Villa Gella: nature’s playground in the heart of Bulgaria’s scenic countryside.

Passepartout Homes’ property portfolio showcases a very exclusive collection of unique luxury holiday retreats located in 15 countries on four continents across the globe. What’s unique about each of our exclusive holiday villas is that every one is a home which has been lovingly built, rebuilt or renovated by its proprietors who invested their hearts and souls into creating a unique and special atmosphere for their guests. In this interview series, we meet the property owners who tell us the stories behind their exclusive holiday homes.
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Located in the scenic Rhodope mountains of southern Bulgaria, Villa Gella offers the perfect luxury escape for those who love to be close to nature. A stay at Villa Gella is a delight during any season, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy and make the most of the outdoors. The luxury villa has beautifully landscaped gardens and four terraces perfect for lounging in the sun or al fresco dining with the stunning natural mountainscape as a backdrop. Inside the villa, the many large picture windows offer views of beautiful natural scenery, reminding visitors that they are at nature’s doorstep.
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The villa’s luxurious interiors are tastefully decorated in a cosy contemporary style, with 6 double bedrooms and many pampering touches like a wood-burning fireplace, indoor swimming pool and steam room. The in-house chef delights guests with exquisite dishes of traditional Bulgarian cuisine cooked to perfection.
Trekkers will love the many hiking trails in the area which lead to nearby lakes like Dospat and Smolyan and other natural highlights like the Devil’s Throat waterfalls and its canyon, and the mountains of Mount Perelik and Mount Orpheus. Bulgaria has nine UNESCO world heritage sites, all of which can be easily reached from here.
The owner of Villa Gella tells us how this derelict mountain farmhouse was transformed into a unique, trend-settling luxury holiday home.
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How did you discover this beautiful part of Bulgaria and what made you fall in love with it?
My uncle and aunt had been looking for a place in the Rhodope Mountains to settle down to deal with an asthma condition my uncle developed after his retirement, when they came across the ruins of a mountain farm in the hamlet of Gela. They fell in love with the pristine nature and stunning views, and decided to buy it then and there.
A few years later I joined them to launch Villa Gella. After working at Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro, I took some time off to care for my newly born granddaughter in Florida, US and then decided to come back to Bulgaria. Now my uncle, my aunt and I split our time between Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, and Villa Gella in the Rhodope Mountains.
Our offering of an authentic luxury experience is hailed as trend-setting in Bulgaria, and this is for us both a recognition and a challenge. We spend most of our time developing and executing custom tailor-made stays and itineraries according to the interests and preferences of our guests, spanning relaxation and the great outdoors, history and archeology, music and cuisine.
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Did you build or renovate the property? What was this process like?
The initial intention of my uncle and aunt was to restore the ruins of a mountain farmhouse they fell in love with and bought, but in the process they discovered that there was little that could be salvaged. A complete rebuild was necessary, and using the footprint of the original farm the villa was built in a contemporised version of a traditional Rhodope mountain house adding all the modern conveniences a luxury retreat must have. The building work took much longer than expected given the mountain conditions, difficult roads and builders who were not used to the quality and details we expected. The use of local materials and traditional building methods resulted in an authentic look for the villa, while the ideas of a leading London-based designer added modernity and timelessness.
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What is unique about the area?
The Rhodope mountains reveal their beauty during each of the four distinct seasons of the year. The spring brings the view of trees in bloom against the snowy caps of the mountain peaks. The mountains in the summer are deep green and lush with flowers and fruit. The autumnal colours are as rich as the palette of an impressionist artist. The winter embraces everything in its wholesome whiteness. Pristine nature, pure air, natural food, traditional cooking, slow living – guests can enjoy nineteenth century living in a twenty-first century setting.
The villa offers six double en suite bedrooms, a library, a small spa with indoor swimming pool, as well as outdoor badminton and pétanque courts, and several terraces and Jacuzzis, which can be used year round. Multiple hiking trails, horseback riding stables, fishing lakes, off road biking tracks, and many nearby caves provide for an amazing array of outdoor activities. Yoga, massages, and the steam room can help relax both mind and body.
The Rhodope mountains were at the centre of the little-known Thracian civilisation and the home of its well-known musician, hero and philosopher Orpheus. Even today one can visit many sites associated with the myth of Orpheus and follow in his footsteps in search of Eurydice into the other world.
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What type of visitor does Villa Gella suit?
Villa Gella is the perfect location for a gathering of a family or a group of friends, for a romantic retreat or a corporate board offsite, or as a secret celebrity hideaway. It can suit those who look for a quiet abandon away from the stress of modern life or those who would like an active break outdoors away from daily routine.
It can also be attractive to those who are seeking to immerse themselves in the rich history of Bulgaria, which started with the Thracians, followed by the Romans and the foundation of the Bulgarian state in 681AD, the adoption of Christianity and creation of the Cyrillic alphabet, through the Ottoman empire, the World Wars and the communist state to its more recent membership in the European Union.
The legacy of Orpheus is a powerful folkloric music tradition, with haunting bagpipe music and unique singing, which was later incorporated in medieval Orthodox chant. All of these aspects of Bulgarian history and culture can be explored during a stay at the villa. Also, the delicious but little known local cuisine paired with outstanding Bulgarian wines can be a welcome complement to all activities or a culinary exploration in its own right.
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By Isabel Putinja – http://isabelwrites.wordpress.com/
Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande

Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande is Founder and Director at Passepartout Homes, luxury holiday homes.

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