Melbourne trio offers holiday-makers the chance to live la dolce vita at their Italian villa

January 25, 2024

Melbourne trio offers holiday-makers the chance to live la dolce vita at their Italian villa

Villa Ponti occupies an enviable position overlooking Italy’s Lake Como.

A trio of Melburnians is living la dolce vita — literally.

Author Barbara Biggs, Foundation for Young Australians chief executive Jan Owens and her husband David James have snapped up a spectacular villa in the picturesque Civenna in Italy, overlooking Lake Como.

They spent a year restoring the eight-bedroom Villa Ponti, and have since opened its doors to holiday-makers for between 1000-2500 euro (about AU$1576-$3940) per night, depending on the season and number of guests.

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The spectacular view from Villa Ponti.

The Melbourne-based owners of Villa Ponti: Jan Owens, Barbara Biggs and David James.

Ms Biggs said she and her friends would also use the 1960s property with a jaw-dropping outlook as their own getaway.

They searched for the perfect Italian villa for four years, after falling in love with the country and its people, and say they were “lucky” to find this one.

The Melburnians have restored the 1960s gem to its former glory. This is the top lounge, complete with 11 windows offering lake views.

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The villa features multiple living areas, including this 16-seat dining room.

“We actually put a deposit on one property north of Rome, waited nine months for settlement and the notary said there was a problem with Australians buying in Italy,” Ms Biggs said.

“That wasn’t the case, but we lost our 8000 euro (AU$12,610) deposit.

“The very next day, we saw this villa. As soon as we walked in, we just thought, ‘we couldn’t find this in Australia’. You probably couldn’t find it anywhere else in the world.”

The original 1960s sunken lounge with a “belly chimney”.

The bathrooms were largely intact when the trio took over the property.

The three-storey residence was built over two years from 1966, after being designed in collaboration with Italian architectural icon Gio Ponti and modelled on an ocean liner.

Also known as The Cloud House “because it often sits above the clouds”, the villa had been vacant for about 15 years when the Melburnians took it over.

The striking spiral staircase.

Eight bedrooms are on offer in the property.

Parts had sustained significant water damage and fallen into disrepair, including the “completely ruined” balconies, immovable window shutters, and one side of the building that had shed all its plaster.

Ms Biggs said the year-long renovation was sympathetic to the pad’s ‘60s style and involved knocking down walls, replacing floors, and restoring the largely intact bathrooms to their former glory.

One of the property’s two kitchens.

How would you like to kick back here?

Five of the villa’s eight bedrooms boast views of the lake and the other three, a cedar forest.

There are also two kitchens, multiple living and dining areas including a swinging sunken lounge, and 4ha of grounds that are set to feature a wellness centre with an infinity pool, spa and saunas from May.

Ms Biggs said the villa’s first guest was fittingly an Australian, who was travelling with American family, while they’d also had visitors from the Arabian Peninsula.

She said she would return to the villa in March, to live there and manage it for about a year, with plans to spend Melbourne winters there in the future. Video

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The villa’s striking entrance.

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