Authentic. That’s a word that will no doubt spring to mind when arriving at Guestlands, a four-villa property in Arcadia, NSW, a 45-minute drive from Sydney.
The accommodation — which lines a cobblestone laneway, complete with a parked red Vespa, and is surrounded by gorgeous gardens and a pool — looks like it was plucked out of Italy and planted in the Hills district.
Though out of sight, the home of the property’s owners, Jenny and Peter Guest, sits right next door. They’ve lived there for over 25 years.
“Our first trip to Italy was only 10 years ago, and we absolutely fell in love with the medieval hamlets and villages that we travelled through and stayed in, observing people living in these storybook places on an everyday basis,” says Jenny.
It was Pete who came up with a vision to renovate the couple’s old house, turning it into an Italian village. At the time, the renovation wasn’t for any other purpose than to have a fun place to live, and have friends and family come for lunch and dinner and stay.
Pete sketched out his vision, and his mates Neil Turrell, who owns building company Turrell Building, and Neil’s wife Leisa, who owns building design business Fyffe Design, drew up the plans.
“We started building and about halfway into the project, I said, ‘You know this might make a good B&B’,” Jenny says. “We tweaked a few of the elements to suit more independence of the villa suites for guests with areas away from our main house. And as they say, ‘Build and they will come’.”
Despite the plans, Pete and Jenny say it was a creative construction process, with talented tradesmen who captured what they were going for. The couple were also hands-on, doing anything they could do themselves. Pete did most of the stonework and Jenny sourced old doors and windows, and lime-washed old timbers.
“Pete had a definite idea for getting the colours of the buildings right, working with oxides to get the render finishes’ authentic and the right tones,” says Jenny. “The buildings take on magical glows at different times of the day and throughout changing seasons. It’s a photographer’s delight.”
Guests can book their pick of the four villas, for a two-night minimum. Each villa is stocked with a complimentary bottle of prosecco, a bottle of fine Italian red wine, a white wine, Peroni beers and mineral waters. For meals, you can venture to restaurants around The Hills district, or bring your food to make in the property’s communal kitchen.
There’s also a daily complimentary happy hour with antipasto platter, and one of the nights during a stay, Pete and Jenny supply homemade pizza dough and toppings that they’ll show you how to cook in a wood-fired oven. A selection of gelatos from Guestlands’ partner Gelatissimo is offered to finish.
It’s these happy hours and pizza nights where you can meet other guests, as well as have a chat with Pete and Jenny. They say if the booking is a couple they typically meet others staying at pizza night and then do their own thing at one of the local cafés and restaurants the next day.
There are also nearby bush walks, art studios and parks to explore. Berowra Waters Marina is only a 15-minute drive away, and there, you can hire a self-drive boat for a picnic up the river. If you’re up for it, you could also take out one of Pete’s sports cars for a ride around the area.
Couples celebrating an anniversary or other special occasion often book a private chef candlelit dinner, either lakeside by a tree laden with Moroccan lanterns or in the cobblestone laneway with soft Italian café music playing in the background.
“If it’s a group booking, it’s usually for an annual get-together or to celebrate a milestone,” says Pete. “This is often culminated in a long lunch, blending into a laidback casual dinner, set up in our La Cabana [a dining area in the gardens] or alfresco in the cobblestone street.”
In the warmer months, guests can take advantage of the resort-sized pool with a waterfall at one end, and the opportunity to BYO drinks.
“There are so many nooks and great little spots to chill out and relax on our property,” says Jenny. “One of my favourite spots is the sunken fire put up on the other side of the lake on top of the hill at sunset. From there, you can catch the last rays of the day, watch the birdlife on the lake and see the gardens and village in the distance.”
“It’s a world away from anywhere and hard to believe you are still in Sydney.”