- 25 years experience providing holiday accommodation at Lake OrtaHoliday Homes at Lake Orta

About Villa Gelsomina

The Project

In 2002 we decided we wanted to do more in the way of renting holiday homes, and after several false starts looking at renovating various properties around Lake Orta, we signed up for a plot of land at Lortallo, and worked closely with a great local architect on the design for Villa Gelsomina.

In 2002 and 2003, William's IT work took him to Milan three days a week, working for a large insurance company as the link man between London and Milan.  During this period he stayed at Vacciago (commuting into Milan) which allowed regular meetings with the architect during the all-important design stage, and dropping by the building site during the early stages of the construction, which began in October 2003.

From 2003 to 2005, William was heavily involved in the building work, overseeing every area of the construction and finishing, managing 15+ independent contracting firms.  William spent much time selecting the best furnishings and fittings from numerous suppliers in the UK and Italy, focusing on durability, practicality and simplicity derived from our experience of renting to date.

As a change management professional, William put particular focus on the dependencies between tasks, giving advance notice of attendance/delivery, and coordinating the building work across the multiple suppliers.  This avoided waits between jobs, allowing us to open our doors just 19 months (May 2005) after the first dig in the ground (October 2003).

William was on site at least every two to three weeks (more frequently in the final stages), and (in those long gone days of high international call rates) was awarded some rather large telephone bills for when he was not.

Purpose Built for Holiday Rentals and Stunning Views

The plan of Villa Gelsomina is like a boomerang, giving a degree of privacy to the outside space of each apartment.

The north wing (Paradiso and Ciao Italia!) faces north west, giving a stunning "full frontal" view of the island - I say view, but this is actually a picture that you cannot take your eyes off - whereas the south wing (Dolce Vita, Panorama and Ciao Sole!) faces west, directly across the lake.  The middle section (Dolce Vita's central terrace, the first floor kitchens, the ground floor second bedrooms) has a "full frontal" view of the Madonna del Sasso and Monte Rosa - which just happens to be aligned with a dip in the hills on the other side of the lake, thereby allowing far more of its immense glaciated parapet to be seen than from any other point in the area.

By a further coincidence, the great view (from Dolce Vita's bedroom and Panorama's balcony) of the 12th century Torre di Buccione just happens to be square on, and of course the whole villa enjoys spectacular sunsets and affords a panorama of the local weather - sometimes different in different areas of the lake!

Solid Construction in the Local Style

The main construction contractor was Edilcusio, the biggest local firm responsible for building several hotels, apartment blocks, and public and industrial properties in the area.  The construction of the villa uses 33cm thick walls made of interlocking and insulated clay building blocks, and local granite for the six columns and ground floor window and door cornicing, in the style of older local villas, with high quality aluminium window frames and double glazing throughout.  This montorfano granite is from the mountain which stands in the valley beyond Gravellona Toce all alone (literally "orphan mountain") was used for all the best local villas, once the quarry at the foot of the Madonna del Sasso precipice had closed, and was also used for the Duomo in Milan.  The columns were patterned by the architect on ancient local specimens, and the four balconies are single pieces of 8cm montorfano granite with matching supports, moulded in the local style.

The plots for the arches were provided by William (they are stretched cycloidal arches), and the custom polygonal shapes of the column capitals designed by William to match the non-square plan of the succession of arches.

The roof is a masterpiece from a specialist company from one of the villages at the beginning of the Domodossola valley (Bionda Legnami of Ornavasso), with beautiful exposed fan shaped rafters at the four "ends", required because of the non-square plan of the building.

The colour scheme was patterned on a local villa which it turned out had probably used a traditional colouring technique that had to be applied to wet plaster which we could not match exactly, however our painter achieved something very close through brush/spongework, and the shutters, which are of different materials and from different manufacturers to meet the specific situation of each window and door, are all an identical and familiar green.

The grounds are carefully landscaped with gentle slopes and ever changing curves to cope with the curious angles and considerable differences in level, and make best use of the space, with stone steps made from the giant boulders that were found on site in the heavily compacted glacial subsoil during the excavations for the villa.  The main path is cobbled in small red porfido from the Dolomites, in the traditional fan pattern (this pattern is called vaggera), with a "stepping stone" path in irregular shaped beole set in the lawn and encircing the villa (best appreciated in Google satellite view!).

We received many compliments over the years for the pleasing blend of traditional and modern in the design of the villa, and for the attention to detail in the interiors.

Fifteen Years of Delighted Clients

We rented Villa Gelsomina for 15 fantastic seasons, from 2005 to 2019 inclusive, giving about 1000 very happy couples and families from all over Europe and the world a wonderful stay in this superb location.  For many clients, the Villa was something special, a well-equipped home-from-home, pure relaxation, refreshing pool, surrounded by green wooded hills, with the twittering birds in the morning and occasional ospreys circling during the day, mind-blowing sunsets, and of course spoilt for choice with local restaurants.  It is no surprise then that many clients came back year after year, and we are proud to have created something that was so well appreciated by our clientele.

However, running a business like Villa Gelsomina is an enormous commitment in terms of time and energy, staying on top of bookings, looking after clients and maintaining the property and grounds.  When I first signed for the plot of land I was a passionate and rather energetic 43 year old.  Then at a certain point I suddenly realised I had become a not-quite-so-energetic 60 year old.  The lovely comments in the visitors books bring tears to my eyes every time I read them, and like my clients, I will never forget waking up to the dawn spectacle of Monte Rosa - and just having *that view* out of the window while I wash the dishes...

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