Story of Peralta


Records of the hamlet of Peralta date back to the fourteenth century when Castruccio Castracani, lord and protector of the province of Lucca from 1316 – 28, built one of his ‘Castello’ on the brow of the hill above Peralta. It is believed he built the stone dwellings that are now the hamlet of Peralta to house his soldiers, although there is no official record of this. The foundations of the ‘Castello’ can be seen a few hundred metres up the hill above Peralta.

Subsequently, there is no recognition of Peralta itself until the 20th century when we know it was inhabited by families managing to survive on the produce from their olives, sheep and chestnuts. It was a very poor existence and in the mid-1950s, when the western world was getting back on its feet after the second world war, the families saw the chance of making a better living elsewhere and left their hillside houses and headed for a new life.

By 1967, when the sculptor Fiore de Henriquez first discovered Peralta, all the houses had been abandoned except for two. Fiore was staying at this time with American sculptor Jacques Lipchitz and his wife Yulla in Pieve, further down the hill towards Camaiore.

In those days, it was hard to reach Peralta as there was no road and no obvious access. A friend from Camaiore offered to take Fiore up the hill one day, using the footpaths that were at this time mainly used by sheep. The hamlet of Agliano, just before arriving at Peralta, was also only accessible by footpath.

Fiore found the buildings without roofs and windows, and in some cases, even the floors had disintegrated. Everything was overgrown with brambles and undergrowth. Ten years of neglect had taken their toll.  Despite the ruined houses, the setting was beautiful and she immediately fell in love with the vision of restoring it, indeed such a idea was quite irresistible to a character such as Fiore.


Fiore bought one of the inhabited houses in 1967 and moved in in 1968. A tiny house with one room up and one room down, the home of a family of three. There was no electricity, no running water and terrible access.  This house became Fiore’s home and studio.


Undaunted by the mammoth task that lay ahead, and despite negative advice from her friends who thought the whole project was crazy, Fiore set about fixing this first house, adding the tiny house next door which was open to the sky but with had a wonderful fireplace and which became the centre piece of the living area and Fiore’s only source of heat.   She also had the difficult task of discovering who owned the other houses, contacting them and subsequently buying the houses. Some of the previous owners had emigrated as far away as the U.S., and she never did manage to find the owner of one house in the centre of Peralta.  So she turned this house into a covered terrace.

Fiore restored Peralta In the same manner in which she would make a piece of sculpture, moulding it to her creative vision and keeping the organic raw feel of the hamlet rather than drawing up architectural plans and measurements.   No such plans ever existed, and it is what makes Peralta such an extraordinarily beautiful and inspirational place.

It took some 15 years to complete her project, with her ideas changing as the restoration went along.   She would suddenly want an arch here or there, a wall that had just been completed had to come down as it did not look right, a doorway needed adjusting – a nightmare for the builders, but it was how Fiore made her sculpture, and this was how she created Peralta.  Adding here, taking away there, until a balance is achieved and the piece looks balanced.

Her objective was to keep the buildings as they would have been originally in medieval times, austere and basic with no unnecessary adornments such as plants or flowers, unless they had a practical purpose.   Some years later, she was eventually persuaded otherwise, and reluctantly allowed bougainvilleas and jasmins to be planted against the stone walls.   But in the first instance only rosemary, sage, thyme and other herbs were planted as they require little water and are important culinary herbs.

Lemon trees were planted to provide the very important ingredient of oil from their skin to be squeezed over Fiore’s icy cold gin martinis,  which she would always offer her friends before Sunday lunch.   The lemon had to have been plucked from the tree minutes before so that the delicious oil was fresh and potent.  We now use the plentiful supply of lemons to make our own limoncello.

The restoration work was entirely carried out by local men.  The families in the hills of Camaiore were poor at this time and there was little work to be had.   All Fiore’s neighbours had basic building skills as they had to maintain their own houses, so she employed her them to do the masonry work, the electricity, the plumbing and a local forge made the wonderful iron work seen throughout the hamlet.   It was a huge adventure, at times celebrated with communal meals and copious amounts of local wine.  Fiore loved to sing, and her neighbours and friends needed little encouragement to join in.  (photos)

The first building materials had to arrive by mule, as there was no road. Peralta had no water, no electricity only a ‘sisterna’ that recuperated the rain water. Drinking and cooking water had to be fetched from a source, a good ten minute walk from Peralta itself.

So water was a very precious commodity and was another reason not to grow plants that required much water.

After a few years, Fiore built the tortuous little road through Agliano, making the sheep’s path from Agliano to the hamlet  passable so as to be able to support a 3-wheel vehicle, the Ape.

The road enabled water to be delivered in a truck by means of a long tube from Agliano to Peralta itself.  The ration delivered was 100 litres per person per week.

She had to buy olive groves from a neighbour in order to make Peralta’s carpark, where the ‘tortuous little road’ ended.

(Note : We are happy to say that the little road has since been widened and is now easily passable for all vehicles!)

Fiore undertook the restoration work with a shoestring budget, so progress was slow and a more feinthearted person would have probably given up the project but Fiore was built of stern stuff and her determination knew no boundaries.

There were occasional setbacks to the progress of restoration such as when Casa Patricia, named after a great friend of Fiore, literally fell down!   It was made up of a series of small rooms built in typical Tuscan style, but then one day “the house made a big belly, the walls fell down and the roof fell in” (Fiore’s words).   This was a serious problem for Fiore’s precarious financial situation and so she decided to minimise the re-building by creating only two very large rooms, making big windows with iron frames.  However, she did make a bedroom and bathroom upstairs and decided the house would be used exclusively to entertain her friends, since her own house was very small for large gatherings or meals.  And Fiore loved to entertain!  The house was renamed ‘Casa Nuova’, the ‘new house’.

In 1986 Fiore’s brother Diego came to stay and wondered why there was no tower at Peralta as ‘surely all such ‘borgos’ would have had one’.   Fiore agreed with his theory and immediately set about the construction of Peralta’s tower.

It had never entered her mind that she would require building permission from the Comune of Camaiore and was both dismayed and furious when this was very firmly pointed out.   However the tower was by then finished and Fiore was not inclined to have it destroyed.   Long negotiations ensued, lasting many years, but finally the Comune accepted the presence of the tower as part of Peralta, making the little hamlet easily recognisable when looking at the hillside from the valley of Camaiore.

When restauration work was finished, Fiore realised that the continual maintenance would be a financial burden and so it was decided to open Peralta to paying guests.

A large kitchen had to be built, a bar area created, tables were added to the terrace.

After a few summers of receiving guests at Peralta, Fiore was told that a swimming pool was required.  Hotels were opening in Tuscany with pools and to keep clients happy Peralta desperately required a pool.

As usual Fiore was not daunted by the extremely difficult project of building a pool on the steep hillside with difficult access for the building materials.    She chose an upper olive terrace, created a huge hole with the help of dynamite, built an exterior wall to the terrace with the stones excavated from the pool, used the earth from the hole to form a terrace behind this wall and installed iron frames with pulleys to bring up material from the carpark.  It was all worth it; the pool and its terrace have a panoramic view over the valley, with huge cactae amongst the rocks forming a dramatic backdrop behind the pool.


Fiore lived and worked at Peralta until her death in 2004.  The hamlet has continued to be the same inspiring place as when it was first restored by Fiore.  It is still a haven for guests seeking an unusual and calm place for a holiday, an oasis away from the busy coast and tourist towns.  . It is also a popular destination for courses (art, yoga, writing) as well as family celebrations and indeed anyone seeking a venue for workshops, retreats, etc. It offers a total of 15 bedrooms and bathrooms for a private occasion of any type, with the possibility of catering.