A cosy welcome in Vallefredda

Antonello Colonna’s resort in Labico is an extraordinary example of modern architecture and sincere human warmth

10-05-2017

A detail of the breakfast room at Antonello Colonna’s resort and spa in Labico – it’s available until noon. On the 27th of April it was raining so hard it called for a fire in the fireplace thus creating a very cosy atmosphere

I still keep somewhere a page from the Financial Times dedicated, some twenty years ago, to an inn on the hills behind Biarritz in France. A few rooms, hence a few guests, a few objects on the tables and shelves, and a few paper plates. Basically the patron left the guests be during the day and in the evening cooked open-view from a dining room that was also a kitchen. A paradise where you could rest, recharge. I experienced these feelings in Antonello Colonna’s resort in Vallefredda, just off Labico, at the doorstep of the Castelli Romani.

The two buildings are completely different, but they’re both surrounded by nature, giving a strong feeling of void, of isolation where you can destroy any negativity and start over. I arrived in Labico on business late in the night and left early in the morning but not so late and not so early that I couldn’t fully catch the spirit of the place. Should I ever decide to live for a week in Rome, I’d choose there, which is not the centre of the capital, but is some 50 km away, but suits me perfectly.

A portrait of Antonello Colonna lighting a Cohiba

A portrait of Antonello Colonna lighting a Cohiba

Were he to write a book, Colonna could title it Labico-Roma andata e ritorno [two way journey]. Born in 1956, he took over the family business on the 10 of August 1985 and then doubled in the capital on the 4th October 2007 at Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Via Nazionale. Antonello opened two places in one there, Open and Open Bistro, a choice that made him give up on the historic restaurant which was too small and suddenly too far away.

This was no farewell; he just needed an original idea. The answer arrived in May 2012: Vallefredda. Over 10 hectares of countryside, Colonna built a chameleonic building as it’s a setting offering one thousand possibilities, from presenting a car on the roof, to an art show, from turning it into a photo shooting set to an organic market, inside and outside the first building, which is basically empty.

The team at resort Vallefredda, left to right: Samuele Florio, Daniele Di Domenicantonio, patron Antonello Colonna, Enrico Betti, Matteo Del Brusco, and finally Fabio Pelliccia

The team at resort Vallefredda, left to right: Samuele FlorioDaniele Di Domenicantonio, patron Antonello ColonnaEnrico BettiMatteo Del Brusco, and finally Fabio Pelliccia

There’s a 100x25x1,5 metre plate that starts from the top of a hill and gradually moves away covering five parallelepiped-shaped blocks less and less below ground.

With the entrance is at one end and the spa at the opposite, there are twelve double bedrooms along the central axis with large windows overlooking the garden. The six odd-numbered rooms face east and the rising sun, the six even-numbered rooms face west and sunset. I stayed at number 6. If not for the fact that someone could walk past, as the outdoor space is accessible to all, I wouldn’t have drawn even the light curtain. Of course it is made so that people can’t look inside but it’s also nice to be able to relax on the big bed and look outside, waiting for sunset.

Two details above all: the tub in the middle of the bathroom and the two plugs for the light in the headboard, one per side: even when you leave the room, you just place the jack in the general plug and it gives electricity to the entire place.

A detail of the so-called first bridge, between the entrance block and the one with the kitchen and the breakfast room. This is the right window, looking from the entrance, facing east. The five chairs are a symbol of the continuity in the Colonna family. The first to the right dates back to the days of Antonello Colonna’s grandfather, then his father, himself represented by two chairs because of his two starred restaurants, and finally the chair dedicated to his son Andrea, born in 1984

A detail of the so-called first bridge, between the entrance block and the one with the kitchen and the breakfast room. This is the right window, looking from the entrance, facing east. The five chairs are a symbol of the continuity in the Colonna family. The first to the right dates back to the days of Antonello Colonna’s grandfather, then his father, himself represented by two chairs because of his two starred restaurants, and finally the chair dedicated to his son Andrea, born in 1984

It may seem trivial, but how many times has it happened that you plug in your mobile phone or computer, leave taking your card with you, and when you’re back the battery is still low? Many, in my case.

Less essential, but still fun, the pillow menu. There are four available on top of the many already provided. There’s an intelligent offer of a free bedroom if a couple decides to sleep between Tuesday and Thursday, only when ordering the tasting menu which is 150 euros each. Breakfast is superb, from 8.30 to noon. The lunchtime or dinner menus, as well as the wine list are all remarkable – but this is another chapter. To be continued on this website.


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