From a distance you see the tower and fortress of Montegridolfo rising above the cypress and pine trees of an abundantly green hill. As you get closer you can’t help but be impressed by the mighty wall encircling this small settlement. Pass under the long archway of the entrance beneath the tower and you emerge in an idyllic medieval world: in front of you is a cobbled square backed by narrow lanes lined with geraniums; to the east, views stretch to the Adriatic coast a few kilometres away.

Dating back to the 13th century, Montegridolfo has been stunningly restored thanks to the efforts of a fashion designer. The tiny town was in a state of near collapse when Alberta Ferretti came to see a crumbling palazzo here in 1988. Famed for her pretty, feminine clothing range (worn by Uma Thurman and Liv Tyler among others), Ferretti was brought up nearby and is passionate about the area. With a view to turning the palazzo into a boutique hotel, she got together a local syndicate and started a restoration project. It rapidly expanded to include the entire medieval hilltop settlement. Ferretti described it as a crusade. While the painstaking work took place, the 20 or so residents were housed elsewhere.

Six years later they returned and have since helped to keep Montegridolfo a working town, with shops – including a honey store and a great deli selling local produce – and a post office. Ferretti’s hotel, Palazzo Viviani, has eight supremely stylish rooms in the main building and a further 46 rooms in apartments around the picturesque hamlet.