voted for by travel and tourism professionals, as well as business and leisure travellers worldwide.
Leeu Estates, which opened in June 2016, is a luxury boutique property situated in the Cape Winelands. Located between the mountain and river with spectacular panoramic views, this exceptional property sits on just under 100 hectares of vineyards, landscaped gardens and fynbos (indigenous vegetation) providing the ideal setting for unrivalled escapes where guests can see and enjoy the true experiences of a working wine farm.
Set amid the vineyards is Leeu Spa, a wellness sanctuary that offers authentic massages and holistic treatments and Indaba – The Meeting Place a state of the art multipurpose event and meeting venue.
The Wine Studio, a truly immersive wine experience run by the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines team, whose knowledgeable tasting room staff guide guests through the finer nuances of their handcrafted wines is also located on the estate. Additionally, during the harvesting season, guests of Leeu Estates can sign up to help pick the grapes from the vines that surround the property.
Leeu Estates reflects the pillars of the Leeu Collection brand: superlative service with attention to the smallest detail; an award-winning wine portfolio, distinctive architecture and sophisticated design; inspiring art collections and manicured and detailed landscaping that reflects respect for the environment.
It all started as a personal journey for Leeu Collection’s founder Analjit (BAS) Singh, an international investor of Indian origin. Captivated by the Western Cape’s exceptional beauty and vibrant energy during a trip to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, he decided to buy a family home in the Franschhoek valley. The idea of a family home, however, soon transformed into what it is today – four historic farms joined to create a world-class hospitality and winemaking destination.
Said BAS “Our thanks to World Travel Awards for this honour, which pays testament to the dedication of the entire team at Leeu Estates. They have worked extremely hard to turn the property into a world-class hotel in the two years since it opened and this award celebrates their achievements, proving that all our effort has been worthwhile”.
NEPAL'S FIRST LUXURY TENTED ECO VILLAS TO OPEN ON 22 NOVEMBER
The Pavilions Hotels & Resorts introduces Himalayas Lake View: eight harmonious hideaways overlooking Phewa Lake
Boutique hotel group The Pavilions Hotels & Resorts has announced the opening of The Pavilions Himalayas Lake View - the first luxury tented eco villas of their kind in Nepal, and the brand’s second property in the region alongside the award-winning The Pavilions Himalayas. Accessed via paddle boat across the majestic Phewa Lake, the eight new tented villas are oases of calm surrounded by cascading rice fields and the Annapurna Himalayas. The unique open design of the villas provides unobscured views of the breathtaking landscape, allowing guests to connect with nature without sacrificing luxury and comfort. Mountain botanicals and a natural spring pool form the basis of a uniquely Himalayan wellness experience, while Nepalese and international cuisine is crafted using produce cultivated at The Pavilions Himalayas’ very own organic farm. Together the hotel and farm offer employment to the local Pokhara community, reflecting the brand’s dedication to true sustainability, encompassing community outreach and low impact operating practices.
Arriving at The Pavilions Himalayas Lake View is an unforgettable adventure in itself. Gliding across the picture-postcard Phewa Lake by boat, guests are mesmerised by the monumental landscapes and gentle rhythm of the boatsman’s paddle, before a short hike along a curving mountain trail brings them to their secluded lakeside haven. Jeep Safari transfers are also available on request, while the more adventurous can opt for a beautiful five-hour trek from sister hotel The Pavilions Himalayas.
Embodying the laidback charm of Pokhara, the eight tented villas capture the essence of a back-to-nature experience in a truly majestic setting, without forgoing the contemporary comforts and exceptional quality of service for which The Pavilions is renowned. Guests can choose from four Classic Lake Villas (40sqm), three Grand Lake Villas (50sqm), or the capacious Royal Lake Villa (82sqm). Each has been created using natural, local materials and features floor-to-ceiling, fully retractable wraparound glass doors; handcrafted furniture; and al fresco rain showers, blurring the boundary between the interiors and their lush surroundings.
The landscape provides endless opportunities to explore, revitalise and connect with nature. Days can be spent trekking the mountains, meditating, kayaking on the lake or joining guided walks led by a local naturalist. In between times, the clubhouse offers refreshments and local treats, while a team of therapists deliver rejuvenating wellness experiences combining foraged botanicals and traditional healing techniques.
Farm-to-table dining using ingredients from The Pavilions Himalayas’ organic community farm showcases traditional Nepalese cuisine and international dishes, while mouthwatering lakeside barbecues complete the camping experience.
“My partner Andrzej Adaszewski and I are very excited to launch the first villa tents of their kind in Nepal. As with The Pavilions Himalayas, our philosophy is all about giving back. We do this via our three Ws: providing local, sustainable Work to the village community; Wealth, as we reinvest 50 per cent of all net profits into life-saving, life-changing opportunities for the most disadvantaged children and young people in and around Pokhara; and Wisdom, reflecting our belief that we must protect our environment by operating an ecologically sustainable business model,” says Douglas Maclagan, philanthropist and Founder of The Pavilions Himalayas. “Guests will leave feeling uplifted after staying with us, and take something positive away through having left something valuable behind that helps to sustain our social projects. That is what The Pavilions is all about: the more you give, the more you get back!”
The Pavilions Himalayas Lake View is offering special inclusive opening rate of US$200++ (approximately GBP158++) per person per night, including daily breakfast; lunch or dinner; a programme of activities; return airport transfers; one kayaking/rowing session; and one 30-minute signature Ayurvedic massage.