Terra Alpina is a 19th century farmhouse that was completely rebuilt in 2007-2008 and converted into six luxury apartments. The apartments are between 66 and 100 m2 each and all feature excellent bathrooms (many with en-suite) and kitchens. All apartments overlook hte valley and have either a balcony or a small private garden, together with shared access to a communal garden of 1.5 acres. Even by the standards of the Alps, the views are spectacular. Terra Alpina is located above the village of Gignod, 15 minutes drive from the city of Aosta in the direction of Switzerland. In winter, it is convenient for the major ski resorts of Pila (20 minutes), Courmayeur and La Thuile (45 minutes) and Cervina, Monte Rosa and Verbier (all under one hour). In summer, it is surrounded by beautiful walking country (the major hiking route from western Italy to Switzerland passes 300 metres from Terra Alpina), it is two kilometres from a nine hole golf club and many other outdoor activities are close by.
Local attractions: Aosta is an extremely historic city, with more Roman remains than any city outside Rome itself, including much of its original city walls. Aosta has always been the principal gateway between Italy and France, so there are numerous beautiful castles, such as Forte di Bard.
In the city centre, the pedestrianised main street, has endless shops and cafes and also links many of the Roman ruins with the main square, Piazza Chanoux.
During the summer holidays, there are performances, sound and light exhibitions and concerts in the Roman ruins (five minutes walk from Piazza Chanoux). There are also concerts in the many castles in the Aosta Valley, and frequent festivals of local arts and crafts including some beautiful wood carvings.
There are also carnivals that go back hundreds of years, food and wine festivals which demonstrate the cuisine of the Aosta Valley and organised adventures, such as winter hiking (complete with snow shoes).
Hi! We are Jay and Maria and we bought Terra Alpina as a derelict farmhouse in late 2006.
Jay: I am British. I grew up near Liverpool and now live in London. Most of my work is related to the car industry - I am a car anorak of long standing.
Maria: I was born on the island of Rhodes in Greece and now divide my time between Athens, London and Greece. My main job is designing and making hand-made gold and silver jewellery - my website is www.mariafrantzi.com. I am also a Canadian-qualified ski instructor.
Jay and Maria: We went on our first ski holiday together in 2000 and on our second holiday decided that we wanted to get seriously into skiing. After a few years, we decided we wanted a place in the Alps, and a year's searching led us to Terra Alpina.
We started renting apartments in 2009 and things have gone very well. We have made friends aroung the world with people who have come to stay and we now have many returning visitors. We already have quite a few people who have been back three times (including a couple that had their honeymoon in Terra Alpina). Currently, we think the record is four visits from two separate families.
The most common comment we hear is that people are slightly worried that Terra Alpina will not look as good in reality as it does in the photographs. When they arrive, they are delighted to find it looks bettter - thanks to fact we are not great photographers.
We have never had an argument with any of our visitors, and we always listen carefully to their suggestions. In the last couple of years, in responce to their comments, we have doubled the size of the private parking area, by excavating part of the hillside. This year, we have added hairdryers, wireless internet and reclining charis in the garden.
We wanted a place in the Alps and we chose Italy rather than Switzerland or France mainly because the atmosphere is so much more relaxed.
When we saw Terra Alpina on the internet, the estate agent said it had already been sold. A few days later, he said the sale had fallen through and he could show us the outside, but he had already given the keys back.
One walk aroung the outside and we decided to buy it. We didn't see the inside, but we assumed it was totally derelict. When we did eventually see it, it was a lot worse than that!
We bought it mainly for the view. Of all the places we saw in the Alps over more than a year of searching, nothing else had views that even came close.
Spectacular in the winter and lush in the summer, we are still slightly shocked every time we arrive after a few weeks away. Getting out of the car in the car park and looking at the panorama is still an amazing buzz.
Jay: I have been lucky enough to stay in some very posh Alpine hotels on business in Austria and Switzerland, but I haven't been in one whose views are equal to Terra Alpina.
When we started the rebuild of Terra Alpina, our intention was to create interiors that would do justice to the outside of the building and the setting. We used local craftsmen who worked to an extremely high standard.
We wanted to provide accomodation that had all the benefits of a traditional chalet (wood burning stoves, great views, a warm atmosphere), but with a modern twist. The interiors are light and airy - we did not want the pine cladding and the dark woods of so many Alpine places.
We were also determined that each room should be a decent size. Anyone who has stayed in a purpose-built French ski resort will know what we mean. We could have squeezed in a lot more bedrooms, but we wanted apartments that we would be delighted to stay in.
Obviously, we love skiing in the winter, but it is also a fantastic location in the summer - something we had not originally anticipated. It is high enough to avoid the humidity of Milan or Turin, but still warm - on sunny days, the temperature is normally in the high twenties (or high seventies in old money). The mountains around are groaning with fruit trees: you can pick as many cherries as you can carry from the local paths, and there are plenty of strawberrries, raspberries growing wild all around. We used to go hiking in Switzerland in the summer, but the Aosta Valley is every bit as beautiful and the paths are a lot quieter.