We travel to Bella Italia to hear the fairytale come true story of Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda. The Countess tells us how overcame early challenges and used her finesse to build one of the finest villa rental companies in the country: The Best in Italy.
“With an American father and an Italian mother I had lived between Europe and the United States until the third year into my studies at Tufts University when I decided to study with Smith College… in Florence.
“It was wonderful to be back in Italy, taking courses at the Italian university as well as with our Italian professors got me even more involved with the Florentine lifestyle. Part of the fascination was also meeting Count Momi Brandolini d’Adda. We were married just after receiving my degree in art history.
“My husband’s family had several homes both in the Veneto and in Tuscany. Since we certainly could not live in all of these villas, the question that continuously arose at the beginning of 1980 was what to do with these properties, complete with staff, beautiful furnishings, gardens and attractive locations.
“In 1982 we created The Best in Tuscany at a time when no one offered luxurious homes for rent in Italy or in much of the rest of Europe. Those traveling abroad stayed for extended periods in the various five star hotels and the wealthy did not open their homes to strangers or for earning money from their stately villas. Nevertheless, this outlook quickly changed when they learned how we had managed to entice various friends from abroad to stay in our homes for a month or longer… at that time everyone took longer vacations. One year later, in 1983, we started receiving invitations from friends and relatives to come and see their estates. In the process of staying in them and meeting their staff and were able to give them advice on how to make their properties enticing to future guests.
“In 1984 The Best in Tuscany became The Best in Italy as we then had estates not only in Tuscany, but also on the Amalfi Coast, the Veneto and Venice, Umbria and in the nearby Rome. However, at that time Federal Express did not yet exist nor did the fax machine. Thus having an office in Florence did not allow for quick response by Italian mail but only by telephone. For more than 12 years I would travel around the United States and in Europe to meet future clients during cocktail parties or dinners that were given by former guests of ours who loved to speak about their stay in Italy to their friends and families.
“By the year 2000 we had homes in all of Italy, accepting only the most luxurious staffed villas….many still owned by friends and relatives. Now that the internet allows for instantaneous communication we no longer are in need of presenting our homes through extensive brochures or by personally meeting all of our clients by traveling to the US or around Europe. We always have a faithful following of clients who have been returning to our properties for more than 15 years, often to the same villa, and have now enjoyed hosting the second generation of certain families to our homes. And they delight in meeting our second generation of The Best in Italy with my daughter Polissena.
“In the past 33 years we have had many interesting actors, musicians, heads of state, wonderful extended families and fascinating guests stay in our homes….from Sting to Anish Kapoor, from Tom Cruise to Robin Williams, Mel Gibson and Bette Midler. Many of them bought homes with us and then rent them through us to our clients.
“Our world renown chefs are often demonstrating cooking in our homes, we have organised extraordinary special events and celebrations, our many famous interior designers and historians frequently give lectures as part of the educational experience clients enjoy during their stay in Italy.
“Many of our guests have attended private parties and concerts with us, the Palio in Siena, or special programs with private dinners beneath Michelangelo’s David and private visits to the Uffizi Gallery, the Sistine Chapel or other museums and collections in Italy though the non profit Friends of Florence foundation that I founded in 1998 to preserve and safeguard the artistic treasures and cultural heritage of Florence and Tuscany for future generations. I shall always be grateful to Florence and to Italy for enhancing my life and this foundation is my way of giving back for all I have received. It is also a superb example of sustainable tourism for our many clients who visit the country and contribute towards restorations and conservation projects here.
“The Best in Italy continues to flourish and to provide the utmost personalised assistance to all guests who then become returning friends who we enjoy seeing every year to Italy to enjoy all the best aspects of life in our unique country.”
You can view some of the exceptional villas and learn more about The Best in Italy here.