Tucked away in the idyllic countryside of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna, the historic Casa Maria Luigia is stellar chef Massimo Bottura’s and Lara Gilmore’s cozy home away from home. Andiamo!
Massimo Bottura is a busy man. A very busy man. The acclaimed chef owns and operates restaurants in his hometown of Modena. He is a partner in many prestigious international culinary ventures. Well aware of the realities of our times, the philanthropist also wages a relentless battle against food waste through Food for Soul, a non-profit organization he co-founded with wife Lara Gilmore. Yet, with his plate rather full, he still finds time to play hotelier!
Located a stone’s throw away from historic Modena and the chef’s three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana, Casa Maria Luigia is the couple’s latest take on la dolce vita. Indeed, in 2019, they bought part of a large 18th-century farming property, turned it into a casa for all to enjoy and named it after the chef’s mother, Maria Luigia.
“The word casa is very important because we have always treated this project as a home away from home—not a hotel or a villa, but a place to feel at ease and discover the Emilian countryside,” explains Gilmore.
Vast plains stretching all the way to the Adriatic, fertile fields with the Apennine Mountains serving as backdrops… This beautifully diverse land also offers an incredible array of culinary and oenological riches.
SLOW FOOD AND FAST CARS
Modena is renowned for its balsamic vinegar, its Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, its tortellini, prosciutto, and Lambrusco wines while being part of the “Motor Valley,” the epicentre of Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, and Pagani car production. According to Gilmore, it is this contradictory combination of slow food and fast cars that makes Modena so special.
Meant for people who are passionate about food, culinary traditions, beauty, and art, Casa Maria Luigia is no less special. It took 18 months to renovate the original house, using almost exclusively Italian artisan materials and design objects such as locally made Attica ceramic tiles, Gucci Décor wallpaper, chairs, and pillows, as well as furniture from Paola Lenti.
“It is a big house, and our feeling was that it needed people to bring it back to life. So, we started dreaming about how we could do that. We began with the carriage house where the dining room now is. Once we renovated this space, the rest took shape naturally,” says the hotelier.
Glorious landscape, fabulous art collection, great food: no wonder people travel from around the world to experience the Casa! “We never take it for granted, however: it is all very humbling.”
MORE ABOUT THE CASA
– Number of rooms: 12
– An ultimate dining experience: Francescana at Maria Luigia. To create her 9-course tasting menus, Quebec-native chef Jessica Rosval chooses from recipes celebrating Osteria Francescana’s history.
– Curated activities: tours of balsamic vinegar, Lambrusco wine, and Parmigiano Reggiano production centres, and outings in a Ferrari, Maserati, or Lamborghini car, either on a racetrack or on the roads.
– On food waste: “It is a cultural issue more than a culinary one. If we think about how our grandmothers treated food, we can learn a lot about how not to waste it,” says Gilmore