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Bill Thomson moved to Italy in 1988 with the intention of learning the wine production process and working on a little winery for a while. A 28 year old agricultural economics graduate from Wye College (then part of London University). After one year of Oenolical training he realised that there was a gap in the market for property management services, in an area that was just at the beginning of what was to be known as the ‘Chiantishire’ boom. 

Chianti Estates was born in 1988 as a one-man show, with a dog and a pick-up truck – who drove around Chianti trying to help non-resident owners of farmhouses look after them while they were away. Mow lawns, clean pools, open the house up to check it. Basic stuff. One such owner, one day announced that she wanted to sell her house, and asked Bill to get in touch with ‘one of the posh London agents’ to help sell her house. And so Knight Frank in Italy was born.

It is amazing to think back to these days, but back then there were no International Estate agents. If you wanted to buy a house in Italy, you travelled there, found the local guy in the village and he showed you around. Even when Knight Frank in Italy was born, buying a farmhouse meant writing back and forth by post to arrange a trip – and then meeting somewhere sensible, as there were no mobile phones. Our first version of Italian View had the house photos, that had been developed one by one at the Chemists, stuck individually to the pages! 

The office at the time was in the tiny village of Rietine, in the middle of Chianti. It was in what had been the village shop – then long-gone. One part-time secretary and a trip to the next village to photocopy anything, which was always an excuse for an expresso. The business grew in the period of time that was a great expansion for Italian home buying. At that time, the only properties we ever sold were farmhouse in remote areas; the more remote the better. Lots had no power, no running water and had been abandoned by the locals in the fifties, in the great exodus to the main towns to find work.

The estate management business grew alongside the sales one. We took on restoration projects for foreign buyers and over the years have helped save a lot of really run-down, but beautiful buildings. We have worked with architects and designers from all over the world and clients from every corner of the globe.

We opened our first Florence office in 2006. This was to be the sales office of a development project in Florence, which was the first of a kind. Serviced apartments in an historic building on the International market were relatively new to the market. They sold well and we kept the Florence office open ,as we began to appreciate that foreign buyers didn’t want only Chianti. 

We also started to grow our Knight Frank Italian Network of offices throughout Italy at this time. Lucca, then Venice, Sardinia, Val d’Orcia. Milan, Rome, Como. Elba, Maremma – and the list keeps growing of places where we have representation. Trends come and go, so we are always on the look-out for the next destination. I think next may be Naples and Amalfi – but who knows! Increasingly we have seen a move away from the Chianti farmhouses to more sophisticated living, in town or nearby a town. The country market is still going strong however and we recently relocated our Radda in Chianti office, as we had outgrown the original one!

Knight Frank Italy has now been continuously present in Italy for thirty years now and employs about one hundred people throughout the country. A proportion of these people are still in the property management business which has kept going strong throughout. The Covid years even saw an upturn for its services, as people realised how much they liked being able to work from their garden, as I am now (in quarantine).

With the passage of time, Bill has moved from being the young lad who was new in the area, to being something of a father figure in the Italian property industry. (some might even say grandfather!). Knight Frank has maintained its excellent worldwide name, as being the firm to turn to that has integrity at its heart. The company that has as its simple aim ‘ to help people buy and sell houses’ rather than anything more complicated.

Florence Office


Bill Thomson

Italian network Chairman

Max Edgar

Wineries & Estates/Development


Aldo Flakstad

Head of Residential Development


Matteo Mechelli

Sales & Acquisitions


Tommaso Trauba

Sales Negotiator

Sally Munerati

Vendor manager

Giulietta Chiarugi

PA to Bill Thomson

Tommy Contri

Marketing & Operations

Daniela Mealli

Head of Management Team

Laura Fiorini


Alessia Biagi

Property Manager

Radda in Chianti Office


Giulio Ruffoli

Property Manager

Benedetta Tarantello

Property Manager

Elisa Cioni

Property Manager

Jacopo Fanetti


Pia Muran