Abbadia d'Ombrone

Abbazia di Vallombrosa

Villa Arceno

Bardini Garden in Florence

Bernard Berenson

Boboli's Gardens

Il parco dei Mostri di Bomarzo

Villa Bottini

Castello di Brolio

Villa Cahen

Villa della Capponcina

Villa Capponi

Villa Medici at Careggi

Villa di Catignano

Cecil Ross Pinsent

Castello di Celsa

Villa Certano Baldassarrini

Certosa di Pontignano

Villa di Cetinale

Villa Chigi Saracini

Villa Farnese (Caprarola)

Gardens in Fiesole

Villa Gamberaia

Villa Garzoni in Collodi

Villa di Geggiano

Villa Grabau

Villa Guicciardini Corsi Salviati

Horti Leonini di San Quirico

Villa I Collazzi, Firenze

Iris Origo

L'Orto de'Pecci (Siena)


Villa I Tatti

Villa Medicea La Ferdinanda

Villa La Foce

Villa La Gallina in Arcetri

Villa Lante

Villa La Petraia

Villa La Pietra

Villa La Suverana in Casole d'Elsa

The Medici Villa at Careggi

Villa Medici in Fiesole, Firenze

Garden of Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Firenze

Villa Medicea at Poggio a Caiano

Medici Villas in Tuscany

Villa di Monaciano

Giardino degli Orti Oricellari | Firenze

Orto Botanico, Siena

Villa Orlandini in Poggio Torselli

Il Palazzone

Villa Palmieri and Villa Schifanoiai

Villa Peyron al Bosco di Fontelucente

Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza

Villa di Pratolino

Villa Reale di Marlia

Villa San Donato in Colle (Bagno a Ripoli)

Villa Santini Torrigiani

Villa di Vicobello

Villa Vistarenni

Il Vittoriale degli Italiani


 
Gardens in Tuscany
             
 
Florenz-Fiesole Theater
Roman theater in Fiesole [2]

album Surroundings
       
   

Fiesole

   
   

Fiesole is a town and comune of the Province of Florence, located on a scenic height above the city. Fiesole was probably founded in the eighth or ninth centuries BC, because it was an important part of the Etruscan confederacy, as can be seen in the remains of the ancient walls around the city. Fiesole was independent for several centuries in the early Middle Ages, and it almost held the same power that Florence did. However, many wars arose between Florence and Fiesole, and in 1010 and 1025 Fiesole was ransacked by Florentine’s. Fiesole was then conquered by Florence in 1125, and its leading families began to form residences in Florence as well. By the 14th century, wealthy Florentine families had villas in Fiesole.

Fiesole has many beautiful sights. Evidence of the Etruscan and Roman settlements can be found in the Area Archeologica, which is located east of main square, Piazza Mino da Fiesole. It has a well preserved Roman amphitheatre, Roman baths, a Roman temple and some sixth century BC Etruscan ruins. From the piazza, you can climb Via San Francesco for beautiful panoramic views of Florence below. The Museo Bandini has ivories, ceramics, and paintings on display, while the church of San Domenico, dating from the 15th century, is home to Madonna with Saints and Angels by Fra Angelico. The Fiesole Cathedral, a Romanesque structure just off of the main square, is dedicated to Saint Romulus of Fiesole. It contains a shrine to Saint Romulus, rumored to be the first Bishop of Fiesole. At the foot of the hill where Fiesole stands is the Badia or ancient cathedral of St. Romulus. The Badia was built in 1028 by Bishop Jacopo Bavaro with materials taken from several older structures. This cathedral is supposed to cover the site of the martyrdom of St. Romulus. The old cathedral became a Benedictine abbey, which then passed into the hands of the regular canons of Lateran. At one point in its history, it was home to a valuable library, but has long since been dispersed. The abbey was closed in 1778.
The European University Institute also stands on the foot of the hills of Fiesole. Many of its buildings are historical, notably the Badia and Villa Schifanoia. Villa Il Poggiolo houses the Historical Archives of the European Union which are attached to the Institute. The Historical Archives conserve and offer access to the original documents of the European institutions. The Archives will have a permanent home in the near future in Villa Salviati, which is another Tuscan landmark.

 

   
   

Fiesole, Museo Bandini. I Trionfi di Jacopo del Sellaio (1442-1493): Trionfo d'Amore.

   

Jacopo del Sellaio, Triumph of Chastity, circa 1480 – 85, delail, Museo Bandini, Fiesole

Fiesole churches and villas


Villa Medici

Villa Medici in Fiesole, Firenze

After a stroll through Fiesole's town centre, from the main piazza, Piazza Mino, this easy downhill walk from Piazza Mino will take you on a visit through some of Fiesole's most beautiful and historic villas and breathtaking scenery with views into Florence and the surrounding hills. It ends at the church of San Domenico were the local bus (no.7) can then take you back to Florence or back up to Fiesole.

Taking Via Vecchia Fiesolana, which until the 19th century was the only road that connected Florence with Fiesole, you will come first to Villa Medici, known for its sweeping views across Florence. One of the oldest (and best preserved) Renaissance residence, the villa was depicted in Domenico Ghirlandaio's fresco of the Assumption in the Tornabuoni chapel from around 1485-1490, and appears almost exactly the same still today.

Comissioned by Cosimo the Elder in the mid-1400s for his favourite son Giovanni, the villa was intended as a place to focus on intellectual life rather than the traditional farming life of a villa. When Giovanni died prematurely and with no children, it was his nephew, Lorenzo the Magnificent, who inherited the villa in 1469, when it was turned into a residence for Lorenzo's circle of artist and philosopher friends. It remained Medici property until 1671 and after changing hands several times, a century later it came under the ownership of a series of British owners, including, in 1911, the family of Lady Sybil Cutting, wife of writer Geoffrey Scott and mother of Iris Origo (1902-1988), writer and marchesa, who spent much of her childhood at the villa.

The property consists of the Villa and three east/west spreading garden terraces. The long wooded eastern entrance walk brings the visitor to the lemon garden situated on the highest terrace of the garden. The lemon garden is on axis with the Villa and adjacent to the lemon house. The house is decorated with extravagant friezes and cornices constructed with stucco and belvedere. The lemon garden consists of two large Paulownia trees, three lawn spaces, and is seasonally decorated with lemon trees in terra-cotta pots. In response to Fiesole hills steep topography, the north side of the lemon garden is a massive retaining wall with a bay hedge spanning the axis to the Villa. The third terrace, created between 1911 and 1923 by Cecil Pinsent and Geoffrey Scott is aligned longitudinally with the first, but is 11-12 m lower down. It is laid out in the Italian style, with a fine pergola positioned mid-way between the two levels. The lowest terrace of Villa Medici is accessible from the pergola walk and is enclosed on three sides with a southern view of Florence.

Gardens in Tuscany | Villa Medici in Fiesole, Firenze


 

Domenico Ghirlandaio's fresco in the Tornabuoni chapel, Florence


Villa Medici in Fiesole, lower garden

After a hairpin turn, still on Via Vecchia Fiesolana at number 21, is the Villa Rondinelli. Once called “the most splendid and grand” of the Fiesolan villas, it was constructed in the 16th century. Bought by Grand Duke Cosimo I (1519-1574) to give to his “secret servant” or personal attendant, Sforza Almeni, whom he lavished gifts onto in return for his trust. Sforza added to the villa, amplifying it with terraces, a pool and grotto, constructing a magnificent garden and a grand ballroom, essentially living like royalty until 1566. Cosimo, a widower after his wife Eleonora's sudden illness, had confided in Sforza of his incredible fatuation with a girl twenty-four years his junior, Eleonora degli Albizi, who brought newfound joy to the sad duke, having just given birth to their daughter. Sforza told Cosmio's son Francesco about the secret affair, and was murdered by the enraged Cosimo himself with a decorative spear off the wall of Palazzo Vecchio for having betrayed his trust. The villa was subsequently sold to the Salviati family, one of the richest and most prominent Florentine famlies, who over the centuries were connected to the Pazzi Conspiracy, the Pope and Galileo.

In the 1960s villa Rondinelli was bought by the renowned landscape architect, Pietro Porcinai, who restored the buildings and gardens intending it to become a sort of intellectual centre to exchange ideas among artists, architects and philosophers, just like Villa Medici during Lorenzo the Magnificent's time, but the project was never completed. Porcinai did however create two greenhouse-studios and extended the gardens with maples, laurel, strawberry trees and roses, and also created a “secret garden”. It is now a private villa, owned by Porcinai's family.[1]


Villa Nieuwenkamp or Riposo dei Vescovi

   

Built over an existing farm building owned by Fiesole Abbey, this villa was transformed into a noble residence in the 19th century. It is said that the villa was used as a stopping-off place for bishops on their way from Florence to Fiesole, hence the name, which translates literally as "bishops' rest". In 1926 the villa, which had by then fallen into a very bad state of repair, became the home of Dutch artist W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, who carried out a radical restoration operation, and adorned the garden with many fountains and other embellishments. The five-hectare garden is divided by a 230-metre-long avenue lined with cypress trees, and is on several different levels organised as a series of terraces edged with box hedges, cypress trees and laurels, connected by stone steps that follow the contours of the slope. At the point where the avenue leading off from the villa is crossed by side paths, stand various stone elements. Firstly two female busts, followed by a fountain on several levels and then an elliptical glade ringed by cypresses and edged with circular seating; a fountain, positioned against the boundary wall, forms the backdrop to the end of the walk. Nieuwenkamp decorated the park with statues, busts and archaeological finds. These include a bronze gong at the side of the building, a statue of Buddha, next to which is the artist's own tomb, and large conches and jars made of Impruneta terracotta that adorn the wall around the tennis court. Nieuwenkamp wrote two whole books about his villa and all the changes and additions he made both inside the house and out in the garden, work that he illustrated in great detail by more than a hundred superb drawings.

Address : Via Vecchia Fiesolana 62, San Domenico

Further along at no. 65 is Villa Papiniano, a residence used by important guests such as Pope Leo X (Lorenzo the Magnificent's son), is perhaps best known as the Villa of Baccio Bandinelli (1488-1560), the Medici court sculptor and rival of Michelangelo, famous for his unpopular sculpture of Hercules and Cacus that flanks the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio next to Michelangelo's David. He restored the villa in the mid-1500s before it was passed on to his son. In the 19th century, Fiesole became a fashionable area for wealthy anglo-saxons and much like the other villas, this one was owned by a series of foreign owners who added to the villa, inserting an English style garden and trippling the original size of Bandinelli's villa. Along the walls of the villa that follows the road, you can still spot the sign that attributes Baccio Bandinelli residence, above the sculpture of a lion's head.

Villa Palmieri and Villa Schifanoiai

At the end of via Vecchia Fiesolana you come to the church and convent of San Domenico, founded in 1406 and housing important works by the likes of Fra Angelico. Many other priceless works used to decorate the walls of the church but in 1808 during Napoleon's sopression of the religious orders, the monks lost their church. They were able to buy it back in 1879 but to do so they had to sell a few of the paintings, including two Fra Angelico frescoes which were detatched from the walls and sold to the Louvre in Paris and the Hermitage in St Petersburg. The other works no longer in the church are two other Fra Angelico altarpieces, now in Madrid and the Louvre, and a stunning Perugino, now in Florence's Uffizi gallery. For a taste of convent life, the monks take bookings for visitors who want to stay in one of their 13 rooms.

On the slopes just below piazza San Domenico and Villa Schifanoia is the Villa Palmieri, named after the Renaissance humanist who lived here in the 15th century and famous for being the setting of Boccaccio's The Decameron, who describes in great detail the glorious medieval garden where his story-telling group of young men and women retreat to escape the Plague. The look now is more of a Victorian style with remants of a late 17th century Baroque design, which includes an often-photographed lemon garden. It was frequented by Queen Victoria herself, who stayed here several times when visiting the Earl of Crawford who owned the villa in the 19th century. For its celebrity status, the villa and gardens have been immortalised in countless paintings and etchings over the centuries, such as the Renaissance view of Botticini's Assumption, showing Florence in the background and the villa Palmieri on the hill top on the right (pictured below, top) and pre-Raphaelite John William Waterhouse's 19th century painting of the Decameron, set in a sumptous garden of a villa (pictured below, bottom).


 

Villa Palmieri

View Larger Map of Villa Schifanoia
Villa Schifanoia, Via Giovanni Boccaccio, 50133, Firenze, Italia

 

 
 

Gardens in Tuscany | Villa Palmieri and Villa Schifanoiai


Nestled just below the famous Fiesole hills, where the Affrico stream gently meanders through the countryside, is the historic Villa Il Palmerino. On the oldest part of the property sits the Residenza del Palmerino, whose foundation dates back to 1400. The Residenza has two secret gardens, "giardini conclusi".

Vernon Lee spent most of her life on the continent, particularly in Italy where she lived at the villa from 1989 until her death in 1935.

A commemorative plaque was installed on Il Palmerino, which reads:

VIOLET PAGET - VERNON LEE 1856-1935 LIVED IN THIS HOUSE SINCE 1889. FROM HER YOUTH SHE LOVED ITALY WITH HER PASSIONATE SEARCH FOR BEAUTY, HER MANY BOOKS REMAIN TO PROVE IT.

Address : Villa il Palmerino, via del Palmerino 12

   
   

 

 
 
   

 

 
 
   

 

 
 
   

 

 
 
   

 

 
 
   
   
   
   
   
 
   

Transport
In front of the church of San Domenico, you can catch the bus (no. 7) either back up to Fiesole (heading in direction “Fiesole”) or back down to Florence (heading in direction “La Pira”), which will take you directly to Piazza San Marco, the last stop.

The easiest ways to reach Fiesole to do this walk is to catch a local ATAF bus (you will see the word FIESOLE written on the front of the bus going in the right direction), which can be found at Piazza San Marco (on via Giorgio la Pira) and runs to and from Fiesole approximately every half hour until midnight. The bus will drop you off right in the main piazza of Fiesole, Piazza Mino. Local ATAF bus tickets can be bought in any tabaccheria (tobacconist) for 1,20 euro, usable more than once if within 90 minutes.

Opening hours of the Churches:
Church of Saint Romulus (San Romolo), Piazzetta della Cattedrale, 1
Open every day from 7:30am-12pm and 3-6pm. In the winter they close one hour earlier.

Church of Santa Maria Primerana, Piazza Mino
Open every day from 9:30am-12pm and 3-8pm

Church of San Francesco, Via S. Francesco 13
Opening hours: Monday to Satureday from 9am-12pm and 3pm-7pm in the summer.
In the winter they close one hour earlier. Sundays and holidays, 9-11am and 3-6pm.

Church and convent of San Domenico, Piazza San Domenico 4
Open Monday - Saturday 7:30am-12:30pm and 4:30pm-6:30pm during the summer; 8:30am-12pm and 4-5pm in winter
Tel. (39) 055 59 230 (for booking a room to stay in the convent)

Badia Fiesolana, Via della Badia dei Roccettini 9
Open Monday-Friday 9am to 5:30pm, Saturdays 9-12:30pm. Closed Sundays.

Visiting the villas:

Only some of the villas are open to the public for visits; many have to be arranged in advance or are only open for visits on special occasions. Those not open to the public at all have been left out of the following list.

Villa Medici, via Beato Angelico 2
The villa is open to the public Monday to Friday 9am to 1pm (6 euro per person).
Visits to the garden for groups only by prior arrangement. To reserve, send a fax to (39) 055 239 8994 or phone (39) 055 59164.

Villa Nieuwenkamp, via Vecchia Fiesolana 62
Visits by appointment only, telephone 800 414 240 (toll free number) or (39) 055 599223

Villa Schifanoia (European University Institute), via Giovanni Boccaccio 121
Visits by appointment only, telephone (39) 055 46851

Villa Palmieri, via Giovanni Boccaccio
Open by appointment only, telephone (39) 055 577204




Gardens in Tuscany | Villa Medici at Careggi

Vernon Lee, Genius Loci: Notes on Places, London (Grant Richards) 1899
Vernon Lee was the pseudonym of the British writer Violet Paget (1856-1935). Violet Paget was born at Château St Leonard in France (Boulogne) and she spent most of her life on the continent, particularly in Italy where, from 1889 to her death in 1935, she lived at the Villa Palmerino.
An engaged feminist, she always dressed à la garçonne, and was a member of the Union of Democratic Control. She was also a lesbian, and had long-term passionate friendships with two women, Mary Robinson and Kit Anstruther-Thomson.
She was responsible for introducing the German concept of 'Einfühlung', or 'empathy' into the study of aesthetics in the English-speaking world. She developed her own theory of psychological aesthetics in collaboration with her lover, Kit Anstruther-Thomson, based on previous work by William James, Theodor Lipps, and Karl Groos. She claimed that spectators "empathise" with works of art when they call up memories and associations and cause often unconscious bodily changes in posture and breathing.
Vernon Lee settled in the fifteenth-century villa in 1889 and stayed until her death in 1935. She was a talented harpsichord player and organized theatrical recitals and plays at the villa. She welcomed such guests as Bernard and Mary Berenson (the latter was one of Lee's closest allies) and hosted other feminist writers.
Vernon Lee was known and appreciated in Italy but especially in England. The “Genius Loci”, whose origins are in romantic ideas and especially the work of Heinrich Heine in his book Gods in Exile (1854), is ‘an encounter with mysterious forces that stun the visitors with their presence having condensed the memory of a fateful event’ (Attilio Brilli). Vernon Lee divides the book into several chapters, all dedicated to the moments when the genius loci, the spirit of the place, was presented to her, including several chapters on France and Italy. Vernon Lee dedicated other books to the theory of genius loci, including Limbo (1897), The Enchanted Woods (1905), The Spirit of Rome (1906), The Tower of Mirrors (1914) and The Golden Keys (1925 ).
The Vernon Lee Collection in the Archive of the British Institute of Florence consists of books from Vernon Lee’s own library, many of which she annotated.
[From 'VILLAS AND GARDENS. A selection of travel literature, published between 1885 and 1914, in the Harold Acton Library. This guide to a selection of books from our collection was put together by Michele Amedei, intern from the Università degli Studi di Firenze. It is one of a series of three: Tuscany, Tuscany and Beyond, Villas and Gardens | www.britishinstitute.it]

 


[1] In 1960 Porcinai began work on the renovation and restoration of Villa Rondinelli in San Domenico di Fiesole, which he had purchased. His choice fell on the Villa not only because he wished to set up his studio there, but also because the site and the building –which had been the guest house of the Villa Medici – were steeped in history. In fact in the sixteenth century the terraces of the garden and the open nymphaeum hosted concerts and performances in the summer season. Thus to Porcinai the villa seemed an appropriate setting in which to gather artists, architects, philosophers and poets, thus generating a sort of new Accademia.
Porcinai appointed the premises of Villa Rondinelli as a studio, and in the terraces above he created two greenhouse-studios. This was to be the site of an educational centre. The buildings, extending over two floors, are linked internally by a staircase, with the garden of the upper floor on the roof of the ground floor. They are perfectly integrated into the grounds and the surrounding landscape, with the garden all around just as it was in the time of the Medici, with the same typically Mediterranean vegetation of holm oaks and cypress trees. Porcinai also planted maples, strawberry trees, viburnum and laurel. In the borders were roses, speedwells, spiraea and mahonia. The old staircases and walls are covered in creepers: wistaria, old roses, ivy, plumbago, rhynchospermum etc.
Around the water lily pond and the fountain in grey pietra serena (sandstone) the secret garden was created.
Gardens in Tuscany | Pietro Porcinai - Works | www.pietroporcinai.net
[2] Source photo Nikater, published under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.


 

Villa is Tuscany

Artist and writer's residency | Holiday houses in Tuscany | Podere Santa Pia

 
 
   

Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia, view from the garden
on the valley below

Il parco dei Mostri di Bomarzo
         

Villa I Tatti
Parco di Villa Reale di Castello (Villa di Castello) in Florence

Villa di Geggiano


Villa Arceno gardens
L'Orto de'Pecci
L'eremo di Montesiepi (the Hermitage of Montesiepi)