Tuesday 28 July 2015


For many years I have spoken to friends and family about the idyll that was my childhood holidays spent in the French countryside staying in rustic farmhouses. With some of them it's become a little bit of a running joke. But I have always wanted to return to them, and as my own family has grown so has been my desire to recreate something of those holidays for them.

Memories can hold a huge weight of expectation. And rarely can recreations live up to what has passed and been coloured with years of nostalgia. 

During our recent holiday to Europe, I feel the closest I got to creating something of that magic for our children was when we stayed at The Mill House in Valsesia - a group of valleys in the north-east of Piemonte - about an hour's drive from Milan in the mountains. One of the closest towns was Varallo.

We arrived to a beautiful house that had been lovingly and thoughtfully restored in 2010. The owner used bio-architecture materials such as cork, wood, stone, brick and lime to help keep its original character. The house is thoughtfully decorated too, and includes features such as a bathroom sink made out of a tin basin and a shelves made out of wooden beams. The surrounding garden was lush with hydrangea bushes and other flowers in bloom, as well as a variety of herbs, including giant rosemary. There was enough room for the children to run around freely but it wasn't too large that we didn't know where they were. However, because there was a waterfall nearby we placed strict rules about not walking down to the adjoining stream without an adult. 

I would return to The Mill House in an instant. Below are some more details of the place. I'm happy to answer more queries about the place if you're interested in visiting. (I have a million more photos too! Very hard to edit down to just this selection.) 

The Mill House is over four levels. The top level is an attic, which has a mattress for sleeping, and the children loved playing up here. The eldest liked to escape here and play scrabble or write in his journal. The ground level, accessible from the top entrance is the main living space with seating that converts into bedding. It has views overlooking the garden below. The middle level, a mezzanine of sorts, has a bathroom and a daybed. The lowest level is where the dining and kitchen are located. The Mill House is on a steep block and the property inside is quite small with low ceilings, but from our perspective this added to the charm of the place.

In Sydney we live in a house with a lot of stairs so they were not an issue for the children. However, we all needed to exercise caution and common sense. 

The steepest stairs (as well as the most beautiful) went from the ground floor level (at the entrance) down to a mezzanine with a bathroom and a daybed.

The Mill House didn't have a bath, only a shower, but thanks to a large window provided a wonderful view onto the gardens and waterfall below. There were many thoughtful details throughout, including the copper shower head.

On the lowest level was a small dining and kitchen area. Both had a view over the gardens. While compact, there was enough space to prepare meals and host dinners for six guest reasonably comfortably.

On our second last day the caretaker came with a gift of cherries from his property.

We often ate at the table in the garden. The house visible in-between the trees was a neighbouring property (with a donkey who made noises that amused the children), however, we never lacked privacy. At night time we were able to see glow worms, which was quite a magical experience. 

Alongside the house there was a waterfall and stream. The water was incredibly cold - it was from the mountains, after all - but that didn't deter the children and they enjoyed exploring the area and spent a lot of time building dams.

There were some walking trails within a short distance of the house. One of them lead to another waterfall. It was a wonderful place to explore.

images the indigo crew

1 comment:

  1. What a find. It looks and sounds absolutely magical x