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
Villa Medici in Fiesole, Firenze

album Surroundings

Villa Medici in Fiesole, Firenze


The Medici Villas have maintained their original characteristics unchanged, expressing the particular measurement and refined taste of the Florentine culture during both the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Villa Medici in Fiesole, one of the oldest Renaissance residences with a garden, is also one of the best preserved, but at the same time is also one of the least well known.[1] While most of the villas dating back to the same period, such as Cafaggiolo and Trebbio, stand at the centre of farming concerns, this villa had no connections at all with agricultural life. The Villa Medici was built during the mid fifteenth century when Cosimo hired Michellozzo Di Bartolommeo to design the Villa for his son Giovanni Medici. Intended to be a setting for intellectual life rather than a working Villa, Villa Medici was constructed to be a demonstration of aesthetic and ideological values.

The villa owes its fame to Lorenzo il Magnifico who inherited the property in 1469 following the untimely death of his brother. The new master of the house turned the residence into a gathering place for artists, philosophers and men of letters such as Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola and Poliziano. The quadrangular building is a typical example of the 15th-century edifice, with square serena stone windows and broad loggias looking out over the surroundings. The villa remained the property of the Medici until 1671. It subsequently changed hands several times, and in 1772 was sold to Lady Orford, the sister-in-law of Horace Walpole. In the 19th century it was owned by the artist William Blundell Spence and in 1911 was purchased by Lady Sybil Cutting, wife of the writer Geoffrey Scott. The entrance, which used to be on the Via Vecchia Fiesolana, was moved by Lady Orford in 1772 onto what is now Via Beato Angelico, a change which altered the entire organisation of the villa. At the same time a lemon house was built to a design by Niccolò Maria Gaspare Paoletti.

The geographical position of the villa on gently sloping land suggested the layout of the garden on three terraces. The first of these, at the end of an avenue lined with cypress trees that runs underneath a holm-oak wood, has large rectangular lawns with potted lemon trees. The villa's piano nobile looks out onto this part of the garden. The second terrace is overlooked by the rear of the building and is reached by an indoor staircase. This, the least heavily altered part of the garden, has flower beds lined with box hedges with a large fountain in the centre, and is laid out in the shade of large magnolia trees. 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. [2] It is laid out in the Italian style, with a fine pergola positioned mid-way between the two levels. Below the lemon garden is an unpaved walk which leads to the pergola which runs the length of another retaining wall. The pergola walks leads to the western terrace and the giardino segreto, or "secret garden." This garden is only accessible by this pergola walk, or through the Villa itself. The giardino segreto has trapezoidal form and consists of four lawn spaces surrounded by box hedges. The garden also has magnolia and lemon trees and a central elliptical pond.

Villa Medici in Fiesole, Firenze, lower garden

The Villa Medici in Fiesole is the fourth oldest of the villas built by the Medici family. It was built between 1451 and 1457.
The Medici Villa has gracious terraces, as Alberti recommended, cut into a stony hillside. There are panoramic views of the River Arno and Florence. The steep topography exploited the panoramic views of Florence which became a pertinent element of later Italian garden design. Sites for earlier villas had been chosen because they were easy to defend, or because of their rich agricultural surroundings.
The terraces have lawns and are shaded by paulownias. Paths are lined with lemon trees, brought out in the summer, and with geranium-filled terracotta pots. Originally, the upper terrace is likely to have been used as an extension of the house. The lower terrace was probably a vegetable garden. There is a secret garden (giardino segreto) which has wonderful views, to aid one's contemplation. Horace Walpole's sister added the coach driive in the eighteenth century and an English architect designed the box parterres in the twentieth century.
The lowest terrace of Villa Medici is accessible from the pergola walk and is enclosed on three sides with a southern view of Florence. The enclosing elements are the massive northern retaining wall, and two buildings originally built as a potting shed, and a stable. These structures were places below to leave "breathing room" for the Villa. This garden consists of four large magnolia trees, lemon trees, flowering beds, a central pond, and geometric boxwood hedges. The features of the lower garden are visible from the lemon garden and other higher points of the Villa.

Helena Attlee, in Italian Gardens, 2006, p16, writes that 'Any knowledge that we have of the layout and planting of Villa Medici's gardens comes from the inventory of 1492, which lists all the 'contiguous pieces of land', including 'a garden behind said villa with various small walled gardens or with surrounding walls and a piece of land in the grounds with cypresses and trees in a wood'. She thinks the 'small gardens' were probably enclosed beds on the upper terrace with pomegranate, orange and lemon trees. It was Lorenzo who made the garden of Villa Medici into an outdoor salon.

The lowest terrace of Villa Medici is accessible from the pergola walk and is enclosed on three sides with a southern view of Florence.

Domenico Ghirlandaio's fresco in the Tornabuoni chapel, Florence


Enlarge map Villa Medici in Fiesole

Walking around Florence | 7 | From Fiesole to Settignano

In Florence, the number 7 bus leaves from outside San Marco every fifteen or twenty minutes and takes about the same time to get to Fiesole. The walk starts in the via Giuseppe Verdi, a narrow street tucked away in the south-east corner of the main square. The narrow picturesque Via Giuseppe Verdi leads steeply uphill, and you will see a red and white stripe painted on the wall at the corner of the street. (This is the sign of the Club Alpino Italiano or CAI, which is responsible for way-marking so many of the walks in Italy). The red and white stripes are intended as an aid to walkers and are painted on walls, trees and rocks. The via Giuseppe Verdi climbs quite steeply for about two to three hundred yards before reaching a fork and the first of many panoramic views.

Visite ai giardini delle ville fiesolane
| Villa Medici, Villa Montececeri, Villa Nieuwenkamp e ancora Villa San Michele, Villa Peyron, Villa Schifanoia e il Castello di Vincigliata sono i luoghi che il visitatore può ammirare grazie all’iniziativa. Dopo il grande successo delle edizioni passate, anche quest’anno da aprile a ottobre, con pausa a luglio e agosto, sarà possibile visitare luoghi solitamente chiusi al pubblico e di grande fascino.Un itinerario che porta alla scoperta di giardini e paesaggi in cui emerge il rapporto fra l’uomo e la terra, in un equilibrio che ha reso Fiesole celebre per le sue forme ed i suoi colori. Le visite guidate ai Giardini delle Ville fiesolane sono organizzate dal Comune di Fiesole e condotte da guide dell’Aiapp (Associazione Italiana di Architettura del Paesaggio). I visitatori saranno accompagnati di volta in volta da un architetto paesaggista che spiegherà loro i segreti e le caratteristiche dei luoghi.
Musei di Fiesole | Via Portigiani, 1 – 50014 Fiesole :: Tel. 055 5961293 |

Medici Villas | UNESCO: "Medici Villas"
The Medici Villas form a totally new system of residences built by the Medici family outside the walls of Florence, in the centre of vast farming properties. From the 15th to the early 18th century, the Medici family played a decisive political role in the Tuscan territory, adding to their city homes, more specifically connected with the exercise of their power, these places for recreation and hunting which, thanks to the Medici patronage, became meeting places for literati, philosophers, and artists. The group of villas was built during the phase of the family's political success, while the city of Florence was becoming the heart of the formation, and later the expansion throughout Europe, of the Renaissance culture. (...)

Bibliography and References

Mazzini, Donata and Simone Martini. Villa Medici, Fiesole: Leon Battista Alberti and the Prototype of the Renaissance Villa. Firenze : Centro di della Edifimi, 2004
Barlow Rogers, Elizabeth. Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History. New York : Henry N. Abrams, INC 2001 pp. 129-131

The Galileo Project | The Medici Family |

[1] The Medici family can be traced back to the end of the 12 th century. Described as members of the "patrician" class (aristocracy or nobles) the Medici family was often seen as friends of the common people. The 13th century was when the Medici rose to their highest point of wealth through banking and commerce.
Cosimo il Vecchio was considered to be the founder of the political fortunes of the Medici family. Cosimo ruled Florence as the uncrowned king from 1434-1464 while the city flourished, and was known to spend his wealth on charitable acts, to live simply, and celebrate literature and art.
The Medici villas are a series of rural building complexes near Florence which were owned by members of the Medici family between the 15th century and the 17th century. The villas served several functions: they were the country palaces of the Medici, scattered over the territory that they ruled, demonstrating their power and wealth. They were also recreational resorts for the leisure and pleasure of their owners; and, more prosaically, they were the centre of agricultural activities on the surrounding estates.
History | The first Medici villas were the Villa del Trebbio and that at Cafaggiolo, both strong fortified houses built in the 14th century in the Mugello region, the original home of the Medici family. In the 15th century, Cosimo de' Medici built villas designed by Michelozzo at Careggi and Fiesole, still quite severe buildings, but with additional recreational spaces: courtyards, balconies, and gardens. Lorenzo de' Medici spent long periods at the Villa di Careggi. Gradually, Florence became surrounded by a collection of Medici villas, with others in more distant parts of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. By the end of the 16th century, there were at least 16 major estates, with at least another 11 of secondary interest (mainly agricultural or owned by the Medici family for a short time), together with a constellation of farms and hunting lodges throughout Tuscany. Giusto Utens painted a series of lunettes depicting the main Medici villas in the 17th century, which are now held by the Museo di Firenze com'era.
The last Medici villas were the Villa di Montevettolini and the Villa di Artimino, bought in 1595/6 by Ferdinando I while he was expanding the Villa di Castello, Villa La Petraia and Villa dell'Ambrogiana.
The later villas are outstanding examples of Renaissance and Baroque architecture, and were often accompanied by gardens. The garden at the Villa di Castello, created for Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, was the first in Italy by Niccolò Tribolo, who later designed the Boboli Gardens for Cosimo's Florentine new residence, the Palazzo Pitti.
Each significant member of the Medici family owned an estate. The Duke moved from one house to house. When in residence, the villa became a microcosm of the Medici court. For hunting, he could visit the Villa del Trebbio, Villa di Cafaggiolo or Villa di Pratolino; reside at the Villa dell'Ambrogiana in the spring; and move to the Villa di Artimino, to while away the summer in its cooler elevated position.
After the death of Gian Gastone de' Medici in 1738, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Medici's assets, including their villas, were acquired by Francis, Duke of Lorraine (later Holy Roman Emperor). Today, some of the Medici villas are museums; others are occupied by institutions, and a few are owned privately, and often hired privately or used to stage public events. In 2006, the Italian government submitted the Medici villas for designation by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The Medici villas | This complex of residences is comparable only to the most distinguished examples of aristocratic residences surrounded by gardens ordered by the most important Italian families of the Renaissance - such as the Gonzaga in Mantua and the Este in Ferrara - in relation to the political and cultural function they had, as an extension throughout the territory of the court life, as well as to the Palladian Villas and those of the papal nobility in Latium.
Compared to the examples mentioned, the Medici Villas, which were created through a reutilization of pre-existing structures, stand out for their characteristic as a system of control and supervision over the territory, combined with their productive functions and use as places for artistic expression, representation, and recreation for the Medici family.
[2] Lady Sybil's daughter and heiress, Iris Origo, later employed Cecil Pinsent for the development of the garden at La Foce, her property in the Crete Senesi near Montepulciano.
Iris Origo (1902-1988), the Marchesa Origo, was an Anglo-Irish-American writer, who devoted much of her life to the improvement of the Tuscan estate at La Foce that she purchased with her husband in the 1920s.


Iris Margaret Cutting was born on 15 August 1902, the daughter of William Bayard Cutting, the son of a rich and philanthropic New York family and Sybil Cuffe, the daughter of Lord Desart, an Irish peer. Her parents travelled widely after their marriage, particularly in Italy. Following the early death of Bayard Cutting in 1910, Sybil Cuffe settled with her daughter Iris in Italy, buying the Villa Medici in Fiesole, one of Florence’s most spectacular villas. There they formed a close friendship with Bernhard Berenson, who lived not far away at I Tatti. Iris was briefly enrolled at school in London, but was largely educated at home, by professor Solone Montia and a series of French and German governesses. In 1918, Iris’s mother married the architectural historian Geoffrey Scott, who later embarked on a relationship with Vita Sackville-West. The marriage was to last until 1927; following their divorce, she was to marry for a third time, to the essayist Percy Lubbock. She died in 1943. Iris travelled to England and the United States in order to be launched in the society of both countries. In 1922, she first met Colin Mackenzie, a young Scottish businessman working in Milan; a romantic, epistolary affair was followed by a lifelong friendship. On 4 March 1924, Iris married Antonio Origo, the illegitimate son of Marchese Clemente Origo and a man possessed of good looks and much charm. They moved together to their new estate at La Foce, near Chianciano Terme in the Province of Siena. It was in a state of bad disrepair but which, by much hard work, care and attention, they succeeded in transforming. They had a son, Gian Clemente Bayard ("Gianni") (24 June 1925 – 30 April 1933), who died of meningitis, and two daughters, Benedetta (1 August 1940 - ) and Donata (9 June 1943 - ). It was following the death of Gianni that Iris embarked on her writing career, with a well-received biography of Giacomo Leopardi, published in 1935. The Observer said: "Her book is a monument to scholarship - the literary and historical background is painted with consummate skill, and a pattern of good taste." During the Second World War, the Origos remained at La Foce and looked after refugee children, who were housed there. Following the surrender of Italy, Iris also sheltered or assisted many escaped Allied prisoners of war, who were seeking to make their way through the German lines, or simply to survive. Her account of this time, War in the Val D'Orcia, was the first of her books to be a popular, as well as a critical, success. After the war, Iris divided her time between La Foce and Rome, where the Origos had bought a flat in the Palazzo Orsini, and devoted herself to writing. The Origos also spent holidays at Gli Scafari, the house built by Iris’s mother at Lerici, on the Gulf of Spezia. Antonio Origo died on 27 June 1976, and Iris Origo herself died on 28 June 1988. In 1977, she had been created an Honorary Dame Commander of the British Empire.
Gardens in Tuscany | Iros Origo | Villa La Foce

Villa is Tuscany

Podere Santa Pia, a formal cloister in the Tuscan Maremma is the perfect holiday resort for relaxing and enjoying the splendor of the Maremma hills of southern Tuscany. The most interesting artistic, historical and cultural sites of southern Tuscany are nearby, and are awaiting your discovery.

Artist and writer's residency | Podere Santa Pia

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

Florence, Duomo

Capella Vialetta, near Pienza

Podere Santa Pia, famous wines in southern Tuscany

Other villas in Fiesole | Montececeri Park | Maiano Quarries

Parco di Montececeri | Montececeri Park

The quarries of Fiesole, and of Maiano in particular, exploited until the early 20th century, are famous for their sandstone, the so-called "pietra fiesolana", amply utilised by sculptors since the 15th century. Mentioned by Benvenuto Cellini and Giorgio Vasari, "pietra fiesolana" was most suitable for architectural works and monuments, as well as for more or less refined elements used for civil, religious and urban furnishings. It was so widely used that the Medicean government had to exert a severe policy of control over its exploitation. In the 17th and 18th centuries, in fact, the Fiesole quarries were "banned" and reserved exclusively to Florentine monuments. Among the last works built with "pietra fiesolana" are the columns in the courtyard, the stairway and other architectural elements of the Florence National Central Library. Today the area has become a park, along whose itineraries can be seen the basic features of the ancient quarries: the cut, the open-sky, and the stone quarry "cava ficcata", artificial caves supported by feet.
Montececeri is a "Leonardian place". In a clearing on the top of the hill, a stele bears the prophecy of flight from "Monte del Cigno" (Montececeri) noted by Leonardo on the inner cover of the "Codex on the Flight of Birds" now in the Royal Library of Turin.
Leonardo also mentions "Monte Ceceri" in drawing the contour of the hills around Florence on Folio 20v of tMadrid Ms. II.
In the vicinity of the Il Regresso curve, along the provincial road that links Fiesole to Florence, a plate on the wall of Villa La Torrossa recalls that Leonardo da Vinci decided to attempt human flight here, from Montececeri. Legend has it that Zoroastro da Peretola (the illegitimate son of one of the Rucellai, a pupil of Leonardo in Milan and in Florence, during the period of the wall painting depicting the Battle of Anghiari, who later died in Rome and is recalled as an esoteric personage) attempted to fly from Montececeri, ending in a disastrous fall.

Maiano is also linked to the figure of Temple Leader, the Englishman who rebuilt the castle of Vincigliata in the 19th century.
[Source: Scientific Itineraries in Tuscany |]

Castello di Vincigliata

In 1885 John Temple Leader purchased the medieval castle of Vincigliata and spent twelve years redesigning it in accordance with the "Gothic revival" style popular at the time. However, a number of original crests can still be seen in the courtyard, and a fine fresco cycle dating back to the 14th century also survived the renovation work. The 19th-century scheme was not limited to the restoration of the building but also included its surroundings: the slopes of the hill were planted with trees and dense undergrowth suited to the rocky terrain. Cypress trees were also introduced here and there, in amongst the pines and holm-oaks, creating an unusual mix of conifers and deciduous trees. Leader was assisted in his landscaping scheme by the architect Giuseppe Fancelli and hydraulics expert Alessandro Papini. In the second half of the 19th century, Temple Leader purchased the ancient "Cava delle Colonne", a quarry whose name is a reference to the fact that the stone used to make the columns of the Princes' Chapel in the church of San Lorenzo came from here. This natural basin, which was transformed into a lake-like pool using water from the Mensola river, is the most conspicuous feature of the large romantic park. On one side of this lake the shoreline takes the form of craggy rocks that create beautiful caves, on the other an embankment was built. The waters are overhung by the surrounding greenery and the surface is adorned with aquatic plants such as water lilies, iris, papyrus and rushes. All the buildings in the park were constructed before 1883, with the exception of the Gothic-style tower (1885-1886), the visual focal point of this charmingly atmospheric bathing area. The tower, topped by a protruding walkway with Guelph-style crenellations, is very similar to the one on the castle's watch tower. The ladies' changing cabin, a Swiss chalet-style pile construction built over the water, is the only feature that has been lost. The so-called Maria Luisa Bridge connects the two sides of the river, beyond which stands the Kaffeehause with an elegant loggia. This building was originally used as a storeroom for equipment used in the nearby quarries. The garden surrounding the waters of the Laghetto delle Colonne, is criss-crossed by tortuous paths that wind their way through the dense vegetation encountering on their way various typical romantic garden features: ornamental bridges, walls, statues of mythological monsters and a nymphaeum-grotto. The time when Queen Victoria came to the villa in 1893 as a guest of Temple Leader is recalled in a stone tablet.
Address: Fiesole | Località: Vincigliata, Via di Vincigliata, 13 |

Villa i Tatti

Villa i Tatti, originally owned by the Zati family, was built over an existing ancient building dating back to the 11th century and, after changing hands various times gradually fell into a poor state of repair. Then, in 1906, it was bought by the famous art historian and critic Bernard Berenson. In 1909 Berenson commissioned Cecil Pinsent and Geoffrey Scott to transform the house and garden. The original entrance, now no longer used, was reached by an avenue lined with cypresses, which also led to a small flight of steps adorned with a niche containing a sculpture. The steps lead up to a terrace, situated between the main building and the lemon house, which is laid out with flower-beds bordered by box hedges, with a number of trees at the centre. Beyond the lemon house is a series of terraced gardens that run down over the slope facing south. These terraces, which are lined on both sides by tall cypress trees closely set to form hedges, are divided up into geometric flower-beds bordered by box hedges and laid out along the central avenue, which is embellished with mosaic paving and box trees cut into the shape of obelisks. A passageway through the high espalier of cypress trees that closes off the garden on the valley side is marked by two statues that stand at the top of a short flight of steps leading down into a copse of holm-oaks. Behind the villa there is a hanging garden, which also has flower beds edged with pruned box hedges. Here, too, Pinsent succeeded in creating a garden that blends beautifully with its surroundings, forming a series of tree-lined avenues that lead into the open countryside. Berenson bequeathed I Tatti to Harvard University, which turned it into a centre for Italian Renaissance studies.
Gardens in Tuscany | Villa Tatti
Fiesole | Via Vincigliata, 26 |

Villa il Roseto

This narrow garden, which clings to the rocky hill below the centre of Fiesole, affords one of the most beautiful views over Florence and the Arno Valley. An avenue leads to the villa, built by Belgian painter Consuelo De Jevenois between the late 19th and early 20th century, when these hills were largely populated by foreigners. The Roseto villa has a beautiful flower garden filled with hydrangeas, azaleas and roses, with two paths leading to two panoramic points higher up. The only way a garden could be laid out on this steeply sloping site was through the creation of terraces. A whole range of different plant species have been planted on the terraces here (cypress, oleander, bitter orange, cherry, laurel, pomegranate and plants typical of Mediterranean scrubland). Short rows of olive trees border the serena stone pathways, lined with wild roses and irises. The very simple, ochre-coloured villa building is based on typical Tuscan farmhouse style. A five-arched loggia separates off the belvedere and the upper part of the garden. Architect Giovanni Michelucci, who lived here from 1958 with his wife, the painter Eloisa Pacini, made hardly any changes to the property. The garden is still laid out over the old terracing, and many of the original plants which are typical of the area have been kept. In compliance with the wishes of the Michelucci couple, a Michelucci Foundation has now been set up, comprising the villa, the library buildings, and the study drawings and models produced by the architect, who died in 1991 just before his hundredth birthday. The foundation is also connected with the publication of the La Nuova Città review, the aim of which is to promote social architecture studies in the field of prisons, hospitals and schools.
Address: Fiesole | Via: Beato Angelico, 15 |

Villa le Balze

This villa, designed in 1911 by Cecil Pinsent for the American Charles Augustus Strong, stands on a particularly narrow site on the slopes of the Fiesole hill. Access to the garden, which takes the form of a series of green spaces enclosed by walls, is from the Via Vecchia Fiesolana. Once through the entrance, the first green space encountered is the so-called "orange-tree garden". The citrus-fruit trees originally planted here were later replaced by ivy geraniums that wound themselves around metal frames. Two arches in the west wall lead into the "winter garden", which is laid out along formal lines, being divided up into geometric flower beds edged with box hedges and with a circular stone pool at the centre. Perennial and seasonal plants, potted lemon trees and a false jasmine, which completely covers the wall under the balcony, decorate this part of the garden. The perspective run of features continues beyond the villa and ends in a copse consisting of a series of holm-oaks planted in rows, and with a path leading to a grotto. Parallel to this runs another path, lined with irises, lavender and roses, separating Pinsent's landscaping from the open countryside. A banksia-draped pergola, set on a higher level, offers charming views over the garden from above. This pergola is reached by a double stone staircase opposite the north side of the villa. Positioned in between the two flights of steps is a grotto with fountain. On either side are two walls decorated with pebble mosaic, and four high-relief medallions with busts, one of which is Pinsent's self-portrait. In a niche in the wall above the fountain is a statue of Venus. This landscaping system is the best example of Pinsent's skill in allowing an organised architectural space to gradually give way to the natural surroundings of meadows and olive groves. In 1979 Strong's daughter, the marchioness Margaret Rockefeller de Cuevas de Lorain, bequeathed the villa to Georgetown University, in accordance with her father's wishes, since which time the villa has been used to accommodate the university's students during their study visits to Italy.
Fiesole | Via Vecchia Fiesolana, 26 | www.georgetown.villalebalze.html
Gardens in Tuscany | Villa Le Balze

Villa Nieuwenkamp-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: Fiesole | Località San Domenico, Via Vecchia Fiesolana 62 |

Villa Peyron il Bosco di Fontelucente

Villa Peyron, together with its formal garden and large park, stands on the Fiesole hills, in a beautiful position with a spectacular view of Florence to the south and of Castel del Poggio to the east. It takes its name from a 16th-century fountain set in a verdant wood on the uphill side of the villa which supplies water (by simple force of gravity) to the many fountains in the garden and park. It seems likely that the villa was built over Etruscan ruins, traces of which can be seen in the underground rooms and the immediate surroundings, such as the Cyclopean walls in the park. Over the centuries the building was remodelled until it acquired its present appearance as a result of work done by the architect Giovannozzi in the early 20th century. The garden, which spreads over three terraces on the south side, has a box-hedged parterre running in line with the villa. The upper terrace was probably created at the time of the villa's construction, while the others, much of the rest of the park, were laid out by Angelo Peyron and by his son Paolo Peyron. Paolo also created the lake and the architectural and monumental complex above it. The beautifully-sculptured statues that adorn the garden were taken from villas near the Brenta river in north-east Italy's Veneto region, to replace the ones that were destroyed during World War II.
Address: Fiesole | Località San Domenico, Via Vecchia Fiesolana 62

Villa Palmieri

This garden is famed for the medieval garden described by Boccacio rather than for its Victorian Mixed Style garden, made for the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres in the 1870s. It has remnants, including a lemon garden, from a late seventeenth century Baroque design. Queen Victoria herself used to come here to stay with the Earl's family. One can gaze through the mists of time to see the stuffiness of Victorian formalism and the Italian late-Baroque. Or one can look further back, to see the gay freedom of Bocaccio's revelling youth.
The Villa Palmieri had a rather distinguished history.
It was the setting of the first refuge of Boccaccio's seven young women and three young men when they fled from plague-stricken Florence in 1348 and told tales for ten days. It is now generally agreed that if Giovanni Boccaccio (June 16, 1313 – December 21, 1375) had any particular house in his mind it was this.

The Villa Palmieri is shown in the lower left corner of the Francesco Botticini's most famous painting, The Assumption of the Virgin.

Villa Schifanoia

Villa Schifanoia was built over the remains of the ancient Villa Palmieri. The main core of the villa, of 15th-century origin, belonged to the Cresci family until 1550. It has changed hands many times over the centuries, and seen many alterations and additions, such as the family chapel, built in the mid-19th century, and the large gate from which the avenue leads through the garden and up to the main entrance of the villa and a small two-storey outbuilding known as la villetta. In 1927 the property passed into the hands of Myron Taylor, the United States Ambassador to the Vatican during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. Taylor restored the villa to house his own art collection and also laid out a beautiful Italian-style garden on the generous stretch of land on the south side, divided into three elegant parterres edged with box hedges and arranged around a series of small fountains. The beautiful formal garden is enlivened with statues and other stone decorations, small pools and fountains, of which the one on the upper terrace is skewed off the main axis. In 1986 the villa was bought by the State and converted into a European University Institute.
Address: Fiesole | Località San Domenico, Via Boccaccio, 121
Gardens in Tuscany | Villa Palmieri and Villa Schifanoiai in Fiesole

Villa di Pratolino

is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Florence in the Italian region Tuscany, located about 15 km north of Florence.
It is home to Villa Demidoff, housing the remains of the Villa Medici di Pratolino. The communal territory also includes the Sanctuary of Montesenario, one of the most important ones in Tuscany.

'The story of the park at Pratolino began in 1568 when Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, appointed architect Bernardo Buontalenti to design a villa and a large adjoining park. A few years earlier, Francesco’s father Cosimo I had been assisted by Tribolo for his gardens in Florence (Castello in 1540, the Herb Garden in 1545, and Boboli in 1550). The Pratolino project therefore began almost twenty years after that of Boboli (the park was practically completed in 1585), and Buontalenti laid it out to be a fantasy land where nature and technology blended to create a symbolic journey that would introduce the visitor to the Grand Duke’s philosophical thought. The park aroused great interest among contemporaries straightaway, and for the peculiarity of its artificial grottoes, water tricks and statues was immediately defined as "the garden of wonders". After the death of Francesco, the park met with changing fortunes. The Lorraines were totally disinterested in it and transferred many of its statues to Boboli Garden. It was only after the Napoleonic period, with the return of Ferdinand III of Lorraine, that the park reacquired new dignity. In 1818, Joseph Frietsch was appointed to redo Pratolino. He enlarged it (from about twenty hectares, it grew to roughly 80 hectares), and moreover gave it a completely new look, in line with the taste for the "English garden".
The Medici garden is today a public park, which conserves several basins, statues grottoes and, in particular, the splendid statue of the Colossus of the Apennines (1579-1580) by Giambologna. There are lawns and woods of tall oaks and cedars, and spectacularly large plane trees.
The Medici villa, today lost, on the ground floor had a complex of artificial grottoes with water tricks and automatons. The school for pages of the Medici complex, restored several times in the second half of the 18th century, was transformed into a villa by the Demidoff family in 1872.' [Scientific Itineraries in Tuscany |
Gardens in Tuscany | Villa di Pratolino

Villa Gamberaia
Set on a hillside overlooking Florence and the Arno valley, Villa Gamberaia is a favorite of landscape architects and garden historians and is renowned for its marvelous gardens. Built in 1610, its unique architecture combines elements of both city and country living.
At the end of the 19th century, the Romanian Princess Jeanne Ghyka began the transformation of the old parterre de broderie into beautiful flower-bordered pools, enclosed at the southern end by an elegant cypress arcade, while the following owner, the American-born Mathilda Cass Ledyard, Baroness von Ketteler, introduced the wide box borders and topiary forms that still give the parterre its distinctive architectonic effect. It is believed that the sculptures found throughout the gardens were works by Princess Ghyka, who was educated at the School of Fine Arts in Paris.
Address: Villa Gamberaia, Via del Rossellino, 72 50135 Settignano - FIRENZE
Gardens in Tuscany | Villa Gamberaia


San Miniato al Monte, Florence


Villa La Pietra, near Florence

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

This page uses material from the Wikipedia articles Villa Medici in Fiesole, Iris Origo and Medici villas published under the GNU Free Documentation License, and information from the Toscane Regione website (
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