Life in fantasyland.
A few years ago, Anna Dello Russo, ex-editrix of L’Uomo Vogue and current creative consultant at Vogue Japan, was chatting with some English friends about the remarkable bounty of Puglia, Italy’s heel wedged between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Dello Russo, born and raised in Bari, Puglia’s capital, nodded knowingly as her friends extolled the area’s unspoiled splendor: the tarnished silver glint of olive trees, sea glass green waters and dark red earth, like bitter chocolate cut with peperoncino.
What surprised her most was their rabid interest in Puglia’s trulli. Like droves of other Brits, her friends were about to snap up the iconic limestone huts with their peculiar cone-shaped roofs. (If the Seven Dwarfs had been Italian, they would have set up home in a trullo.) Dello Russo knew there was a finite number of trulli, which were built some 200 years ago as farmer outposts and storage sheds. No other region in Italy has them, and in Puglia, they’re concentrated in the central hills that roll through the towns of Alberobello, Locorotondo and Cisterino. “The thought that these trulli, which do not exist in any other part of the world, were winding up in the hands of foreigners made me sick. I had to buy one,” says Dello Russo, at her recently renovated estate of seven trulli, Villa Villacolle—the Italian name of Pippi Longstocking’s home.
After two years of restorations, Dello Russo has just arrived for her first true summer holiday at Villa Villecolle. The heat is dry and soothing; the sky is postcard blue, and a mischievous breeze keeps whipping up her gray jersey tank dress. Her four-month-old toy pinscher, Maria Antonietta, is doing her best to not get stepped on. Her 11-year-old niece, Carlotta, flips through Italian teen magazines as she lounges on the leopard-print banquette. “I travel so much that when I arrive here, I feel like I’m truly in paradise,” Della Russo says.
To go from stone shed—no water, no electricity—to paradise demanded astute craftsmanship and a fashion editor’s eye. “We had to render the house functional, but the look had to stay that of a trullo,” she says. Architect Andrea Bricchi guided the process, which called for the dismantling and rebuilding of the hand-laid stone tops. The understated interior includes an eclectic mix of local market finds—worn embroidered chairs, antique crystal chandeliers, stacks of hand-painted ceramic bowls and pictures of saints and Madonnas—that make the 1,200-square-foot house seem as if it has always been in the Dello Russo family. Niches nestled along the back wall create a kitchen, two full baths and two bedrooms. Out front, Dello Russo, her niece and boyfriend hang painted wooden eggs on a lone olive tree. A small Pippi Longstocking doll is nestled in its branches. “This is what’s it’s about, this is what’s fun,” she says. “This is truly a place where you can let go from the world.”