The Transformation of Rocca delle Tre Contrade

After a five-year search for a property in Sicily, Jon
Moslet and Marco Scire discovered the abandoned Rocca delle
Tre
Contrade on the east coast, and set about turning it into
the
welcoming and relaxing holiday home it is today

The story of Rocca delle Tre Contrade, a beautiful ruined
house
in Sicily turned into an idyllic 12-bedroom holiday
house, is one
of romance, but also of bloody-minded
determination. It begins 16
years ago when owner Jon Moslet
established a business exporting
little-known Italian wines to
Scandinavia. For this, he travelled
around mainland Italy and
also Sicily, where he was intrigued by
the number of abandoned
properties in the countryside - the
consequence of a decline
in agriculture and resulting economic
depression. 'I am a
curious person, so if I had time to spare, I
would take a turn
down a country lane and have a look. I thought it
would be
wonderful to find a property and restore it.'

Happily, Jon's partner Marco Scire, with whom he lives in
Milan,
agreed and together they began a five-year search that
took in
around a hundred properties. 'At first, it was an idea
rather than
a plan,' explains Jon. 'But gradually, we became
more practical and
honed in on a particularly beautiful and
verdant area around Mount
Etna, on the east coast of the
island.' 

The couple first saw Tre Contrade when viewing a neighbouring
property. 'We jumped the fence, had a look around and
immediately
knew that it was the place,' recalls Jon. 'It is
on top of a hill
with incredible views of the untouched
landscape and the Ionian
Sea. There is this atmosphere of
peace, well-being and freedom.
Even now, it feels exactly as
it did that first time.' 

The house, which was once surrounded by vineyards, was built
in
1850 by a family of aristocratic landowners who lived there
during
harvest time. However, it had been uninhabited since
the Sixties
and was in a terrible condition, with no roof and
trees growing
inside. The land, now lemon groves, had been
cultivated, but was
also in a state of relative
abandonment. 

Jon and Marco got the owner's details, but waited a year
before
making contact. 'The house was much bigger than we were
looking
for, and we weren't sure we had the resources to
restore such a
large place,' says Jon. 'Plus, we didn't know
if it was for sale.
It is a bit awkward ringing up a stranger
to say, "We jumped over
the fence into your property, had a
look around and were wondering
whether we could buy it." I
suppose we also didn't want to ruin the
dream. But we couldn't
stop thinking about it, so one morning, in
2005, I said to
Marco, "I am not doing anything until we make that
call."

'Apparently, the previous evening, the owner had discussed the
future of the house with her family and decided to sell. I
think
she saw it as fate,' Jon continues. Nevertheless, the
purchase
involved 12 months of tough negotiations. This
was followed by
two years of research, consultations with a
local architect and
acquiring the necessary permits. Building
work finally began in
2008 and lasted four years. 

Although Jon and Marco had to convert the stables and parts of
the building used for making and storing wine into liveable
spaces,
their principal aim was to preserve and restore the
structure using
original construction techniques and
materials. Among other things,
this involved rebuilding the
crumbling six-metre-high vaulted
ceilings using timber and
bricks as opposed to concrete, and making
the plaster on site
in the traditional Sicilian way, using a
mixture of black
crushed lava stone, red brick and white
sand. 

Because of its size, Tre Contrade has to be rented out to make
it financially viable, but it is only available to private
parties.
'It is not a hotel: it is a home,' says Jon. The
couple did not use
an interior designer. 'The prospect was
daunting, but the
decoration had to be personal. We knew it
would take time to fill a
house of this size, so when building
work started, we rented some
storage and gradually filled it
with flea market finds and antiques
from Sicily and Northern
Italy, as well as Lyon and Antwerp.'

These are mixed with modern pieces and sofas, armchairs and
beds
sourced in Belgium. 'The Belgian designs are traditional
but also
relaxed, plus the slightly crumpled and faded linen
upholstery we
chose creates the appropriate atmosphere. We
could have had dark
furniture and heavy curtains, which is the
traditional Sicilian
look, but I'm originally from Norway and
I wanted to reflect my
Scandinavian heritage, as well as the
travelling Marco and I enjoy.
Obviously, we had to respect the
context, but we also wanted an
informality that was right for
a holiday home.' The couple are
still slowly adding things,
including works by young local
artists. 

The land is also being finessed. As part of the original
restoration, Jon and Marco turned the overgrown area around
the
house into a rose garden and lawn, and a little further
down the
hill added a luxurious L-shape infinity pool. More
recently, they
have added paths through the lemon farm and
replaced an area of
diseased trees with 50 olive trees. Next,
they plan to extend the
vegetable patch.

Unsurprisingly, Jon and Marco are passionate cooks who relish
their Sicilian bounty - olive oil, homegrown vegetables and an
abundance of lemons. 'When we stay here - usually once a month
- we
love to cook and see local friends. Obviously with such a
big
property, there is always something to attend to, but
basically we
relax. It is a place of earthy things, a
wonderful contrast to life
in Milan'     

Rocca delle Tre Contrade: trecontrade.com

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