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TESTIMONIAL - Australia


 

Australia

Mibel Aguilar and Bill Farrugia, North Warrandyte, Melbourne Australia

When one first learns about Borgo di Vagli, it seems too good to be true. The opportunity to purchase a Fractional Ownership in this exquisitely restored hamlet in iconic Tuscany seems like a fantasy proposition that can’t be possible in this modern world and might seem like some elaborate hoax. The best way to see first-hand that Borgo di Vagli is not a hoax is to experience a Discovery Visit.

We first learned about Borgo di Vagli in March a couple of years ago and after email correspondence with Lee, we visited 3 months later in June for a week long Discovery Visit. What an amazing week – looking back, it was life-changing. Within hours of arriving, we were dining with owners in the hamlet’s Trattoria sampling Dina’s wonderful cooking and learning all about life at Borgo di Vagli – we instantly felt part of the family.

The owners happily shared their experience of Fractional Ownership, and how after so many years they really feel it is their home in Tuscany. I remember sitting in our Residence soon after we arrived and staring at how beautiful the walls, the ceilings, the floors, the doors all appeared, all lovingly restored to their original condition, and realising that this is what I have been sub-consciously dreaming about owning one day. During the week it is possible to experience some of the nearby Tuscan and Umbrian towns (eg that trip we visited Radda on the way down from Florence, Cortona, Perugia, Assisi during the week and Lucignano and Asciano on the way back to Florence) and we also went on the wonderful Winery tour at Avignonesi. And Monday night was the famous Borgo di Vagli Pizza Night which in addition to the 7 delicious pizzas, it was a social extravaganza – in summer you have to pinch yourself that you are under the stars in a hidden paradise sharing stories jokes and wonderful food and wine with like-minded friends from all around the world.

Before you visit the Hamlet, the practicalities of Fractional Ownership may be a concern, will you be able to take advantage of the 4 weeks, will you feel a negative pressure to return to the same place each time for a holiday, how does it compare to owning a property outright etc. A Discovery Visit allows you to immerse yourself in life at the Hamlet and surrounds, and decide whether this peaceful Tuscan haven is the opportunity you seek to retreat, regroup and discover at your own pace on your terms. It certainly is for us.

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We wanted to highlight our wonderful owners Mibel and Bill, who recently increased their interest portfolio at Vagli so that they can spend more time at the Hamlet and invite family and friends to join them too.

Our first stay at Borgo di Vagli was a Discovery Visit 3 months after seeing a notice in an Italian property newsletter. From the moment we picked up the car in Florence, the excitement built about visiting the beautiful hamlet that seemed too good to be true. But as anyone who has visited knows so well, the gorgeous 700-year-old beautifully restored cosy stone residences and the dreamlike surroundings were totally overwhelming – we had found our Tuscan paradise.

While it was very easy to make the decision to become an owner (and I would have loved to own 10 x 1/10ths), we weren’t sure how practical it might be to visit often enough to make full use of our share living 24 hours away in Australia!!!

So we became proud owners of a 1/15th interest (which gave us 14 planned vacation days a year plus unlimited space available vacations) of a one-bedroom residence category. However, after about 15 months (and two more stays) we decided to increase our share to a 1/10th interest (which gave us 28 planned vacation days a year plus unlimited space available vacations), not only to spend more time at our Home in Tuscany but to also allow us to invite family and friends to join us. The larger interest gives us that flexibility and we are looking forward to our first extended family visit later this year.

And now, two years on, physically I live over here, but I constantly daydream about being over there. I have collected every book about living and travelling in Tuscany and even several crime novels set in Tuscany. I pore over maps of Tuscany, Umbria, Le Marche and Abruzzo, planning several years holidays in advance – and then extend the horizons to different other regions of Italy and France and family visits back to Spain and Belgium.

Looking back at various holiday destinations, my warmest memories (apart from family catch-ups) are where we stayed for an extended time and got to know the locals and felt like we were part of the community. The Borgo di Vagli owners and staff are a very special community and they all make our home in Tuscany a very special place.

Phil Doran described it perfectly in his book “The Reluctant Tuscan” (what is the opposite of reluctant??, that’s me). From the moment you land or when the Frecciarossa crosses into the region, “Tuscany begins to work its magic. Its alluring charms and inexhaustible natural beauty seduce you and if you are not careful, you find yourself feeling happy for absolutely no reason at all”. Actually, you can never tell which of the million reasons has weaved its magic on you!

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Mibel Aguilar and Bill Farrugia, North Warrandyte, Melbourne Australia

This is for me!!!!

That was my email message to my husband and son after reading about Borgo di Vagli at the end of March and 3 months later we came for a Discovery Visit and signed up. I have been trying to understand why it was so easy to do so.

We live in a quiet hidden valley with beautiful views of the Yarra Valley, on a dirt road (!!) with kangaroos, noisy morning bird choruses, ear-piercing cicadas during summer and frog serenades so loud in spring that you can’t hear yourself think, not to mention the soft blanket of mists in the valley on crisp autumn mornings. So, why am I so drawn to Borgo di Vagli and Tuscany when I have the Aussie equivalent at home?

We both have European backgrounds, my first trip to Europe was in my early 20’s and I have been lucky enough to travel for work. I have always felt very connected to Europe and feel very much at home in Spain, Italy and France. For some reason though, I have always been especially drawn to Tuscany: as explained countless times by so many, it is the history, the people, the culture, the cuisine and the landscape.

My first trip to Tuscany was in 2004 for a conference in Siena. From the moment I saw the rolling hills of southern Tuscany from my hotel window, I dreamt of living in this entrancing part of the world. I subscribed to Italia but my next visit was not until 5 years later when we stayed for a week in a beautiful Agriturismo just outside Buonconvento. Another amazing window moment – we looked out over vineyards and Montalcino in the distance. Since then I have visited Florence and Tuscany five times and felt more and more that I wanted to stay. Toscana was getting under my skin and while the richness of the history and architecture in Florence is mesmerizing and pulls me back again and again, I dream of retreating to live in a secluded rural village.

So I came to Borgo di Vagli looking for reasons not to buy; basically, there were none. The sensual tranquility of the valley is overwhelming, the view of Pierle castle sends you into a dreamtime and the beauty of the restored 14th century buildings is exquisite. Yet the proximity to so many beautiful villages and countryside in Tuscany and Umbria means that one can be in permanent discovery mode from a real home base. I know Cortona will become a regular haunt, and I think extended trips to Abruzzo might be looming.

I felt at home at Borgo di Vagli as soon as we arrived with the welcome we received from Stefania and Daria, and Lee was a wonderful host. I tried to keep Lee guessing whether he had to do any selling, but I think I made it too easy for him (thankfully, as they are now close to full subscription). And meeting some of the other owners during our visit really confirmed to me all the positives of being part of the Borgo di Vagli hamlet community. An hour after arriving on Saturday, we were warmly welcomed at the Trattoria l’cche c’è c’è (and inducted by the last-to-leave group of Jeremy, Pat, Carolyn and Colin) and Monday Pizza night/morning was ridiculously good fun! Dina’s cooking is wonderful and we feel privileged that we can share the experience of the hamlet’s history with Dina, Tiziana and their family.

I aim to visit for a fortnight each June-July, which suits work commitments at this stage, but hope to be able to “drop in” at other times of the year if traveling for work. The seclusion and tranquility is like the softest pillow that lets you fully relax and recharge and I hope to come as often as possible. Buying into the hamlet is certainly a lifestyle investment, allowing me to realise a dream without all the hassles of home ownership in another country.

We are currently in Florence, just five days after leaving Borgo di Vagli. Normally when I travel I feel I need to learn as much as I can and see as much as possible in a limited time. But as soon as we decided to purchase, everything felt much more relaxed, I feel I am home and visiting the local areas for an afternoon out. The urgency of making the most of ones time in a new area has evaporated and a new peace has settled.

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Bruce Severns and Elizabeth Flynn, Melbourne Australia

We approached our Discovery Visit to Vagli with a sense of excitement and expectations of an adventure that might open up a new world. Meeting some owners over drinks and dinners helped to form the cornerstone of what was a very easy decision to become very proud owners. Several of those initial relationships have grown and we now have a number of owners that we are proud to call close friends. All of this was beautifully coordinated by Lee as the Master of Ceremonies and he has proved to be a good bloke (for a Pom).
Since becoming owners we have met several other couples during their Discovery Visits. Every one of them has been amazed by Vagli as a concept that has been superbly executed. Not everyone falls in love with it and that is ok as it isn’t for everyone. One particular family felt like a perfect fit but it took some months for them to decide that Vagli was an ideal addition to their busy lives as it ticked every box on their wish list. Now they couldn’t imagine not being owners so our walk into Mercatale for coffee and croissants was well worth the effort as it gave me a couple of hours to explain to them about the joys of being an owner at Borgo di Vagli.

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We are fortunate to have travelled many times to Europe, most particularly to Italy and France. As a result we subscribe to Italia (and France) magazine which we pore over as soon as it arrives.

In February this year we spotted a small article about Borgo di Vagli and it struck a chord. After starting to correspond with Lee to get answers to all of the obvious question, we discussed and confirmed all of the reasons why we have never gone ahead with a property investment in Europe. Yes, the 22 hour flying time was number one on the list. However, the more we investigated, the more attractive it seemed. We had already booked our Northern Hemisphere Summer vacation for June/July so decided to incorporate a Discovery Visit then. In the first week of March, everything was organised and then I had one of those silly (brilliant) ideas.

Easter was approaching and our plans had fallen through, it would be a quiet time for my work in Real Estate and Elizabeth’s schedule was also looking good. Then I found a very attractive airfare…Less than three weeks later we arrived at Vagli after a 37 hour door to door trip. A quick tour, unpack and off to Pizza Night! At about midnight Lee toasted our ability to stay awake, finish 7 pizzas and drink far too much red wine. We stayed eight days but the truth is that by our second day we were mentally and emotionally committed. It felt right.

While we had visited Tuscany a couple of times, it had been ten years since our last trip with more recent visits focussing on Lake Como and Sicily. The physical beauty, food and wine are universal attractions. Now we can slow down and really begin to explore the many enticing destinations that are close by. Having easy access to the train for a trip to Florence or Rome is really a bit of icing on the cake. Chiusi to Rome – 9 Euros!

While there are 100 reasons not to do something like this, that fact was actually an encouragement to move forward. The appeal of the location, ambiance, and of course the buildings all were considerations. Further weighting was given to the buy in cost, ongoing fees and the concept of “Space Available”. But the superb quality of the staff also contributed to our decision.  We were looked after like royalty on our Discovery Visit, and warmly welcomed back on our return in July.

One of the highlights was a visit to Avignonesi Vineyard for a tour of their impressive facilities . . . and the promise by Lee of a return visit for lunch (since honoured with gusto). Of course the next morning Lee and I had to walk into Mercatale for our morning cappucini and pastry, and to collect supplies for the troops back at Vagli.

Stefania is an absolute gem, while Daria, Tiziana, Dina and Simone all contributed directly to our positive experience. It would be easy not to notice all of the gardeners, cleaners etc but their efforts ensure that we all enjoy a very high quality of life during our stay. It is such a pleasure to be surrounded by smiling happy people!

The other people who influenced us were the other owners. Lee and Fulvio had both mentioned “Like minded people” and on that first visit we had dinner with three different groups of owners. On our second visit in July we met a fourth couple. We look forward to sharing many good times with these and other owners. Having watched the DVD many times with various friends we feel like we could have been in that video as their comments ring true every time we hear them. A warm Thank You to all those in the video.

After Christmas this year visiting my Mother near Chicago, we have already booked flights back to Rome so we can spend the New Year relaxing at Vagli, meeting new friends and experiencing Tuscany in winter. While it is unlikely that we will visit three times every year (hey, it is a LONG trip) our commitment to Vagli has already given us great joy and a focus for the future. We are both still working full time (Elizabeth is a lawyer working for Save The Children Australia and is a NED on three boards in the financial services industry) but see Vagli as a “feel good” purchase, lifestyle investment, magnet to draw us back to a beautiful place, and a place to share with special friends.

The best advertisement I have ever seen simply showed a Porsche with the tag line, “IF NOT NOW, WHEN?”  When applied to Borgo di Vagli, we couldn’t sign quick enough.

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