Torre Bisenzio Estate
Described as ‘Italy’s best-kept secret’, Umbria is a rural Italian idyll, a region of exceptional food and wine production, rolling green hills and traditional villages. Here, days slow down; a life of good food and quality time with friends and family that has hardly changed in 500 years.
It was this authenticity and character that inspired the owners to invest in Torre Bisenzio. A run-down former farming estate infused with Umbrian charm and tradition, over the years, it has regained its place in the region as a working organic farm.
The estate is dedicated to preserving the historic indigenous Chianina. The white cattle that dot the fields are an ancient breed, raised in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio for over 2000 years. Chianina beef is famed for its quality and nutritional value and is used to make the famous bistecca alla fiorentina premium steaks. Torre Bisenzio has been instrumental in increasing the population of the Chianina cattle in the area, and now boasts a 125-strong herd roaming the farm.
With 650 olive trees, 3 hectares of vines and 265 hectares of land (175 owned and 90 rented), the estate also produces red and white wines, a fragrant, high quality olive oil, and organic vegetables in the gardens of the Villas.
Guests can explore the heart of Italy without leaving the estate, spending hours wandering the olive groves and vineyards or visiting the farm and their wine production. Easy white tracks crisscross through the fields; a gentle walk through Umbria’s rural heritage.
History Of The Area And Our Estate
Four million years ago during the mid-Pliocene age (5.5-2.6 million years ago), this part of the Middle valley of the Tiber was covered by a shallow sea which lapped the sides of the Apennine chain. The gradual retreat of the sea had already begun by this time due to tectonic movements, causing a general lifting of the area. The origins of the city of Orvieto are believed to be a mass of tufa rock thrown from the large crater that is now Bolsena lake from the same volcanic activity. Recently Archeologists from the University of Perugia discovered the fossilised remains of Sperm Whales on the boundaries of our property, which is now on display at the Allerona Museum.
Today the property is situated in the ‘blessed triangle’ of the border between Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio, which itself is in the heart of the Territorial System of Environmental Naturalistic Interest (STINA). This occupies a vast area (44270 hectares) in the central-western part of Italy. Inside the park there are three distinct protected natural areas: Allerona-Selva di Meana, Melonta-Bosco dell'Elmo and San Venanzo. The area of Allerona-Selva di Meana is the largest (3,255 hectares) which is bordered to the south by the Paglia stream and bordered to the west with the natural reserve of Mount Rufeno, in Lazio and it includes the park of Villalba.
Recent history of ownership of Torre Bisenzio Estate:
- 4th to 15th Century – known as Tenuta Detta Della Torre de Oreste (the Oreste’s Tower Estate)
- 16th to 17th Century – owned by Count of Bisenzio, descendants of Count Aldobrandeschi whose family history dates back to the 8th and 9th Century. The most famous member was Guglielmo Aldobrandeschi, who lived in the 13th century and is cited by Dante Alighieri and Pope Gregory VII as the Gran Tosco ("Grand Tuscan”). Count Silvio had been the revenue administrator of the funding to build Orvieto’s cathedral between 1571 and 1582.
- 16th to early 19th Century – between 1573 and 1819 there was a church on the property named Ecclesia Sancti Ioannis Baptiste Turris Bisentiae, (Church of Saint John the Baptist of Torre Bisenzio). It was used to say mass for the souls of the family on August 29, the day celebrating the beheading of St John the Baptist. It was located adjacent to the eastern building, near the present swimming pool.
- 18th Century - the property was sold to Francesco Costarelli from Fabro, a big property owner in the area, who turned the church building into a granary. The sale was in settlement of a debt owed of 1080 scudi by Carlo di Bisenzio, who had been Consular Prefect of the Orvieto’s district during the Roman Republic (1798-1799). During this period most of the land was woods of oaks or uncultivated and used for the grazing, with a small part being used for vineyards.
- 21st Century - Neena and Mike Rees purchased Torre Bisenzio Estate in 2003, when it was in a state of complete ruin. It has been passionately restored to its original grandeur combining the best of local materials with modern design and technology. Part of the rebuild included investment into farm buildings raising the indigenous Chianina cows, together with 3 hectares of vineyards, 6 hectares of olive groves (650 trees) and an in-house winery.
Plans for development include further areas of vineyards and a new winery with a tasting room in Casa Alta.
All of the water on the property is sourced from underground wells, and the electricity produced by solar panels on the barns.
The whole estate is managed based on a strong sense of values and connection to the local community, including environmental sustainability with the estate and its produce being organically certified.