Lilac stories

A place in the sun

Milanese designer Luisa Beccaria is well known for the ethereal beauty of her flowing dresses, each marked as much by meticulous craftsmanship as by a barefoot ease. Not surprisingly, she has applied the same luxurious yet unpretentious ethos to transforming what were two crumbling farmhouses into a pair of casually elegant villas near Castelluccio, the eighteenth-century country castle of her husband, Prince Lucio Bonaccorsi Di Reburdon, in southern Sicily. With the help of daughters Lucilla (the co-designer of Beccaria’s fashion line) and Lucrezia (a stylist), the family has now made the properties available as vacation rentals.

Set near the Ionian Sea in the 3,600 - acre Vendicari Nature Reserve, the romantically vine-shrouded villas couldn’t be more idyllic. “They’re smaller scale, more “easy-living” than Castelluccio, but with the same detail-oriented philosophy as our designs,” says 30-year-old Lucilla, casually rolling one of her mother’s intricately embroidered dresses into her beach bag during a day by the sea. The Beach House, the former barn, is now a four-bedroom villa with a roof terrace and views of the tidal salt flats as well as Vendicari’s protected beach (a ten-minute stroll away through orange and olive groves). The second villa, Olives House, is about a mile away but conveniently near Calamosche Beach, considered one of the most beautiful in Sicily. “Both houses have the same colors - lots of cream - and the same outdoors/indoors feeling,” says Lucilla. “There’s bougainvillea and wildflowers everywhere, and fruit trees all around us.” The decor is rustic, slightly frayed, but somehow impeccably chic - the kind of insouciant seemingly unstudied glamour you find only in Cotswolds cottages or, yes, aristocratic homes; the kind that wear its pedigree lightly. Here, platform beds designed by the family function like couches; you can while away the entire afternoon with a good book. The kitchens are stocked with tomatoes and figs from the Bonaccorsis’ gardens and orchards.

It’s an atmosphere made for lingering. Just a few miles away is Noto, a grandly Baroque jewel of a town with rosy limestone palazzi and an imposing eighteenth-century cathedral accessed via a mammoth stone staircase. Buy a newspaper and have a refreshing granita at Caffè Sicilia, and afterwards, you get to return to living the dream - having a designer villa all to yourself . They’re smaller scale, more “easy-living” than Castelluccio, but with the same detail-oriented philosophy as our designs.