I recently received a personal invitation to visit Bellezzamora, the stately home of Crito Galtier, owner of The Grove Country Club Estate residential regions and his partner, Christian Galtier (Christian Q), and which they recently opened to the public.
Sitting in a Full region leveraging the LI bonus, this is an impressive sitting put together by Cristo and The Grove’s lead landscaper / designer Natalie Rives. At its heart lies a house design inspired by and modelled on Hatfield House, located in Hertfordshire, England (and coincidentally, a place with which I have some degree of familiarity for assorted reasons), located in the grounds once occupied by the former Royal Palace of Hatfield (elements of which still exist a short walk from the main house).
A prime example of the Jacobian era prodigy house, the actual Hatfield estate is steeped in English history. The former royal palace was the home of the then Princess Elizabeth whilst her father, Henry VIII was still on the throne, for example. It became a centre of intrigue when her half-brother was crowned king and it was alleged she had illegally agreed to marry Thomas Seymour, which Seymour’s brother Edward saw as a threat to his role as Lord protector of England and the sway he held over the young Edward. It was also the place where Elizabeth received news of the death of her half-sister Queen Mary (who seized the throne following Edward’s death), and where she held her first Council of State as England’s new monarch.
Hatfield House itself came into being at the hands Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, who was given the royal palace and its ground by King James I of England and Ireland (James VI of Scotland) in 1607, and whose descendants have retained ownership of the property. After tearing down much of the palace, Cecil used the bricks to build the initial Hatfield House, which was extended over time. As an aside, one of those descendants, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, a 3-times prime minister in the later Victorian period, gave rise to the expression “Bob’s your uncle” on account of his habit of taking care of family members by appointing them to his governments, thereby ensuring everything turned out fine for them.
The Second Life iteration of Hatfield House is a commercial build by Romin McDonnell (although I understand the version used at Bellezzamora is something of a customised version, modified with Romin’s help to specifically fit this setting). It reproduces many of the features found in the original, including its grand hall, chapel, its distinctive tiled floors, and more and exterior physical attributes such as the original’s southern aspect, although for this design it has been turned to face to the north and the courtyard within the two wings of the house have been converted into a garden with water features.
Within, the house is lavishly furnished, many of the rooms featuring suitable period designs, including pieces by Kaya Angel, himself an expert in period designs and furnishings. The grounds are more unique, offering a individual perspective in stately home landscaping and formal gardens rather than anything specific to Hatfield House. Found within them are terraces, summer houses, a pavilion, neatly laid paths, lawns and flower beds.
A sense of history is imbued through the placement of statues through the grounds, whilst the one concession to the modern era – other that the roadway leading to the house and the cars parked before it – is a swimming pool that has been added to one terrace on the north side of the house, an orangery neatly converted to serve as a poolside lounge. To balance it, and facing it across a further, raised the terrace, is a more traditional hedge maze, which were a staple of some stately home designs.
The entire build is richly populated and detailed, making it ideal for photography. However, I would point out that such a rich environment comes at a cost, unless you are using a more high-end system. With my ageing i5 (Haswell) system and GTX 970 GPU, I had to disable shadows and drop my draw distance down to 128m or less to maintain a double-digit frame rate in the teens. So, if you are using a mid-level or below system, do be prepared to make some adjustments to your settings, particularly if you tend to prefer a higher draw distance or like to have shadows enabled when moving (rather than only enabling them for photography).
- Bellezzamora (Terra del Amore, rated Moderate)