The wrought-iron gates swing open to reveal a strange and atmospheric haven. You feel protected here from the outside world, miles from the heat and bustle of Pisa. It is an intriguing place. Secret rooms lurk behind locked doors; some bedrooms seem untouched since the 17th century. They are all different, themed and with high ceilings, the most curious being the Persian and the Egyptian. The entrance hall is decked in marble, graced with columns and chandeliers; the library – a touch over the top for some – is nevertheless in tune with the rest, and in tune, it must be said, with its eccentric owner. Claudio and his wife collect anything and everything and rooms are crammed with curios and collectibles. Yes, it’s shambolic – but your host cares more about people than about money and there are no rules, so treat it as your home. There’s a game room with billiards and videos (3,000 of them), table tennis, a garden with tall palms and woodland paths, a pool with piped music issuing from clumps of bamboo, a barbecue area for those who choose to self-cater, and a romping dog.