Our interview with Trudie Styler
The English actress and producer tells us about her projects and her great love for Tuscany
Before reaching the entrance, where we are at once wrapped in the embrace of the cool courtyard which has lost none of its old charm, the landscape is as beautiful as the Tuscan countryside can get: a stretch of meadows, hills, rows of cypresses and hay bales while, with rolled-down windows, we speed past the Farm Shop’s pizzeria (open in summertime, and a recent addition to the Farm Shop offerings) the farm shop, where fresh produce from the vegetable garden and eggs ( white-shell eggs from Valdarno hens, the finest) are lined up side by side with the estate’s world-famous wines, jars of organic honey and elegant olive oil bottles.
“We just got three Foglie from Gambero Rosso this year, we produce around 6,000 bottles”, Trudie Styler’s clear green eyes curve in a smile of satisfaction. While she leads the way through her Tuscan home, she says: “I love this courtyard at the back of the house, we have dinner here when we have guests and family every night. It takes me back to my childhood days, when I used to sit on the steps coming down to the kitchen with my mom, shelling peas and cutting stems off the strawberries, on summer nights that never end because the weather is so warm that you seem that you can’t go to sleep, so you stay out. I remember that moment as a very happy moment in my life. So when Sting and I were looking for this place, he said: “What do you think?” and I said: “We should get it”, “You don’t sound very sure” he said and I told him: “I’m sure, because we can give our children and our friends summers that will make them feel that nothing can go wrong”. We go past the large kitchen where the housekeepers are busy with pots and pans and white linen tablecloths, it looks like a scene from a Bernardo Bertolucci movie. We go down a few pietra serena steps, silently across a beautiful time-worn terracotta-tiled floor and we sit down in the cool garden, a green cloister brimming with plants arranged in random order and simply sublime. Trudie and Sting live at Il Palagio, between Florence and Figline Valdarno, mostly in summertime: “We always celebrate our anniversary here, every year since we found Il Palagio in 1999. This year is our 30th anniversary on August 20, even though we’ve been together longer than that”.
Why did you choose Tuscany?
Let’s take you back to 1989. Sting wanted to record his album The Soul Cages, but he had had a very tough year. He lost both his parents to cancer within a few months, his mother in June and his father in November; they were still young, his mother was 54 and his father 60….it was very shocking. Sting put his grief into music, so he had written these songs, but he didn’t want to record them in England, but rather somewhere where he could let this feeling of loss evaporate. I was pregnant with our daughter Eliot, so I was expecting a new life. It was a bitter-sweet moment, a particular time. I said: “Let’s go to Italy”, and Sting replied: “It’s important where we are, will you feel comfortable having the baby in Italy?” “The only country that really welcomes children, even in restaurants, is Italy, so it’s the best place on earth to have a baby.” I said. So Italy it was. As for the exact location, he left that to me: “It’s up to you, wherever it’s the most comfortable for you with the hospital and the doctor”. So I enlisted the help of a friend, Simonetta Brandolini, who put together the entire package: a house for us at the Salviati family’s estate in Migliarino, near Pisa, for 12 weeks, and a mobile recording studio. I went one day to the San Rossore clinic, twenty minutes from Migliarino, and I said: “This is where I will have our baby, this is the house that we will rent”. Simonetta introduced me to Oliva Salviati and her family. I can’t tell you how kind everyone was, in that particular time for us… On July 30, 1990 Elliot was born, I had the baby in two hours and came back. So you can easily understand why, for me, Tuscany has a paradise soul. And why we began looking for a place we could call our own, though it was quite a few years before we found Il Palagio.
You often say that this is your home, although you do have other properties in England and in the United States…
I think that somebody who gives music to people around the world does live in multiple places, but coming here is always a time of decompression, and it’s more than fun. We can be with the people we love, those we really call friends for life.
How many wines do you produce?
We make Sister Moon, which is our flagship Supertuscan, When We Dance, and we are making a new Chianti Riserva that will be called La Regista. Then we have Message in a Bottle, a vino da tavola. We have a wonderful rosato made with Sangiovese grapes. We gave it the name New Day, to welcome the arrival of a new winemaker, Riccardo Cottarella. Riccardo Cottarella took over being our winemaker two and a half years ago and we love him, he is wonderful. He is an amazing teacher, and an extraordinary talent.
Other farming activities on the estate?
In addition to the vineyards, the winery and olive oil, we are also making different types of honey. I love honey! My favorite is acacia, but we also make castagno, millefiori, erica, cherry, lavanda, a small amount of lavender but wonderful.
Additionally, Il Palagio we rent our estate for special occasions such as wedding receptions, birthdays and anniversaries.
But your world goes beyond all this, doesn’t it?
I am not a winemaker by trade, I am a filmmaker by trade. My partner and I, Celine Rattray, have a production company, Maven Screen Media. We’ve just released the movie “Infinite Storm” starring Naomi Watts. But during the lockdown we were unable to make movies in the usual way so needed to be especially creative. We thought to ourselves: “What are all these directors and actors doing now?”. None of us could work in 2020. So Celine and I thought that we could raise some money from one of our investors who loves films, and we did raise a considerable sum, and then we contacted all these great actors whom we worked with through the years, such as Julianne Moore and Rosie Perez (the great Latina actress), our daughter Mickey Sumner, she did a short movie about Siri taking over her life! The whole series of these thirteen short films is now streaming in the US. Last winter I also directed a documentary film about Naples, produced by Luciano Stella, who produced the Mario Martone movie that went to Cannes, Nostalgia, with Pierfrancesco Favino. I worked quite a lot in the Rione Sanità, a particular neighborhood in Naples, where there has been an amazing renaissance thanks to an extraordinary man, Don Antonio. Don Antonio has worked to keep young kids far away from the camorra. He provides amazing activities for them: boxing, theater, and a fantastic orchestra, a 125-piece orchestra, they practice six days a week. He’s done a great job… I’m still in the editing process but I have loved this project so much, and have fallen in love with yet another region of Italy since getting to know Naples and its people.