In the rolling hills of Tuscany sits a charming set of mustard villas, sparkling pools, and acres upon acres of olive and grape trees owned by the Zingale family. The villas have been around for between 50 and 1,000 years; they’ve seen war in medieval times, weddings in the chapel, countless wine seasons, and hundreds of traveling families mesmerized by the undeniable beauty of the area.
The estate is situated above the enchanting village of Londa that dates back to Etruscan and Roman times. In fact, many ancient artifacts in Florence’s museums were found in these hills. Local foods near the villas include porcini mushrooms, wild boar, truffles, and incredible cheeses that complement the exquisite wines of the region. The property is a dream come true – an otherworldly getaway from the routine of everyday life. It’s no wonder that businessman Joe Zingale purchased it in 1983.
Joe Zingale started out as a radio station account executive at WHK in Cleveland. He partnered with associates to create WIXY radio and later invested in owning other radio and television stations. Joe owned the Cleveland Nets tennis team and even the Cavaliers for a short time. He invested in real estate all over the United States and with his cousin, Nick Mileti, built the Coliseum arena between Cleveland and Akron that attracted thousands to musical performances and sporting events. After collecting art and wines for years, Joe was semi-retired by age 50. At this point, he and his wife, Mary Jo, fell in love with the villa in the glorious pastoral countryside of Tuscany, Italy.
In 1983, the Zingales bought 400 acres of a working farm property in the suburb of Londa, 18 miles northeast of Florence. Amid famous artistic treasures and valleys where the Medici lived, this property included seven villas and became their vacation home. Not content in sitting quietly, they restored the villas, planted olive groves and vineyards and became immersed in the history and culture of La Toscana. The hill towns of Lucca, Siena, San Gimignano and Pisa were frequent day trips in absorbing the history and discovering the art treasures of Tuscany. By 1990, the couple was ready to rent out apartments in each of the villas to tourists traveling through the area.
Everything from special birthdays, family reunions, weddings at the chapel, and middle school trips have taken place at Villa Zingale. When one of the art schools from Florence visited for three weeks, they painted several rooms with faux finishes, decoupage, and trompe l’oeil lizards, books, dishes and maps. When a group of 55 Canadians rented out all of the apartments one summer, they celebrated with a huge party in the historic courtyards and a rosticciana barbeque. When one of the Zingale’s daughters got married, she did so in the chapel that was consecrated by Pope Pius VI in 1793 that’s attached to the main villa. Countless wonderful memories have been made at the Zingale’s estate.
Villa Zingale, the villa padronale, is the epicenter of the property. It includes living quarters with seven bedrooms, three baths, a beautiful kitchen, plus extra rooms for billiards, offices, a vinsanteria, and production areas. There are out buildings that house garages, workshops, storage, and wine vats. A pool and beautiful fruit and vegetable gardens add to the stunning property. This villa dates to the early 1600s and was restored in the mid 1960’s. It still displays original frescoes and ancestral paintings of aristocratic owners from the 1700’s. Abundant land has many olive trees and vineyards, and natural forests and grassland complement the property with each parcel designated for use.
Next door, a restored Villa Antica, dating back to the year 1000, has two apartments with four bedrooms and four baths and beautiful garden entrances on two levels. It is historically documented as existing as a lookout point linked to the protection of San Leolino Castle by a tunnel. The fortress castle of San Leolino was a stopping point for Hannibal as he worked his way toward Arezzo.
Separately on the nearby hillsides are Villa Paterno, Villa Poggiolo, and Villa Imovilla. Villas Paterno and Poggiolo are fully renovated with four and five apartments, respectively, and Imovilla is partially restored. All of the properties sit at a sunny elevation of about 1,200 feet. Behind the property is the National Forest of Casentino that provides hiking trails, scenic vistas and perfectly clear air quality. The Zingales have had a magnificent time enjoying their Italian property and are ready to pass it on to the next lucky family, institution, or school.