On the Cliffs of Italy, a Fortress for Rent


Sitting 500 feet above the sea, atop a cliff on Capraia, Italy — one of seven islands making up the Tuscan Archipelago — is a restored 16th-century fortress built to house Genoan soldiers. After hundreds of years of raids and takeovers by the French and British empires, Forte San Giorgio is a testament to a bygone era of both geopolitics and architecture: The property includes a 66-foot-tall watchtower and is surrounded on three sides by stone ramparts. It’s also the rare Italian monument in which you can now stay overnight, through the London-based villa-rental company the Thinking Traveller.

An extensive renovation reconfigured the 37,000-square-foot structure into a (roomy) single-family home with 11 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, four main terraces and two pools spread across five buildings. “We wanted to make it contemporary while respecting the history,” says Hilary Riva, who purchased Forte San Giorgio with her husband and three sons in 2009. They added oak parquet floors and travertine countertops, as well as furnishings such as an Indian mahogany dining table, but left untouched the vaulted ceilings, which are covered with original frescoes, as well as a grand staircase rendered in volcanic stone. Guests can play badminton and drink cocktails made with figs and local Morello cherries (a small staff is included in the rate) or tour the rest of the island, which, in the off-season, has more wild goats than people, although the winding alleys of Porto, about two miles southwest, offer a few charming osterias. It’s also possible to go exploring without ever leaving the fort — a set of stairs leads from the reception area to the excavated remains of an even older fort, this one dating to the 13th century.

By Sydney Rende

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