By Britta Krämer
At the beginning of 2012 Sabine and Christian Blumrath take a one-month break from their very successful and all-determining professional life and travel “to the end of the world”, into the sheer endless expanse of Patagonia. They face limitless horizons with amazement, enjoy the wild silence of starry nights and experience the essence of ancient traditions. And they come to rest, and the rest creates the space for a great, urgent question: Does our life fulfill us? Patagonia becomes the midwife of a great decision: Get out – and dare a new beginning. Out of the stressful, externally determined everyday life, into a shared dream, which had been slumbering in the subconscious for years and whose time had now come: their own little Bed & Breakfast in Italy. The couple courageously walked into action – encouraged by three already grown-up children. Only a few months after their return from South America, the Blumraths bought a dilapidated estate and restored it: old country estate, new life – in the middle of the Marche.
Few know them, but whoever gets to know them falls in love: the Marche. Without making a fuss, the central Italian region lies between the Adriatic Sea and the Apennines and is inspired by the desire just to be. A hidden beauty to whom a friendly fairy seems to have put her magic cap on to reveal its existence only to those travellers who are looking for the true face of this untamed region. It is no coincidence that the name of the region is a plural word: its facets are as diverse as its identities: Past and present seem to exist here simultaneously and beyond space and time. It is said that the Marche are the quintessence of everything that constitutes Italy, a fine distillate of the Italian way of life.
Along the coast, the deep blue of the sea is omnipresent and shapes everyday life, traditions and the palates of the inhabitants. South of the bustling port city of Ancona, the wildly romantic Riviera del Conero is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the region, and the Frasassi Caves are a magical natural spectacle. Inland, soft lines sketch the valleys and hills of an almost archaic farming landscape. Forests, meadows and fields surround picturesque little villages enthroned on gentle hilltops.
The towns are authentic, not glamorous, but they are full of life and surprise with an impressive history, a rich cultural offer and a creative, urban atmosphere. The Marche are an unspoilt, quiet region, and so are their people. Modest, warm and with a natural penchant for hospitality. In the middle of this quintessence of Italy, not far from the village of Barchi, lies the old Corte Campioli estate and celebrates la dolce vita at its purest.
“We didn’t find Corte Campioli, the place found us. At that time we drove all over the place and looked at numerous estates. When we came to the Corte and drove uphill to the farm, we knew that we had found our place. There was this gut feeling that everything was right and good here,” says Christian, as we sit outside in the afternoon sun in front of the recently renovated Bar Corte and enjoy Sabine’s homemade raspberry cake and creamy cappuccino. Slowly the other guests trundle in, sit down with us, let the day pass in review, unpack hiking maps and reveal idyllic cycle routes and lonely bathing bays. In the kitchen, the coffee machine hisses and bubbles its ode to joy.
The Corte Campioli estate is over 150 years old. When the Blumraths bought it in 2012, it had been vacant for 15 years and was decaying rapidly. In collaboration with the architect Michele Eusepi, the local surveyor and local craftsmen, the property was carefully restored. Much of the original structure has been preserved and some new elements have been carefully added to the existing ensemble. The Corte Campioli is a harmonious symbiosis of contrasts: old and new, loft flair and exposed stone walls, contemporary design and traditional wooden beams. An old farmhouse with a modern twist – an expression of elegant understatement!
“For the design a stylish minimalism was important to us. The essence and history of the place should remain perceptible,” says Sabine Blumrath, who played a leading role in the conception of the interior design.
Listening to the stories about the renovation project, one is reminded of Francis Mayes’ novel (and house restoration saga) “Under the Tuscan sun”. An adventurous mix of dropout romanticism, intercultural crash course and tough Italian building bureaucracy – with a happy end. The mulberry tree in the garden has stoically accompanied the history of Campioli and those who sit down in its shade and listen attentively will be touched and inspired by its stories.
Corte Campioli opens in 2014 with seven differently designed rooms and apartments in three buildings. Depending on the guests’ needs and family size, they can also be interconnected. The gnarled olive tree in the courtyard is surrounded by an ensemble of buildings that are extremely harmonious in their dialogue with one another: the elongated main house accommodates – where the animals once lived – the reception and the airy, loft-like kitchen. In front of the former stable is the small, cube-like residential wing of the owners. In the right part of the house there are four holiday apartments as well as a large common room with designer kitchen and fireplace.
The newly built Casa Michele houses two modern apartments with loft atmosphere and each with its own terrace. The view and the tranquillity one enjoys from here are unique. The small cottage Capanna is a wonderful hideaway for two; the only neighbour: the mulberry tree.
Il Fienile, the traditional hay shelter, is like a spacious outdoor living room with a summer kitchen. Here you can enjoy breakfast, barbecues and dinner during the warm season. At any time of the day, secluded sitting areas invite you to relax and unwind. The Fienile and the adjacent Bar Corte are the undisputed favourite places and the communicative heart of Corte Campioli: here you can experience the real Italian piazza-feeling!
Behind the main house, the pool with counter-current system and sun deck is beautifully hidden and protected from view. From the long wooden bench you can let your gaze wander over the timeless landscape and sigh happily every now and then.
Giacomo Leopardi, son of the Marche, was a poet, philosopher and linguist and is considered one of the most important personalities of 19th century world literature. The extraordinary lyrical quality of his poems has made him a central actor on the European and international cultural scene, with repercussions far beyond his time. And: he was a passionate gourmet! Today, the National Library of Naples preserves the most valuable testimony to the culinary passions of Leopardi: In his very personal diary, the “Zibaldone”, one finds a neatly lined up list of 49 passionate dishes which, conceived as a suggestion for the poet’s chef, read like a culinary journey through Italy.
Perhaps Sabine Blumrath leafed through it secretly and was inspired by Leopardi’s “plate poetry”: When cooking for her guests, she reinterprets traditional Italian dishes, handles the fresh ingredients from her own vegetable garden like an alchemist, pulls handmade pasta into the length together with her neighbour Marinella and lets her imagination run wild. What comes out of it makes the palate rejoice and the senses dance. Christian lets his guests taste the finest balsamic vinegar and crowns Sabine’s culinary poems with the matching wine: Balsam for the throat!
A mild summer night. Quiet chirping of crickets. Happy laughter and the sound of wine glasses bumping into each other. Finally, there is a heavenly creamy Tiramisu. Tiramisu means translated: Pull me up, cheer me up! Yes, it really does! A nice holiday goes through the stomach.
“Our home is yours too,” you read above the front door. And that’s true. During the holiday season the Blumraths live on the Corte Campioli and are passionate hosts – with heart and soul and careful attention to the individual needs of the guests: communication, quiet retreat, joint discovery tours, absolute privacy. Everything has its reason of existence and gets the appropriate space.
Infinite horizons, starry nights, the essence of ancient traditions, freedom and inspiration. There is it, the invisible red thread that connects this idyllic patch of land in the Marches with a great decision in Patagonia. And its power continues, touches and enchants guests and hosts of the Corte Campioli and puts the test to the test: life is a lucky bag. Have courage, reach in and enjoy!
Text: Britta Krämer, October 2018