Villas of Tuscany

“Tuscan villas - a brief history”

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Villas of Tuscan

A Tuscan villa overlooking Florence

Renaissance villas of Tuscany

In 14 C and 15 C Italy, a 'villa' once more connoted a country house, sometimes the family seat of power like Villa Caprarola, but more often designed for seasonal pleasure, usually located within easy distance of a city. The first examples of Renaissance villas in Tuscany, Italy date back to the period of Lorenzo de' Medici, and they include the Villa di Poggio a Caiano by Giuliano da Sangallo (begun in 1470) and the Villa Medici at Fiesole (1458–61), probably the first villa created under the instructions of Leon Battista Alberti, who theorised in his De re aedificatoria regarding the features of the new concept of "the villa". From that time onwards, the Tuscan villa gardens were considered to form a seamless link between the residential building and the surrounding countryside.

In and around Florence during the 16 C, the Medici family built a series of Tuscan villas integrated into a garden setting, such as the magnificently situated Villa Medici at Fiesole (1458–61) alluded to above, the inventive villa-park at Pratolino (now Villa Demidoff, 1569–81), and the delightful Villa La Petraia (1575–90), with its central belvedere overlooking the Arno River valley of Tuscany, Italy.

Tuscan Villa Villas of Tuscany

La Petraia - a classic Tuscan villa near Florence

History of Tuscany and Tuscan Culture

Villa Le Barone - an historical villa hotel in Tuscany

Historical Villa Hotel Tuscany

Villa Le Barone, located in Chianti, Italy, was initially a mediaeval tower built on the ruins of a Roman structure, probably also a military outpost. It came into the possession of the famous della Robbia family of Florentine ceramicists and artists who converted it into a villa and owned it for several hundred years. Just after World War I, the villa was restored by the Marchesa Maria Bianca Viviani della Robbia as a farm and not long afterwards was converted into a beautiful hotel. It is surrounded by italianate and modern gardens, and has a swimming pool and tennis court, and yet retains a great deal of the atmosphere of a private villa: an ideal base for visitors to Tuscany interested in staying in a Tuscan villa.

Click here to learn more about the Villa Le Barone Hotel.

 

Villa Gamberaia - stay at a famous Tuscan villa

Villa Gamberaia - stay at a famous Tuscan villa

Villa Gamberaia is one of the classic Florentine villas, with a "hanging" garden laid out to draw the eye to the splendid views out over the farms towards Florence. Astonishingly, it is possible to rent self-catering vacation apartments in houses and converted farm buildings on the grounds. There is no better way to experience and understand what a villa meant in Renaissance times.

The villa is located on the outskirts of Florence and is worth a visit for the gardens alone - the gardens are open to the public by appointment. Villa Gamberaia can be reached from Florence in 20 minutes by car and also by ATAF bus number 10 (30 mins. from Piazza San Marco to the village of Settignano plus a 15 minute walk to the villa).

Click here to learn more about staying at Villa Gamberaia.


Villa Medici at Fiesole

• Villa Medici at Fiesole often considered to be largely the work of Michelozzo most likely owes its design to Leon Battista Alberti, and as such is the prototype of the Tuscan Renaissance villa. It enjoys a marvellous location in the cool hills of Fiesole, overlooking Florence. More about Villa Medici at Fiesole.



Villa Medici at Fiesole


Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo

• Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo is a castellated Renaissance villa situated near Barberino di Mugello in the valley of the River Sieve (Val di Sieve), some 25 km north of Florence. It was one of the oldest and most favoured of the Medici family estates, having been in the possession of the family since the 14 C. The villa was reconstructed following designs of the famous Renaissance architect Michelozzo in 1452, becoming a meeting place for some of the greatest intellectuals of the Italian Renaissance. More about Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo.



Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo


Castello di Uzzano

• Uzzano Castle retains its designation as a "castello" - a castle - but little remains of the original fortified structure. Uzzano is now a fine Renaissance villa, privately owned and located near Greve in Chianti, with a double-columned faηade of white plaster and pietra serena. There are a few remains of the original rectangular mediaeval watch tower. The italianate garden was restored in the 18 C with the addition of a double staircase and some statues. The villa is no longer associated with the wine-producing lands it once owned and which retain the name Castello di Uzzano as a brand.  More about Castello di Uzzano.



Castello di Uzzano


Castello di Verrazzano

• Verrazzano Castle is another "castello" which was long ago expanded in the form of a renaissance villa. It is situated in a magnificent panoramic location overlooking the Val di Greve near Greve in Chianti. After years of neglect following the extinction of the Verrazzano family, it has now been restored to its former glory. The castello is famous as the birthplace of Giovanni di Varrazzano, the navigator who discovered New York harbour and explored much of the east coast of what is now the USA. It is a famous wine producing property and can be visited for wine tours. More about Castello di Verrazzano.



Castello di Verrazzano


Villa Cetinale

• Villa Cetinale is a 16 C Tuscan villa located near Sovicille south of Sienna. It was designed in the 1600s by Carlo Fontana, a pupil of Bernini, and built by Cardinal Flavio Chigi for his uncle Fabio Chigi, Pope Alexander VII. The gardens at Villa Cetinale are among the most beautiful in Italy. Cardinal Flavio Chigi left the Cetinale estate to his grandchildren, who retained the property for three centuries, until it was bought in 1977 by the English peer Lord Antony Lambton, who carried out careful, conservative restoration work that restored Villa Cetinale to its former glory. More about Villa Cetinale.



Villa Cetinale


Villa Corsini a Mezzomonte

• Villa Corsini a Mezzomonte near Florence belonged to the Buondelmonti family in the 11 C. The building was initially a fortified farm. The current structure is in typical Renaissance style, a square with a central courtyard. The interior is famous for its magnificent frescoes representing scenes from "Orlando Furioso". More about Villa Corsini a Mezzomonte.



Villa Corsini a Mezzomonte


Castello di Vicchiomaggio

• Castello di Vicchiomaggio is a Renaissance villa located in the Val di Greve and built around a much earlier mediaeval tower. The remains of a Lombard castle were transformed at the end of the 1300s into a villa belonging to the Florentine Gherardini family and later the Scolari family. It has belonged to John Matta for many years and is famous for the quality of its wines. The castle also offers wine tours and accommodation. More about Castello di Vicchiomaggio.



Castello di Vicchiomaggio


Villa Vignamaggio

• Villa Vignamaggio near Lamole and Greve in Chianti belonged to the Gherardini and later the Gherardi families and shows the influence of Brunelleschi in its fine facade. Its italianate garden was restored in the 20 C. More about Villa Vignamaggio.



Villa Vignamaggio


Villa Aiola

• Villa Aiola near Castelnuovo Berardenga was built in the 17 C on the ruins of the castle of the same name, in a strategic position on the border between the territories of Florence and Sienna. At the end of the 1600s, the castle lost its military importance and became a villa farmhouse. It is possible to reach the villa over a drawbridge rebuilt over the now dry moat. More about Villa Aiola.



Villa Aiola Castello Aiola


Villa Gamberaia

• Villa Gamberaia at Settignano near Florence. The designer of villa Gamberaia has not been identified, but building was begun in 1610 for Zanobi Lapi whose descendents laid out the gardens between 1624 and 1635. During the 18 C, the Capponi family embellished the grounds with statuary and fountains. Villa Gamberaia exemplifies Tuscan villas of the era in which a close association existed between the garden and its agricultural surroundings and which retained such conservative features as a limonaia, allιes, ilex groves, terracotta figures, sculptured hedges, and pebble mosaic walks. More about Villa Gamberaia.



Villa Gamberaia


Villa La Pietra

• Villa La Pietra on via Bolognese about a mile from Florence was the home of Sir Harold Acton, author and aesthete, for much of the 20 C and is now the property of the University of New York. The villa originates from the 15 C and was bought and restored at the end of the 19 C by Arthur Acton, father of Harold, who furnished it entirely with antiques. The Renaissance garden was also restored. After he left China in 1939, Harold Acton moved into the villa and lived there until his death in 1994. He wrote a number of historical works, biographies and his own autobiography while living at Villa La Pietra. More about Villa La Pietra.

 


Villa La Pietra


Villa Demidoff (Villa Pratolino)

• Villa Demidoff at Pratolino. The Villa Medicea di Pratolino (Villa Demidoff di Pratolino) is a patrician villa located 12 km north of Florence. The original 16 C villa fell into decay and was demolished, and later the estate was bought by Prince Paolo Demidoff who, in 1872, had the pages' quarters turned into the existing villa. However, the park is magnificent and in it there are the remains of artificial caves and fountains. Of the original Renaissance property, what remains today is the colossal statue-fountain of the Apennine by Giambologna, together with the adjacent lake, the statue of the Mugnone and the hexagonal chapel designed by Buontalenti. More about Villa Demidoff.



Villa Demidoff at Pratolino


Villa Celsa

• Villa Celsa near Sovicille south of Sienna constructed as one of the Republic of Sienna's defence bastions and transformed into a villa in the 1500s by its owner, Mino Celsi. The villa retains its 16 C character despite numerous changes over the years. It has a splendid italianate garden laid out on one of its terraces, the elaborate layout and architectural additions creating an attractively striking effect. More about Villa Celsa.



Villa Celsa


Villa medicea dell'Ambrogiana

• Villa medicea dell'Ambrogiana near Montelupo Fiorentino is a huge country villa used by the Medici as a hunting lodge. A contemporary picture by Giusto Utens shows spectacular italianate garden bounded by the Arno. It was used as a psychiatric prison for many years and is now restored and the park is open to the public. More about Villa dell'Ambrogiana.



Villa medicea dell'Ambrogiana


Villa di Monaciano

• Villa di Monaciano, in contrast to many other famous Tuscan villas, is not a renaissance structure but dates from the 18 C and reflects the stylistic renewal sweeping Florence at that time. It has a splendid English garden and an antique hothouse, still in use and evidence of the botanical interests of the founder of the villa, Alessandro Pucci Sansedoni, an 18 C Siennese nobleman living in Florence. More about Villa di Monaciano.



Villa di Monaciano


Villas near Anghiari

• Villas near Anghiari - the Upper Tiber Valley and the overlooking hills are the location of many ancient castles that have been turned into villas over the centuries. Among them are Castello Montauto, Castello dei Sorci, Castello Galbino and Villa La Barbolana. More about the Castles and Villas near Anghiari.



Castello di Galbino near Anghiari


Villa Le Corti

• Villa Le Corti near San Casciano Val di Pesais one of the finest Renaissance country villas in Tuscany. It has belonged to the Corsini family since 1427. In the early 17 C it was converted by the painter and architect Santi di Tito into an imposing rectangular edifice dominated by the twin towers still there today. The Villa is surrounded by a splendid park. More about Villa Le Corti and the Corsini family.



Villa Le Corti

Villa Arceno

• Villa Arceno near Castelnuovo Berardenga was built at the end of the 17 C by Flaminio Del Taia. In the early 19 C, the property passed into the hands of the Piccolomini Clementini, who renovated the villa and built the huge park that surrounds it. The immense park that spreads out in front of the villa was designed by Agostino Fantastici in around 1833. It extends for several km and ends in an artificial lake that is completely surrounded by woodland. More about Villa Arceno.



Villa Arceno

Roman Villas

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Tuscan Villa Gardens

Tuscan Villa Bibliography

Tuscan villas as vacation rentals.

Tuscan Villas to rent for vacations

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