By Nicole Douglas-Morris
I choose not grandeur for my fantasy home, but a place to exist in solitude and quiet. A simple, one-storey house with whitewashed walls, embedded in a wild, rustic landscape.
Luca Guadagnino’s 2015 film A Bigger Splash is set on the remote Italian island of Pantelleria, a rocky outpost bereft of neon signs or tourist hordes. Much of the film’s drama unfolds inside and around a Pantescan dammuso, a traditional stone-built, dome-roofed dwelling (pictured above).
The film’s protagonists are a convalescing rockstar and her boyfriend, who are joined on the island by the rockstar’s ex and his daughter. Illicit liaisons ensue: furtive kisses in the kitchen and forbidden embraces in the dammuso’s built-in plaster alcoves. The house seems to invite such secrecy with its low ceilings, dark recesses and cool, dusky shade from the searing heat outside.
It is primarily a space for rest and respite, for wet, sunned skin to dry, for aching feet to be soothed by ceramic tiles. I am seduced by its homeliness. If anything, its plainness allows for the glorious surroundings to really take centre stage.
Guadagnino’s characters stroll across the stone roof and watch a pink sunset flood the sky above the ocean, wander its bountiful garden and dine outside in the balmy blanket of the Mediterranean night. The house appears like a natural child of the volcanic mountainside, clinging to its rugged land with no neighbours to be seen.
Guadagnino says that Pantelleria “became a character” and is “so present that it needs to be portrayed as something that has to do with the action of the film, not just as a backdrop”. Pantelleria speaks through the sun that beats down on the house’s residents as they loll by the pool, and through the angry sirocco – the wind that whips through the building and its gardens. The dammuso also acts as a conduit for Pantelleria’s character: traditional but fiery and home to dark, unexpected secrets. By the end of the film, one of the protagonists will be found dead in the pool.
Gifted with time in the house, I would fill the chequer-tiled kitchen with local produce and host meals on the softly lit patio, accompanied by the song of the cicadas. By day, I would write under the pergola by the water, with a possible surprise visit from the green snake that gets picked up and flung into a nearby bush by a character in the film. Or perhaps I would nap and read for hours, lounging on a rattan chair, surrounded by swaying pink bougainvillea and large clay pots.
I might find similar solace in this seven-bedroom natural stone property near the village of Gaiole, in the lush mountains of Chianti. The home is on the market for €1.89m. With a large secluded pool (perfect for skinny-dipping, à la Ralph Fiennes in the film), an outdoor Jacuzzi and pizza oven, I can imagine long evenings spent here kneading dough, harvesting juicy tomatoes from the vegetable patch and eventually immersing myself in the hot water under the Tuscan night sky.
That is not to say I would not be enticed by a more glamorous option, such as this 14th-century Tuscan property complete with three-bedroom main house, olive oil press, two-bedroom guesthouse, Merlot-producing vineyard and landscaped gardens.
At €2.95m, it is slightly out of my budget. But crazier things have happened this year, right?
Photographs: Alamy; Savills; Barnes International Realty