How to add a touch of Italy to your home

Tuscan villa against a bright blue cloudless skycredit

When one thinks of Italian interiors, a sense of timeless style, quality and perhaps opulence comes to mind. From grand interiors with richly carved furniture, luxurious fabrics, ornate mirrors, decorated tiles and lavish gold detailing – right up to the clean lines of contemporary urban design – full of space & light, designer furniture and modern artwork. Or perhaps what could be termed as classic Tuscan style says Italy to you – the faded charm of country houses and villas with all their character and romance – antique country furniture, exposed stone, wooden beams and baked terracotta.

Perhaps you’ve been inspired after a trip to the country or while scouring magazines or Pinterest – here’s how to add a touch of Italy to your home:

Tuscan villa interior with red L-shaped sofa and stone sculpturecredit

Old World Italian vs modern Italian

As we’ve mentioned, Italian interiors come in various forms from minimalist urban chic to traditional country rustic. Before you start introducing that touch of Italy to your space, decide which you prefer and which style your home suits best. Perhaps develop an eclectic look where styles are fused – sleek and luxurious with ornate additions such as a grand chandelier, ornate carved antique furniture or fine art sculpture introduced to a room. Or perhaps a grander, luxurious and lavish overall feel with touches of modernity in the form of a cutting edge designer chair or piece of modern art.

Marble kitchen island and counter-top giving a touch of Italycredit

Invest in stone

When it comes to adding a touch of Italy to your space, you can’t make a better start than investing in some good quality stone. Perhaps heavy-duty limestone floor tiles to create a clean, timeless look. Marble or marble-effect worktops are ideal in kitchens. Or incorporate stone accessories – marble chopping boards and pestle & mortars, for example. Small mosaic tiles are perfect for kitchen or bathroom splash backs. And decorative stone sculptures and pillars introduce an atmosphere of classical antiquity.

Luxe bedroom with gilt chandelier, mirrors and furniturecredit

Go ornate

If you’re going for the opulent look then the more ornate the better when it comes to creating the Italian feel in the home. Look for mirrors with intricately designed frames and carved furniture reminiscent of that you’d see in a stately home or grand villa. Opt for large rugs with elaborate designs, opulent chandeliers and decorative handles to doors & drawers.

Marble floored hallway with bright blue furniture and accessories in a Tuscan villacredit

Add some colour

When it comes to colour a neutral backdrop with striking golds, rich blues and reds work perfectly for adding a touch of grand Italy to your home – we love this combination of a bold chandelier, ornate gold mirror and the sumptuous sofa design. If you’re thinking country rustic, then it will be a palette of creams and terracotta with subtle natural tones introduced through stone, wicker and wood.

Renaissance-inspired bedroom suitecredit

Take inspiration from famous Italian periods

The Renaissance and Baroque periods are strong influences when it comes to Italian interior design. Craftsmanship is of great importance. Take inspiration from this principal and purchase the highest quality that budget will allow. When it comes to furniture and accessories, luxury and opulence is important when replicating Renaissance and Baroque eras.

Cypress trees in a Tuscan garden

Don’t forget your outdoor space

Outside is as just as important as the inside when it comes to creating a home that transports you to Italy. Structure is important with stone paths, trimmed hedges and sculpture offering a strong backdrop. Olive trees, figs, citrus plants or perhaps tall Italian cypress trees can be planted in pots at the entrance to your home or garden. These particular trees are very distinctive and classic Italy. They can thrive in the UK because they are a hardy, evergreen and drought resistant too.

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Italian glass jars

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row of vintage Italian glass jars

I’m always on the look out for nice kitchen storage jars – well, to be honest, it’s usually Justin who’s keeping an eye out on my behalf at the various auctions & markets he visits.

vintage Italian glass jar

He brought these beauties home last week – very superior in quality to my normal offerings! I know they were quite expensive, but he’s not divulged the exact figure as yet.

vintage Italian glass jar on its side

They’re Italian and date from the first half of the 20th century – 1920s to 1940s kind of era.

vintage Italian glass jar showing its paper label

They’re a fabulous shape – quite modernist. Remember that early black & white Flash Gordon series? They remind us of Zarkov’s rocket ship from that… or something out of the film Metropolis.

gold coloured lid of vintage Italian glass jar

We’re not sure what exactly they were used for, although we’re certain that they were on display in a shop or café. They’re large enough to hold a wide variety of products. Coffee beans maybe – or luxury chocolates. Perhaps even cigars?? They don’t smell of anything, but the lid interiors have a distinct staining – it looks a bit like coffee or tobacco.

gold coloured lids of vintage Italian glass jars

Let us know if you have the definitive answer!

22 Apr 15 | update: We think we’ve got the answer. The paper sticker is a tax certificate indicating that tax has been paid on the products inside – this manufacturing tax on spirits was introduced in 1926. The jars probably contained something preserved in alcohol. This would most likely be fruit such as peaches & cherries.  Thanks to Peter, one of our regular readers, for his information.

Cakes & Bakes: Crescia

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Slices of crescia with mini chick decorations | H is for Home

It’s Easter week, so we thought that we should make something that’s traditionally eaten at this time of year for this edition of Cakes & Bakes. We plumped for Crescia – an Italian cheese loaf.

Crescia ingredients | H is for Home

You can use any hard cheese – parmesan, pecorino and so on.

Crescia dough | H is for Home

The dough is simple to make and easy to handle.

Crescia dough proving | H is for Home

It’s baked in a tall tin so it has a distinctive shape, like a panettone – the smell as it cooked was amazing!

Baked crescia loaf in tin | H is for Home

A very handsome loaf wouldn’t you agree?

Crescia loaf | H is for Home

The bread is light and airy with a wonderful flavour. It’s traditionally eaten with cold meats. I’m vegetarian, but Justin volunteered to test this combination and tried it with some of his fennel salami – a perfect match he thought. It also works really well with various cheeses, olives, marinated vegetables, oil & balsamic vinegar etc, etc, etc. 

Slices of crescia with salami, cheese and salad | H is for Home

We can highly recommend this loaf – and we certainly won’t be waiting till next Easter to make another one!

You can pin the recipe from here to try later!

Crescia
A light & cheesy Italian loaf enjoyed at Easter
Cook Time
40 min
Cook Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 300g grated hard cheese (such as Parmesan Reggiano, Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano)
  2. 5 eggs
  3. 1tsp cracked black pepper
  4. pinch of salt
  5. 150g olive oil
  6. 150ml warm milk
  7. 1tbsp yeast
  8. ½tsp granulated sugar
  9. 600g strong bread flourHome-made crescia ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Put the grated cheese into a large mixing bowl
  2. Break the eggs into a bowl or large measuring jug. Add the salt & pepper and whisk slightly
  3. Add the egg mixture to the grated cheese, add the olive oil and combine
  4. In a measuring jug, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk, add the sugar and allow to stand for 10 minutes
  5. Add ⅓ of the flour to the cheese, egg & oil mixture and combine
  6. Add ⅓ of the dissolved yeast mixture and combine
  7. Alternate adding & combining the flour and yeast mixtures until it has all been incorporated and you have a smooth paste that comes away from the edges of the bowl
  8. Cover the bowl with cling film/Saran wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for at least an hour or until the dough has doubled in size
  9. Grease a high-sided baking tin such as a panettone tin (I used the tall bottom pan from my 3-tier steamer)
  10. Generously flour a work surface, turn out the dough and knock back before putting it into the high-sided baking tin and again covering with cling film/Saran wrap
  11. Allow the dough rise again until it has doubled in size (about 45 minutes to an hour)
  12. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas mark 4
  13. Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes away clean
  14. Remove the loaf from the tin straight away and allow to cool on a wire rack
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Pick of the Pads: Ski-lodge Luxe

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'Ski-lodge Luxe' feature from the December 2014 edition of Elle Decoration Magazine

For this month’s Pick of the Pads we’ve chosen this wonderful Alpine ski-lodge in Northern Italy owned by Laura & Maurizio Gasparini.

Cover of the December 2014 edition of Elle Decoration Magazine

It’s featured in the December 2014 edition of Elle Decoration magazine.

'Ski-lodge Luxe' living room sofas

This is no pine-clad monstrosity of floor to ceiling, orange stained tongue & groove. There’s no mistaking this chalet for a giant sauna!

'Ski-lodge Luxe' dark colours

There is lots of wood, but it’s this glorious backdrop of boards reclaimed from old barns. They have the subtle colour & texture variation produced by weathering & oxidisation. It’s not overbearing in any way.

collection of antlers above a bed

The silvery wood is complemented with furnishings in a cool palette of greys & creams.

bunk beds with cushions and furs

In fact, there are no bold flashes of colour at all… but it all works together so well.

'Ski-lodge Luxe' living room sofa

Natural light streams in through the huge windows and there’s the glint of metallics dotted around.

'Ski-lodge Luxe' decorative pieces

It’s quite pared back, but there’s interest everywhere – textiles, luxurious furs and collections of found objects. The spaces are so atmospheric.

'Ski-lodge Luxe' galley kitchen

What a wonderful place to relax after a day on the slopes!

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World Dolls Series: Italy

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'Italy' front cover from the vintage World Dolls series of books

We’ve crossed the border and travelled from Germany to Italy in the World Dolls Series – we’re certainly clocking up the miles! 🙂

'Italy' front inside cover from the vintage World Dolls series of books

The lovely illustrations are by Philippa Walters this time.

Map of italy from the vintage World Dolls series of books

Our guides are Lisa & Pietro. They’re a cheery couple, always singing & dancing. Pietro with his guitar & Lisa with her tambourine.

Gondola in Venice in 'Italy' the vintage World Dolls series of books

We’ve spent the last few weeks watching the hard-hitting & brilliant Gomorrah on TV – as you might imagine this is a more light-hearted view of Italy! We start in the North with its mountain scenery and work our way down to the hot & sunny South – taking in cities like Venice & Rome.

Lisa and Pietro dolls in 'Italy' the vintage World Dolls series of books

The pretty villages & harbours are much celebrated – along with the stunning countryside.

criss-crossing washing lines hung with washing

These narrow streets & steps are a classic scene that springs to mind when we think of the Mediterranean holidays that we’ve taken.

Procession of worshippers in 'Italy' the vintage World Dolls series of books

There are lots of processions & festivals too – and pretty whitewashed houses with painted shutters, ornate railings and flowers in pots. See, we told you it wasn’t Gomorrah.

Balcony with flowers in 'Italy' the vintage World Dolls series of books

Makes us want to pack a small rucksack and jump in a camper van. I’m sure they could do with a hand (or foot) for the grape treading.

Grape-pickers in 'Italy' the vintage World Dolls series of books

Join us next time when we’ll be in Austria.