Boutique Travel - August 15, 2019

Umamma: Happy Accidents and Unexpected Details

By Roshan McArthur

This elegantly restored apartment in San Miniato was created by a Tuscan native who, by his own admission, has been away too long. Giovanni Settesoldi works as a creative director in advertising and, as such, has travelled the world. Umamma is the shelter he has created for his eventual return – and it has been seven years in the making. 

‘Umamma’, he tells us, is a Tuscan expression that means a moment of wonder, that feeling when you see something unexpected and your jaw hits the floor. And this property certainly deserves the name. Created in collaboration with architect Gabriele Evangelisti, it’s a converted apartment inside a 16th-century palazzo, once used as a stable for horses and later as a nightclub.

“During the restoration work,” says Giovanni, “when I was lucky enough to be home, I loved spending the evenings inside the house in solitude to imagine how it would be transformed. I used to put a chair in the middle of the room between dust and tools, place some empty boxes to shape the spaces, place some telescopic broom handles on the ground.

“So I simulated the room dividers that never would have been. Then I looked around, until some out-of-control neurons collided, in the hope that the accident would bring some ideas. So after many accidents, Umamma was born.”

Very happy accidents, it seems. The apartment manages to retain much of its original appeal, but with very 21st-century updates. The loft-like space features old-world industrial-style fittings, beautiful brick work, elegant arches, and a very cool pebbled floor. The large, newly-expanded windows drop away into views across the countryside.

And then there’s hidden plunge pool in a cave that’s accessed only via a trap door in the bedroom floor. The door is opened using an old industrial wheel once used to cut prosciutto. The pool is winning awards for its unique design – and it’s easy to see why.

The apartment sits in the center square of San Miniato, a medieval town, far from the crowds and famous for its white truffles and drama school. Situated halfway between Florence and Pisa, it’s a lovely destination in itself.

This vacation home rental by Giovanni Settesoldi is an unexpected place with unexpected details. To find out more about it, click here.