Villa La Madonna, A luxury bohemian dream
Epitomising Scandinavian design, Swedish designers are renowned for clean architectural lines and the elegant functionality of modern style. However, the Eklund sisters are not about following trends. Their collection of guest houses and boutique hotels offer a wider aesthetic range, one that is more representative of the wonderfully eclectic design pastiche that is Bolon.
Journey to Italy where a passion for design and an impeccable eye for details clearly runs in the family, whose combined creative efforts have made Villa La Madonna a true labour of love.
Villa La Madonna, a timeless country house overlooking the Bormida Valley in Piedmont, is a place of great personal importance for the Eklunds. Many family memories have been made over the years, including the wedding of Marie Eklund to her late husband, whose family estate would later become her Italian home and the most exquisite boutique hotel.
While continuing to grow Bolon, their design company renowned for delivering flooring solutions to Designers and Architects across the globe, the call of the Piedmont countryside enticed the sisters to restore the villa to its former glory and preserve the family legacy.
The cultivated 16th-century vineyard is an amalgamation of the sister’s personalities and creative expression within the already storied property. Projecting their serenity and love of design and hospitality, time stands still at Villa La Madonna, where guests can experience the simple life of rural north-western Italy.
From Sweden to Italy . . . how it all began
The story began on train in South Africa in 1995 where Marie Eklund journeyed in one cabin while Björn, a man that would later become her husband, sat in another. 4 years later, they married at Björn’s estate – Villa La Madonna – with the Bormida Valley as the breath-taking backdrop. Over the next ten years, the vineyard flourished, and Villa La Madonna in its guise as a simple hotel was always full of enthusiastic guests.
In 2008, the couple decided to separate, the property was sold, and Marie moved back to Sweden to focus her love and energy on the family company, Bolon. As tough economic times followed in Italy, visitors to Villa La Madonna dwindled.
When Björn passed away in 2014, Marie discovered that Villa La Madonna was once again searching for new ownership. She felt a yearning to go back to Villa La Madonna for the sake of her children and to safeguard what their father had created in his 25 years at the vineyard. She was soon breezing along the gravel roads that wind through the many small local villages with her sister Annica by her side.
Returning to Piedmont was, in many ways, a return home. The people who had been in her life in the past were still there, as were the winding grapevines, the wonderful Piedmontese food and the gentle peaks on the horizon. The comfort and peace sowed a seed of an idea to restore and refine the vineyard and help it find its way back to what it once was, fulfilling the potential of what it could become.
“Villa La Madonna for us is something special and close to our hearts, and we want our Italian home to be the home to all our guests and visitors.” – Marie Eklund
As creative minds, the sisters set out to create the best possible hotel experience. With ambitions never lower than sky high, they were able to achieve this without limitations of having to conform to certain concepts and rules. For global travellers looking for a personal experience and a hotel with a story to tell, Villa La Madonna is the right choice.
“We have put our heart and soul into our family run hotel, and our passion for design and details reflects the whole feeling of our hotel.” – Annika Eklund
“Our guests enjoy outstanding, friendly family service, and genuinely feel at home while being away. At Villa La Madonna, it’s almost as though time doesn’t exist.” – Marie Eklund
Inside Villa La Madonna
The hotel feels like stepping into a luxurious family home. In today’s world, hospitality can be an overused word – what should be a tailor-made experience often comes from a cookie-cutter mould however not so in the hands of Annica and Marie Eklund, for whom the art of entertaining has always had a personal touch.
“Coming to our hotel should always feel like visiting someone at home,” says Marie
The carefully perfected interior is a retreat for slow living, with a restaurant and bar, and an outdoor pool. All this is alongside the Barbera grapevines, which provide the fruit for the decadent house wine. Listed on the global portal Small Luxury Hotels (SLH), it is a home-away-from-home, not just for the owners’ families but for anyone seeking some Piemontese bliss.
The sisters’ painstaking meticulousness and eye for detail can be seen as a common thread in everything from the key placed in your hand upon arrival, the beautifully decorated common areas, to the hotel’s restaurant and pool area in cool natural stone.
The villa’s 16 rooms breathe history without compromising on modern refinements and finesse. Personal and harmonic are the key concepts that define the interior finishes and when set against a backdrop of sprawling vineyards, the combination is breathtaking. Vintage bargains from the surrounding area are blended with carefully selected design elements, and the floors are – of course – clad with specially produced Bolon rugs in an earthy colour scheme.
Villa La Madonna also serves as a test ground for new Bolon collections and ideas, giving guests a feeling for what it’s like to have Bolon flooring in their environment.
“We like people to experience something that we have created, and by using BOLON in these contexts, we inspire people to see and use BOLON in different ways,” says Marie. “They get another insight into our products.”
La Dolce Vita. A day at Villa La Madonna
Famous for its exclusive white truffle, full-bodied Barolo wines, effervescent Spumante Brut and Moscato dessert wines, Villa La Madonna offers the best of Piedmont in the confines of the luxury bohemian dream and fully-fledged boutique hotel. Simplicity, quality, craft and community are the foundations on which Villa La Madonna is built. The tactility of every corner and element can be a subtle adventure in itself. Wandering with bare feet over cold, gently cracked terracotta floors in the morning. Tip-toeing over grass and gravel in the warm afternoon. Stepping onto silky smooth, woven and textured rugs while getting ready for dinner. It can bring another dimension to an already sensory experience of meditating, eating, drinking and swimming your days away at Villa La Madonna. All while breathing in the herbal scents of your surroundings.
Upon arriving at Villa La Madonna, there’s a sense of ease and abundance. It’s the small and unexpected details that truly make the experience like no other. Start a perfect day at Villa La Madonna by waking up to see the sunrise. From your own personal terrace, see the sun make its way over the vines and be mesmerised by the meeting of the sunrays and fog.
Before breakfast, enjoy yoga in the hotel’s yoga studio with beautiful views over the vineyard, or head for a refreshing walk around the grounds. Make your way to the communal areas and feast on a long breakfast. Villa La Madonna’s culinary offerings utilize fresh local ingredients and embrace Italian tradition. Indoors, guests can settle into the marble tables and red velvet chairs, or soak up the Italian sunshine on a sunny day on the rustic wicker chairs on the beautiful outdoor terrace.
Post breakfast, spend a couple of hours by the pool, enjoying a book or swim. The pool is in a truly special location, surrounded by rows upon rows of vines.
Head back to the piazza for a Piedmontese lunch, enjoying a glass of Villa La Madonna’s rosé wine or Spumante to complement the local cuisine. In addition to wines from around the region, Villa La Madonna has two hectares of vines surrounding the hotel from which their own wine is produced. Here the native Barbera grape is the star of their Barbera d’Asti. The hotel also works with small local winemakers to produce a limited amount of Barolo and Nebbiolo wine. While enjoying your stay, learn about wines from the region and taste some of the best in the impressive 400-year-old wine cellar which is protected by Unesco’s Heritage List.
During the afternoon, treat yourself to a relaxing massage before Aperitivo under the tress in the hotel’s piazza. Aperol Spritz will be flowing while the local wine farmer turned opera singer, Mario performs his favourite serenade. For dinner, La Mama serves up pasta dishes, doused in truffle. The Agnolotti Al Sugo D’arrosto is the perfect choice for Primi, paired with a glass of Barolo. At Villa La Madonna, you don’t eat to live but you live to eat.
And the next day, repeat!
Stay at Villa La Madonna