INTERVIEW AT TRAVEL MAGAZINE "BIJ LANDGOTEN" 2023
In late 2022, we were interviewed by The Belgian Travel Magazine Bij Landgenoten
Read the full article below
Charline & Kristof, how did the story of 'Il Nido Nero' originate?
Charline: "Like many, we came to Italy on vacation and fell in love with the country. First we discovered Tuscany and the more touristy regions like Lake Garda, Rome, etc. Kristof started harboring a dream of having a vacation home and quietly we started looking for the perfect place. First on our own in Tuscany. We came into contact with a Dutch-speaking real estate agent who took us on a tour of Umbria, the region next to Tuscany. We were immediately sold. She took us to all corners of the region and we discovered the region in a non-touristy way, which was blissful."
Meanwhile, you still had professional careers in Belgium?
Kristof: "Meanwhile, both of us in Belgium were indeed busy developing our independent activities, which required a lot of energy from us. Charline as an architect and I evolved from structural contractor to construction promoter. We often worked together. The increasing pressure at work and the birth of our second son caused Charline to slow down, and she began to delve more into the spiritual world. She got in touch with yoga and meditation. While I still remained very ambitious at work, I also felt that it was necessary to make a change in our lives, because the work that brought us together at the time was now pulling us apart. The idea of moving permanently began to come up more and more. The children were still small, so it was now or out. After much wandering around Umbria, one day we came across Todi during an excursion. The medieval town towering over the surrounding area had a huge appeal for us. We visited the city as tourists, but what we both felt was beyond description. It felt like coming home. Once again, we had a shared passion and goal to work toward. In 2017, we bought the olive grove outside the city, but with a phenomenal view of Todi. Here we now live in a Tiny House, awaiting the construction of our permanent home. By the way, our participation in 'Ik Vertrek uit Vlaanderen' can still be seen on VTM GO."
Pretty soon you then worked out a whole concept of your own, which led to 'Il Nido Nero'?
Charline: "Indeed, the concept of Ecodesign Cabins, Scandinavian-style Tiny Houses that we would plant down in various places in Umbria. Because our first Cabin was black, we called it the 'black nest' or Il Nido Nero. In fact, our concept consists of allowing guests to retreat in a minimally ecologically conceived vacation home, with all the luxuries, admittedly, but surrounded by nature. Our background in architecture and construction gave the personal touch to several projects we had in mind. In 2019, we found 3 pieces of land, each with its own character. The first, on a hill with 360° views of the Umbrian fields. We renamed that one "Il Colle Verde. The second piece of land was an olive grove: Pomonte, and the third we called 'The Ruin', because there was an old farmhouse on the property. Our plan was to move in the summer of 2020, but Covid and relationship problems between us forced us to shelve our plans. After a difficult year, we still decided to install our Tiny House in the summer of 2020 and at the end of the year we ventured out. By now, the kids had been taking Italian lessons for 2 years, and in school they were already prepared for a possible departure. I had already scaled back my activity as an architect, and we were well prepared, as we had successfully completed the Small-Scale Lodging course in 2019, to work out the business plan and concept in concrete terms. In many ways, our move meant a new life, a fresh start. During the spring of 2021, we founded the Italian company and built the first ecovilla "Il Colle Verde. That one is for 12 people and equipped with private pool. Meanwhile, I was teaching the kids, waiting for the start of the new school year. So we had time to integrate. Meanwhile, Kristof kept dividing his time between Italy and Belgium, since his company was still active, which was particularly hard on our family. For me, the total switch of work activity was a real relief. And above all, I was able to start expanding my vegetable and herb garden. What started several years earlier as 'SlowLivinginUmbria' became more concrete. A passion resurfaced. Pampering guests with our breakfast boxes with homegrown vegetables, fruits and herbs was an immediate success with guests. We expanded this with SlowBoxes, where guests have a choice of seasonal menus, with ingredients from my garden as well as local producers, but which they have to prepare themselves. This is especially convenient the day of arrival, when you don't have time to go grocery shopping. Central to this concept is slower living. Something many people crave.
Last year some other ideas saw the light of day?
Kristof: "This year we unpacked the 'SlowWeekendsinUmbria' formula, where short stays are also possible. The emphasis is on relaxing, connecting with nature, connecting with your friends, lover or family during a weekend or midweek and this all year round. In the summer and vacation periods, the ecovilla is rented out more on a weekly basis. For the more active among our guests, we aim for larger groups in the large villa. I am an avid e-biker and notice that cycling tourists also find their way to our villa. We have also already invested in Oldtimer Fiat500, with which we want to work out activities. So this is the more active part: 'ActiveLivinginUmbria'. Meanwhile, we tried to develop the other two sites, but problems with Italian bureaucracy and permits threw a spanner in the works. We put the Ruin and Pomonte on hold and are now working on other projects behind the scenes. I, in particular, am taking charge of this. That's my thing, seeking opportunity. We can't tell much about this yet, but this will remain along the lines of 'SlowLivinginUmbria' combined with water around Lago Trasimeno, the lake in Umbria! We also still have a plan to build 'Villa T' in Todi, in the olive grove where we live. This will be a modern rectangular villa, but with respect for local materials. This will be our family home, but here there will be 5 additional guest rooms and a multipurpose room where it will be possible to organize numerous activities."
Charline: "Next year I will link the activity of the guesthouses to 'FlowerFarming'. In Todi and 'Il Colle Verde' there will be a flower picking garden, where I will bring the flowers, herbs and the vegetable garden to a higher level. I will organize workshops on flowers, slow living etc. in collaboration with Dutch wellness coaches from various disciplines, as well as Italian ones. We also both have a love for brocante and vintage, and like to give the furniture we choose to decorate our guesthouses a second life. This also fits into the sustainable concept. So lots of plans ahead!"
"Soon my webshop SlowLivinginUmbria.it will be put online, where in addition to selling Italian oldtimers, brocante and vintage, we will also sell all kinds of products based on flowers, herbs and our vegetables. And of course the olive oil from our trees cannot be missed!"