After selling their shares in Barilla S.p.A., the pasta company, Riccardo Barilla’s parents moved in 1975 from Italy to Switzerland. They bought a house on about 10 acres of land in Vandœuvres, a wealthy suburb of Geneva, and stayed in it for the next 40 years.
In 2013, after his parents’ deaths, Barilla inherited a property that was virtually unchanged from when they’d bought it.
“There wasn’t electricity everywhere in the house, the heating was like a dinosaur, and the roof wasn’t insulated,” he said. “When we opened up the roof, we found birds and insects having a party up there—it was the shell, and that’s it.”
Barilla, who lives in Geneva and worked in the financial industry, decided that he and his wife would renovate the house and move in with their two children. After successfully petitioning to have the property rezoned as three lots (they entertained the possibility of keeping the original house and developing another two), they set about gutting his family home.
Soon after renovating the property, which has at least nine bedrooms and 22,000 square feet of living space, Barilla came to the sad conclusion that his children were, in fact, never going to live at home again.
“We got the house in 2013, and it was a four-year project,” he said. “And when I began it, I wasn’t thoughtful enough, because my wife and I didn’t realise that our kids would grow up.”
“All of a sudden, we saw that we’d be staying here with two dogs and a cat by ourselves in a huge house,” he continued. “And we realised that we wouldn’t mind just going back to Italy.” The couple has now placed the property on the market for 70 million Swiss francs, or about $73 million, listing it with Alexander Kraft, the chairman of Sotheby’s International Realty France.
The four-year renovation has resulted in a complete overhaul of every structure on the property.
To someone familiar with the main house, its outward appearance is seemingly unchanged. “The wood you can see is from the 1830s,” Barilla said, but they gutted its plumbing and electricity and wired it “so that the technology in the house is easily modified,” he said. They added an elevator that goes to all three floors, built out and finished the attic, and chipped away at the concrete floor of the basement both to raise the ceiling and to restore its original character. “We brought everything back to how it was built,“ he said.
The basement is now a relatively raw space that has the option of being configured with a media room, gym, and wine cellar. (“If you happen to drink wine,” said Barilla. “I never did, which for an Italian is very strange. My wife first thought I was a recovering alcoholic.”)
The ground floor of the main house consists of entertaining areas: A large entrance hall, a dining room, living room, TV room, and kitchen look out over a terrace and have views of Mont Blanc in the distance. The second floor comprises a master suite with two walk-in closets and two other bedrooms, while the attic, which is currently a vast open space, can be configured into an additional four bedrooms.
Barilla then turned his attention to the 6,000-square-foot barn, which he turned into a five-bedroom, five-bath guest house with its own kitchen and garage. “You can use it for guests, or for security personnel,” he said. Behind the barn is a former stable, now staff quarters, that measures a substantial 2,800 square feet. It has three studio apartments and a garage.
The house is situated on the highest point on the property and is surrounded by 100-year-old oak trees. “These kind of trees are the trees you can’t buy,” Barilla said. “To have this kind of property is very rare.”
Nevertheless, Barilla has never had the chance to enjoy it himself. “When we were renovating it, we didn’t move in,” he said, “because then it would be no longer new.”
Now that they’re selling it, he never will. “It’s just life,” he said. “You’ll see that four years is short compared to your lifespan, but many things can happen in just four years. Believe me.”