The following article appeared in a July 2020 issue of Haute Living...
Sting + Trudie Styler: Celebrating A Lifetime Of Love Under The Tuscan Sun...
At Il Palagio, their Italian agriturismo estate, Sting and Trudie Styler are inviting luxury travellers to take a peek into their private world of love and creativity.
Every year, like clockwork, Sting completely clears three days in his August schedule. No tour dates, no interviews, no commitments. He has one plan and one plan only, and that’s to be wherever Trudie Styler, his wife of nearly 28 years, is. This year, because of the havoc COVID-19 has wreaked on the world, they already are together, sequestered on their ethereal Italian estate, Il Palagio, high above the town of Figline Valdarno, just south of Florence. And although it’s been a struggle for many couples to endure non-stop time together, Sting and Trudie are the exception. Being quarantined together and cocooned in the perfection of their Tuscan paradise has given them the chance to sit back, reflect (relax, not so much) and revel in the enduring strength of their relationship.
“Sting is a very romantic man,” shares Styler, 66, “and something he instigated early on was that we always should be together on our anniversary. We are never not together. He’s never touring and won’t make any real commitments August 20th through August 22nd. That’s Trudie and Sting time together.” [They officially wed by registrar on August 20th, though their church service and reception was August 22nd at their home in Wiltshire, hence the three-day observance].
For nearly the last 20 years, they have commemorated the occasion at their summer home turned exclusive six-villa agriturismo estate, which also can be rented for events and bespoke holidays. Since they purchased it in 1997, the celebration of their marriage seemingly has assumed a life of its own.
“Sometimes we’re alone and sometimes we’re surrounded by friends,” Styler notes. “We started to invite the locals to celebrate our anniversary with us when we launched the farm shop [in 2010]. Sting does impromptu concerts for half an hour on one of the days of the anniversary, and the locals come and cheer us on. Then, we have dinner at the house with friends and afterward, we have fireworks in the garden. It’s utterly lovely.”
What’s more, regardless of how many people for whom he’s actually performing, Sting [née Gordon Sumner] still makes his wife feel like she’s the only other person in the room, especially when he’s crooning one of ‘their’ songs.
“He sings, ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ currently,” Styler says. “‘My Funny Valentine’ is another one. There are a few from his own oeuvre, his catalog of many, many songs that are special to me, special for us. ‘Fields of Gold’ is one that I hold very close to my heart.” She pauses, then declares, “I feel all gooey and silly talking like this!”
With their diamond wedding anniversary approaching, it’s a marvel she still gets girlish when talking about her husband. Though to be fair, when your husband is Sting, and he’s responsible for lyrics like, “In his arms she fell as her hair came down among the fields of gold,” well…
The way Sting sees it is pretty straightforward. “We’ve been married for 28 years, officially, and unofficially, God knows how long, but something’s working!,” laughs the 68-year-old, 17-time Grammy winner [whose most recent win was for 44/876, his 2019 collaboration with Shaggy, for Best Reggae Album]. “We don’t really want to put our finger on what, because it’s a curse. We like each other a lot. We’ve actually spent more time together in the last few months because of the virus than we have in many a year, and that’s a big test for a relationship. You’re not sick of me yet, are you, love?”
“No, absolutely not!” Styler quickly responds. “I’m just worried about you going on the road again.”
“Well I don’t know when that’s going to be,” Sting notes dryly.
And if he minds the confines of his current location, Sting isn’t letting on. The couple has fallen into a natural routine on their 16th century estate, which seems quite easy considering it seems to have everything one could dream of, including an organic farm, vineyard, pool, tennis court, olive groves, yoga center, recording studio and even a life-size chessboard.
“We’re very fortunate in that we have a lot of space here, so when both of us need to get some private time, we can do it very easily — and that’s not something that a lot of people have,” he maintains. “We’re aware of our privilege.”
“He’s right about the space, but it’s also that we’re both doing things that we love doing,” Styler insists. “Having a career that you’re passionate about, that helps with the feeling that your day has been well spent. We have two distinct [jobs]; mine is firmly in film, and Sting’s is firmly in music. I have hours of the day when I’m Zooming like crazy doing editorial for movies [that] I’ve produced this year, and Sting has his studio.”
Though they have separate careers — she is an actress, producer and director — they make a point of coming together to have what Sting adorably refers as mini “dates” throughout the day.
“We ritualize our dates,” he adds. “We have breakfast together. Then I say, ‘OK, I’ll see you at lunch, and we have every lunch together. Then, we take a walk in the evening and we have dinner together and then watch a movie. So in between those dates, we have our work. It’s quite structured.”
So, like any other couple, they have their rules. “I’ve never gone to bed angry. Have you?,” Sting asks his wife.
“No, I’ve never gone to bed angry,” she agrees. “I don’t like conflict and neither does Sting. It’s best to get it out with. Say the ugly, let it dissolve and move forward.”
“Ugly” doesn’t appear to come into their lives very often, especially here. Both their current reality and their memories associated with this place, and with one another, are tinted with a rose-colored glow, much like one of Sting’s favorite memories: a photo shoot with photographer Fabrizio Ferri, inspired by the 1954 film Three Coins in the Fountain. The result was a passionate, wet embrace at one of Il Palagio’s five lakes on a hot summer day, soaked to the bone in black tie attire.
While this dreamy, documented moment in time is one Sting holds near and dear, it’s impossible to list all of the couple’s happiest memories or their greatest hits, so to speak. Il Palagio is inextricably woven into the fabric of their personal history.
They first came to Italy for an extended period of time in 1990, when Styler was pregnant with their third child, Eliot [née Coco]. According to Styler, Sting was still heartbroken over the loss of his parents a few years earlier — both had died of cancer — and was cathartically releasing his pain in the form of an album, The Soul Cages. They rented a beautiful manse in Pisa, and Styler acquired a never-ending passion for Tuscany.
“It became such an exquisite time for me, giving birth to Eliot, and for Sting, who gave birth to a beautiful album, The Soul Cages, which is about loss,” she remembers. “So, I said to Sting, ‘I think we should look for a house to call our own and to bring up our children.’ For years, I looked for a house that we could call home and not just a holiday destination, but an extension of who we are and how we think and what we believe in.”
Nine years of searching and another child later, they found what they were seeking in Il Palagio. But by the time Sting and Styler officially became its third “stewards” [as they refer to themselves], the property had fallen into a state of disrepair. And though they loved the land, they initially had no desire to run a full working vineyard. But gradually, and for Styler in particular, who had grown up on a farm, its full renovation became a welcome challenge.
The couple hired architect Arabella Lennox-Boyd, who worked diligently on restoring the home to its former glory for seven years, while Styler’s “green fingers” worked their magic on the 800-acre land. Il Palagio now produces thousands of cold-pressed virgin olive oils a year, has a vegetable garden “the size of a football field,” harvests eight varietals of honey, and has 11 hectares of newly replanted vineyards, utilizing organic farming methods which have resulted in a lush portfolio of reds, whites and rosés. On that tasting note, the couple has some big news to share: They’ve just confirmed a collaboration with oenologist Riccardo Cotarella, a man most often referred to in the wine industry as “The Wizard” (“Il Mago”). The new vintage, along with reimagined labels and iconography, is expected in 2021 and will likely be named after another famous Sting song, joining existing cuvees ‘Message in a Bottle’ and ‘Sister Moon’, to round out a comprehensive “Collectione Musicale.” Cotarella tells us, “Trudie and Sting are committed to making great wines at Il Palagio, and I am looking forward to helping them achieve this goal. We will make great wines together.” Adds Styler, “We’ve already begun the collaboration, and the next wines will be created by Riccardo; we’ll be really focused on creating a flagship wine. We’re working with Italy’s finest winemaker — we’re feeling so blessed and lucky.”
To make Il Palagio a full extension of both Sting and Styler, it had to be accessible to others. The superstar musician and his wife are gregarious, social people, warm and inviting, who welcome you into their world without hesitation.
“[Il Palagio] has all these beats of how Sting and I were raised and how we like to live, how we like to extend our hospitality,” shares Styler. “We’ve got a rather large family. We have six kids [Mickey, 36; Jake, 35; Eliot, 29; and Giacomo, 24, as well as Joe, 43 and Fuchsia, 38, from Sting’s first marriage] and now seven grandchildren, as well as lots of dear friends who come from the United States. We want them to unpack their bags and hang out with us for a week or so to really feel the place. And so, it’s our pleasure when we are here to have the house full of friends and family and lots of kids; to give them the best that Tuscany offers.”
Their tenet is evident in everything Il Palagio offers, from its six, carefully and personally decorated guesthouses to its main villa, where Sting and Styler stay when in town. Guests are treated to the same activities and experiences offered to friends, such as horseback riding, yoga, massages, traditional and modern Tuscan cooking lessons, vineyard tours, wine tastings and more. In effect, visitors are welcomed into the family fold with open arms.
“Even if we’re not here in actuality, I think [visitors] feel our ethos, what we believe about this place,” Sting notes. “It’s very beautiful, but it’s more than that. We rest here and work here. It’s a good place to reflect, and a good place to be creative.”
Both he and Styler have been working non-stop under the Tuscan sun, taking time to smell the grapes, as it were, but also noting it’s been business as usual during the global pandemic. COVID-19 may have thwarted their desire to travel, but it certainly hasn’t stopped their need to work. [Though taking the “’Pomodoro Break’” — a five-minute recess once an hour — is essential, according to Styler.]
“I’ve made about four albums here,” shares Sting, who has released dozens of records — including five studio albums with his new wave rock band, The Police, and 13 studio albums as a solo artist. These include the All This Time — a live album recorded on the same day as the September 11th terrorists attacks; parts of 1999’s Brand New Day and 2009’s If on a Winter’s Night…; as well as 2006’s Songs from the Labyrinth. “I did a record of 16th century music, I did a winter album here, I’ve done pop albums here. It does lend itself to feeling inspired and it’s also a great place to invite musicians to live on the property and then go to the studio every day. When we do leave the studio, we get to be somewhere astonishingly beautiful, which in turn inspires you all over again. It’s an ideal working environment.”
In fact, it’s inspiring him right now, and Sting inspired is a force to be reckoned with ― [as suggested by his aforementioned Grammy wins, his Chevalier of the Ordre des Artes et des Lettres Polar Music Prize, his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, Golden Globe, five Emmys, Tony nomination, four Academy Award nominations, star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and 100 million album sales from his solo pursuits and time with The Police among many other accolades throughout his 40-plus year career.
He’s been hard at work making new music since arriving from the U.K. in June.
“It will hopefully be a new album,” he confides. “At the moment, I call it ‘preparing canvases.’ In other words, I’m getting music into the form of songs and at a later stage, it will present itself as a record or a theme. It’s in very early stages at the moment.”
The content isn’t going to be about the good life he’s experiencing in Italy ―rather, the opposite.
He is living through a pandemic, after all.“I’m concerned with what’s happening in the world, even though we are living in this idyllic situation,” says Sting. “We are not separate from what’s going on on the planet at the moment in terms of the coronavirus and in terms of the political situation. We are very connected to that and so this allows us to objectivity, if you like, to think about those issues. We can’t be divorced from the world. That’s not the point of creativity. We’re not in an ivory tower. It’s a very worrying time in the world and it’s hard to know what to say that will be useful. You have to be very considerate about what you do say, so it’s not easy. But that’s my job and that’s Trudie’s job as well. We both have to reflect on the world and try to influence it for the better.”
Styler, too, is doing this her own way. Though she was supposed to be in Manhattan for the summer, appearing in the Off-Broadway play Perry Street, she certainly hasn’t been idle. [She does admit to taking a much keener interest in ornithology while at Il Palagio, however]. She and Celine Rattray, her partner at Maven Pictures, an independent production and finance company, have been developing a series of short films about the time spent in isolation, edited by the Academy Award-nominated Tariq Anwar. “[My business partner and I thought] let’s be productive and not waste our time just waiting for the world to open up. Let’s just open the world up within the confines of the lockdown period.”
Prior to the lockdown, Styler, who has produced such films as Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch; Duncan Jones’ Moon; and Kasi Lemmons’ Black Nativity; and who directed Freak Show, based on the New York Times bestseller by James St. James, had been filming Silent Night, which she’s producing at her 16th century Wiltshire home, Lake House, alongside Matthew Vaughn, with Keira Knightley, Roman Griffin Davis and Lily-Rose Depp.
“So there was me doing what I do and having a great time making this movie with this wonderful cast,” says Styler, “and then being cast into a lockdown situation and feeling like, ‘Wow, what a shock to go from working on a low-budget, indie picture 16 hours a day to having all the time in the world.’”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. With the couple’s love of all things Italian comes an appreciation for the like-minded lifestyle of slow living, indulging and enjoying not just the finer things in life, but all things.
“Life for me at this point is romantic just because it’s ephemeral, and you appreciate it as you get older, how transient it is,” she continues. “There’s no point in trying to grab it. Just trying to be in it is the way to navigate. These days, when we’ve got more behind us than in front in terms of years, why waste your life and energy on negative thinking?”
Sting echoes his wife’s sentiment. “For me,” he says, “the abiding emotion is always gratitude. Just being thankful for what you have. Trudie and I both come from poor backgrounds, and to end up here is just an amazing stroke of fortune. We can only be grateful.”
He wakes up every morning and salutes the sun as it rises over his Tuscan paradise, high up on the hill shining over the giant Buddha statue he installed as a reminder of appreciation. “I use those exact words: ‘Thank you’… [for] having the time to reflect.”
“[I‘m thankful] for being lucky enough to have this extraordinary life through the love of this man that I adore, and my children, who we adore,” Styler adds. “The love of family, to love and be loved, is for me the greatest thing that we can have in life. And to have this life, that we did not have growing up, is just a treat every day. To sit down and have a glass of wine — which, for God’s sake, is from our vineyard— that is heaven on Earth.”
Needless to say, after 28 years of marriage, Sting and his wife see eye to eye on nearly everything.
“I think we are the embodiment of la dolce vita right now,” he says. “We are living the sweet life, with no bitterness.”
(c) Haute Living by Laura Schreffler