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Vinella Estate farmhouse on Croatia’s Istria peninsula

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In the jagged hinterland of Istria, hilltop villages rear up like rocky atolls amid the greens of oak, acacia and pine forest. From the one I’m on proper now, I can look throughout to the city of Motovun reverse. At dawn its medieval roofs appear to drift like a cloud metropolis on the daybreak mist filling the valley. In the early evenings, because the breeze on my very own hilltop picks up, bamboo lamps and festoon lighting swing backward and forward, and the chase of shadows begins on the lime-painted partitions of the Vinella Estate.

I grew up amid the streets of Zagreb, Croatia’s capital – and dwell there now, after a few years overseas – however have all the time been drawn to Istria, the north-western peninsula that dangles into the Adriatic slightly below Trieste. The remainder of the nation have a tendency to treat Istrijani as people who find themselves doing their very own factor, extra open-minded maybe, somewhat extra forward-thinking. This is a area that holds many private recollections, and legends that also have the ability to fascinate. When I used to be a baby, we visited our cousins by the ocean in Rovinj, a harbourside citadel as soon as dominated by Venice, and my brother tells tales about summers spent at music camp in artistically minded Grožnjan, one other of these hilltop villages.


Pool terrace at Vinella Estate

Samantha Smilovic

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The inside has all the time been thought-about a poor relation to the coast nevertheless it has a deeper enchantment, not just for the sheer spectacle of its rock-and-forest patina, but in addition for its mystic ley strains and historic stone circles – I do know one close to Bale that catches your voice in an odd, eerie means – and the leave-it-all-behind dropouts who’ve crafted alternative routes of residing deep within the bushes. In a small means, there are parallels with Arizona’s new-agey Sedona. Istria has an analogous maintain on Munich-born Andreas Dussmann, who first got here right here in 2001 and beloved the countryside a lot that he moved to the previous city of Motovun for 10 years along with his Ethiopian-born girlfriend Betty, now his spouse. He turned ruins into elegant villas for a global clientele and watched because the native meals scene grew in confidence, fuelled by a recent wave of eating places, winemakers and olive-oil producers. ‘There’s an Umbrian-style rusticity to it,’ says Andreas. ‘You still have a traditional sense of hospitality, of opening doors to strangers. Compared to the coast, there’s extra pure drama – notably alongside the Mirna river valley. And I discover the individuals who make their means right here are typically extra fascinating and impartial than those that stick with the seaside cities.’

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Hall with iron-cage lamp and amphora from Dalmatia at Vinella Estate

Samantha Smilovic

The couple finally moved again to Munich for his or her oldest son to start out college – Henry is now six, his brother Louis 4 – however the household nonetheless spend summers in Istria, staying at their waterfront palazzo in Rovinj and right here on the hillside. The Vinella Estate happened after a visit in 2018, when Andreas discovered an deserted hamlet between Motovun and the village of Kaldir which turned out to be one of many largest personal plots in Istria – practically 15 acres of overgrown terrain round a derelict farmhouse. During and after World War II, many Italian households residing within the area moved out, forsaking nation estates and villages that also stand empty and forlorn – little ghost cities with hollow-eyed, crumbling buildings. When it involves land possession, Istria is like an intricate puzzle, with many households co-owning tiny parcels. To discover clear-titled acreage is kind of a stroke of luck and even then, there’s lots of unpicking. It took Andreas many months and negotiations with six totally different house owners earlier than he may purchase the property.

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The restored farmhouse and pool at Vinella Estate

Samantha Smilovic

Over the following two years, he labored on the land and restored the farmhouse. An entry street was reduce in, and an architect from Pula introduced in to navigate Croatia’s strict conservation legal guidelines, together with a trusted staff of stonemasons and carpenters. ‘My main builder has a real passion for finding old materials,’ Andreas tells me. ‘He travelled all around Croatia to find wooden battens to match the exposed oak beams, as well as cotto and antique roof tiles.’ The pool terrace took practically 4 months to assemble, and concerned painstakingly slicing the stone and becoming all of it in by hand. Energy comes from photo voltaic panels and a warmth pump, the pool is chemical free and the winery, olives and orchards – planted out in response to historic plans of the property – are natural.

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Owners Betty and Andreas Dussmann with their kids Harry and Louis

Enno Kapitza

The interiors are impressed by the aesthetics of wabi sabi. ‘We’ve all the time beloved the idea of simplicity and imperfection,’ Andreas says. ‘And it seems to suit this space, among the often chaotic hillside villages.’ The couple set about sourcing world items by way of design outlets in Holland and Belgium: a carved picket art work from Sumba, fringed palm-leaf macramé made by feminine artisans in Bangladesh and iron chandeliers from India, which spent months on a container ship throughout lockdown. Cubist-like wall rugs had been purchased from a Belgian designer primarily based within the Marrakech medina. After a yr of social distancing and no journey exterior Croatia, it appears like a dialog with the remainder of the world. Sprigs of dried flowers and grass from the fields are laid in sudden spots. There’s a restrained concord, an austere stability to the uncooked area. The most private contact is the Orthodox metallic cross, a present from Betty’s household in Addis Ababa.

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Living room with a espresso desk created from an vintage Indian door at Vinella Estate

Samantha Smilovic

‘The sense of remoteness is liberating,’ she says to me. ‘Even in August the only sounds are the bees and birds, church bells on Sundays. And there’s vitality right here – for those who consider in that sort of factor. Three ley strains converge in Motovun, which could be very uncommon.’ Sunshine and birdsong draw me out to the backyard, the place butterflies flicker above star jasmine, shrubby germander and wisteria. A favorite stroll is thru the olive grove to the small chapel the couple found after slicing again the woodland (a stone was discovered inscribed with the date of 1614, the one clue to the farmhouse’s origins); their two kids desire to trace down indicators of the rabbits, wild boar and deer that cross by way of.

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Kitchen with iron chandeliers from India at Vinella Estate

Samantha Smilovic

The household stayed right here at Easter with Andreas’s father, scouting close by wineries for bottles of potent Teran and the morning market at Novigrad for fish. A 15-minute drive away is Konoba Vrh, for prosciutto, fuži (hand-rolled pasta) full of wild asparagus, and flurries of truffle shavings. Other instances are spent cooking within the open kitchen beside the pool, selecting herbs from the backyard, trying over to Motovun from the day mattress. There’s area sufficient for everybody and their ideas – this home on a hill appears to supply reprieve from a difficult yr.

Vinella Estate sleeps as much as 12 and may be booked by way of Scott Williams from about £4,740 per week. To discover out extra about Istria, please go to istra.hr

Keep scrolling for extra photos of inside Vinella Estate

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