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 Grabau

Villa Grabau

Lying on the border between the plain and surrounding hillside, in a scenic position at the end of a grand long driveway which starts beyond the monumental gate, one of the main Lucchesian historical residences of the Renaissance stands in all its glory.

Only 7 kilometres from the city centre of Lucca, situated in an absolutely beautiful environment and surrounded by other illustrious properties which once belonged to powerful and noble families of Lucca, the historical estate Villa Grabau offers visitors impressions of unchanged past times.

The Villa, completely furnished with antiques of the period, and the Park of nine hectares, full of secular trees and real botanical rare species, Can be visited all year round (in the winter period on Sundays or by reservation).

The impressive 17th-century Lemon Tree Greenhouse or the Box Hedge Theatre offer their spaces for concerts, conventions and functions.


The Park

One enters the Villa from the south, through an elegant Wrought Iron Gate, the design of which has influenced the logo of the "Association of Lucchesian Palaces and Villas", of which the Villa itself is a member.

The gate is framed on either side by two pilasters of grey stone, decorated with bands of travertine and panels of white pebble, foundry losses and tufa Mosaics, a design which is repeated several times within the park, in particular on the northern central balustrade.

One goes up along the majestic driveway, which is strategically placed on the central axis of the estate, and allows from the centre of the Villa a full prospective view across all of the garden, which culminates at the circular Fountain to the north of the Italian garden, with the hills in the background, while, from the southern entrance, on a nice day, we have a view in the distance of the plain of Lucca.

On either side of the driveway, in geometrical order, are tall Laurel hedges, that hide to the east a "casa colonica" or farm house with its stable and barn, and a section of the estate's vineyards; to the west the fruit and vegetable orchards and olive trees, which today supply the needs of the Villa, and the remaining vineyards.

A small quantity of red and white wine is produced annually at Villa Grabau, but is retained only for private use. It is known as "Doc Wine of the Lucchesian Hills", and is famous in the area as it comes from the hills around Lucca.

At the end of the driveway is a second set of pillars, decorated like those at the entrance, flanked by an internal wall, actually believed to be the original 16th century one, which divides the park from the agriculture land.

The pilasters, which are made of Matraia Stone, are decorated with bands of travertine and surmounted by fierce looking Eagles, and watched by two Marble Dogs all clearly meant to frighten any ill-intentioned person.

The vast Park which extends around Villa Grabau measures nine hectares, and it is composed of several gardens, each of them is an expression of timeless beauty. To the south is the 19th century English Garden or garden "à l'anglaise".

Its present style, with a large lawn delimited by a driveway for carriages, was already existent in 1836, when the property was still of the Cittadella family, while the plantation of long-trunked trees is to refer to the intervention of the Schwartze-Grabau family.

It is not to exclude, for the wise arrangement of these plants, the intervention of Edouard André, famous Parisian landscape architect, to whom Wilhelm Hüffer and his wife Costanza Grabau commissioned, in 1872, the creation of the garden in the nearby Villa Diodati.

This Botanical garden extends along both sides of the central lawn and boasts a rare collection of gigantic trees and unique plants coming from all over the world.

Characteristic of the picturesque English garden is the casual disposition of each tree which appears to have grown naturally. However, every detail of this garden was carefully planned, from the trees which hide unnatural corners and pathways, shady clearings with benches to rest upon, to those which mislead one's perception of the garden's present boundaries.

If you wish to extend your visit, you may continue walking ahead in the direction of the "Limonaia", but going along the driveway towards the gates on the west - side of the park. You will first notice, on your right, among the Ortensias, the South African Kniphofia plant, whose orange flowers bloom in the summer.

Then turn your attention to the left, where you will see the Gigantic Bamboo Trees, and further down where are the pink Camelia trees which flower in early Spring.

Following the path to the end, one arrives at the magnificent Red Wrought-Iron Gate, so called because it is flanked by pilasters of chipped stone mosaics and terracotta bricks. From here you can head left and walk down the shady path through the woods.

At the end, when the path curves to the left in the direction of the garden "à l'anglaise", look to your right where you will see a little hill or "Montagnola", in the shape of a spiral.

This was originated during many researches meant to find a treasure called "The chicken with the golden eggs" that an Etruscan legend, transmitted through generations of peasants who lived within the estate walls, says it was hidden just in this Villa. To return to the central lawns in front of the Villa continue along the path on your left. This will conclude your visit.

The Box Hedge Theatre

The open-air theatre, a charming stage for summer concerts and performances, was revalued during the first half of the 19th century. Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Napoleon's sister, revived the tradition of these lovely outdoor theatres, in about 1814, when she restored the one at the neighbouring Villa Reale of Marlia.

The Box Hedge Theatre present in this park is situated near the stables and the kitchens, on the west side of the Villa; it is of smaller dimensions, and probably it has been inspired by the one in Marlia, even if its dating is uncertain. Realised in pruned box hedge, retains the scene to which one can have access by two symmetrical side stairs, made of stone, which lead behind the wings which are slightly elevated in comparison with the stalls. In the middle of the stage there is a niche of round box hedge which hides the place reserved to the "prompter". At the entrance we can observe two Renaissance Lions in marble that watch the entry with a patronising air.

The Italian Garden

In the area, at the top of the park, there is the Italian Garden. Its features are still of the 1500's or 1600's, as it is proved by its ending in exedra shape which is a spatial solution derived from the larger mannerist gardens, and it is also present in the nearby Villa Reale of Marlia.

The Orsetti family owned both these villas, from the second half of the 1600's to the beginning of the 1800's. It is a terraced garden, and it is symmetrical in almost every detail, from the obelisk shaped Magnolia trees, on the first level, to the Vases of Lemon Trees on the second.

The Mosaics, made of rock crystals, foundry losses, quartz and tufa, which cover the Balustrade, in Matraia stone and white "statuary marble", separate the two levels. In the wall, at intervals, there are four demi-lune Fountains, where water spouts happily out of the mouths of Grotesque Masks, two in terracotta and two in bronze.

The two in bronze represent the head of Satiro and date back to the late Florentine mannerism; this work of art is quite valuable, and is attributed to Pietro Tacca (1577-1640). The balustrade is divided in the middle by a few steps, made of Matraia stone, again on the central axes of the Villa, which allow the access to the upper terrace through an antique wrought iron gate.

Two big marble Watch-Dogs stand on the steps in front of this garden just as two others are in front of the garden "à l'anglaise". On the upper terrace of the garden are two large oval lawns encircled by over 70 antique lemon trees, most of which in their original 18th and 19th century vases, known in Italy as "conche".

Each vase is stamped either with the initials "E.C.", for Enrico Cittadella, or with a coat of arms representing the family who commissioned them. This is a proof of the presents and the exchanges between the villas from 16th century onwards, owing to marriages and inheritances. Beyond the oval lawns stands a large circular fountain from which mountain water spouts perennially.

In the middle of the fountain, once there was a big Grotesque Figure in stone. It represents a Tortoise that holds a dragon with a human head and a mascaron behind, while an elephant trunk gets out of his mouth: water spouted out of the mouth and ears of the dragon. This terrifying concoction, similar to the grotesque masks one sees in the garden of Villa Bomarzo, near Viterbo, is now placed in one of the wood's clearings, between the circular fountain and the lemon house, as the continuous pressure of water was eroding its surface.

The Tortoise, which is a sea animal consecrated to Pan, appears here surmounted by a monstrous figure in which human being and animal mix together to create a worrying hybrid form; it also has the characteristic that it can be observed by all directions, each of which gives a vision of great effect. The presence of animal sculptures is prevalently tied to water, as it was a constant of the gardens in the 1500's and 1600's. Surrounding the upper terrace of the garden "à l' Italienne" is the undulated hedge, which embraces the garden like a gigantic screen with convex waves, stimulating, with its provisional and open limits, the distances of the surrounding hill landscape.

It is interrupted, here and there, by white Female Statues, made of "statuary marble", on pedestals, which were once in the garden of the neighbouring Villa Diodati. The statues represent, amongst others, Ceres - Goddess of the Harvest, Venus - Goddess of Love, and Pomona - Goddess of Fruits. Typical of the romantic period, in which the Italian garden was created, are the Shady Paths which twist their way mysteriously through the undergrowth of the hedges, from one end of the garden to the other, only with little clearings, at intervals, where Stone Benches and sometimes Tables entice the stroller into stopping and spending some time there.

The Lemon Tree Greenhouse

Every winter over 100 lemon trees from around the park are placed in the "Limonaia". This extraordinary construction is characterized by an architecture of great importance: it has seven oval stone-framed windows, placed above seven large porticoes all marked in ashlar-work. Its large wooden doors are usually kept open during the day, both for ventilation and sunshine, and then closed at night to protect the plants from the cold.
This particular greenhouse was especially used to enrich the garden with rare and expensive plants, and this probably derived from the botanical interest of the time in unusual kinds of flora. The birth of qualified collectors, characterized by a competitive hunt for rare species, confirms the importance that was attributed to the embellishment of the garden considered to be the affirmation of prestige.
The Winter greenhouse, on the other side of the park, houses most of the flowers of the park from winter to spring. It once allowed the production of the first vegetables for the table and answered the necessity of renewing the flower- beds with early sowings of annual plants. It is a long rectangular building with a glass façade, and it is indicated in the contract of sale, dated 1868, as a "building with stoves". On its right side there is a once roofed light enclosure, realized with irregular blocks of tufa, round three semi-circular basins, probably destined to acclimatize varieties of exotical, water and rock plants.
Inside the Limonaia stands a small Wall-fountain from which water spouts out through a Marble Head of notable importance: it represents Bacchus crowned with vine-leaves, grapes and flowers. Every lemon tree has its particular place in the greenhouse, row by row, as it is illustrated by a small painted palette which hangs, still today, from one of the large doors.


Enlarge map
Opening Hours |

| Family Coat of Arms

The Villa stands at the foot of the Colline Lucchesi and it is situated approximately seven km north from Lucca, under the Pizzorne hills. It was built on the ruins of a medieval village and of a fortress, near the Romanesque Church "Pieve di San Pancrazio", of which, during archaeological researches, were found various ruins.
Probably built on a already existent building dated 1412, it belonged from the very beginning of the XVI century to the very powerful merchant Diodati family of Lucca. During recent researches it was discovered that in 1550 it was in Gothic Style, with mullioned windows on the first floor and a dovecot embattled tower.
It is very likely that, at the end of the XVI century, it assumed a Renaissance style, which is still visible in the open gallery with three arcades held by columns in Tuscanic order and by "peducci", also Tuscanic, which now hold the vault of one of the drawing-rooms on the ground floor.
The Diodati's coat of arms, in grey stone of Matraia, still hangs on the northern façade of the Villa. It is interesting to note that a large part of the Diodati family, like many other Calvinist Lucchesian families at the time, such as the Turrettinis, Burlamacchis, and the Calandrinis, agreed to the Reformation and were forced to flee their country because of religious persecution.
The majority of the families settled in Calvinist Geneva, where they are still today, and where there is still a villa of the Diodati family.In 1653 Villa Grabau became the property of the Gualanduccis, and then in 1670 was bought by the Counts Orsetti and later, in 1806, was inherited by the Countess Chiara Orsetti married to the Marquis Ferrante Cittadella; it then passed to their nephew Enrico Cittadella in 1854.
The Villa assumed, with the final alterations done by the Cittadella family, a neo-classical style, just as it had happened to the nearby Villa Reale of Marlia, after the intervention of Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon's sister.
On the ground floor the first flight of the Main Staircase, made of Matraia stone, was moved from the central ball-room to the western side of the house, so as to create a separate entrance. Then the large open Arcade, to the south of the Villa, was closed with glass window frames and "Trompe l'oeil" curtains were painted decoratively on the walls, together with Frescoes representing dancing nymphs and geometrical designs; this gave to the drawing-room a neo-classical appearance, and was called the "Hall of false curtains".
The "Trompe l'oeil" paintings were executed with such realism that they have deceived many connoisseurs over the years.The only room which remains untouched from the 17th century with its original frescoes is the little Chapel on the ground floor. On the first floor the coffer ceilings were covered up with canes, then plaster, and lastly they were painted, together with walls, with brightly coloured frescoes inspired by the same classical taste.
The original hut style roof assumed the present hip roof style, while the large Baroque clock, dated 1784, was removed from the top of the original façade and was moved to Villa Orsetti in Palaiola where it is still today. A row of marble busts was placed decoratively along the top of the new roof line so as to show themselves towards the main gate.

In 1868 the Villa was purchased by the wealthy German banker Rodolfo Schwartze for his wife Carolina Grabau, so as to allow her to live near her sister Costanza married to the Baron Wilhelm Hüffer who had just bought the nearby Villa Diodati, and next to her brother Carlo Luigi Grabau who was a very estimated painter of the "Macchiaioli" circle and lived in the nearby Villa Palmata.
Their father, who was of noble German extraction, Carlo Grabau, was born in Hamburg in 1784; he was then transferred in 1832 to Livorno by the Granduke of Tuscany and appointed to be General Consul for the Anseatic Cities of the Northern Sea. He then married Enrichetta Inghirami, from a noble patrician family of Volterra. The Schwartze family had no children, so Villa Grabau was passed down to Carolina's nephew, Marcello Grabau.
This gentleman married later the Countess Francesca Cenami Spada, a noble Patrician of Lucca, and had five children. The Villa then passed to their son Ludovico, and now belongs to his son and daughter, Federico and Francesca.

Sources |

Hidden secrets in Tuscany | Holiday home Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia, in the heart of famous wine regions
Podere Santa Pia
Villa di Catignano
Villa Orlandini in Poggio Torselli

Piazza dell'Anfiteatro in Lucca
Castello Torre Alfina

The Surroundings of Lucca boast an unique "Villas Landscape". The Villas, or rather the palaces in villa, are historical country residences that the Lucchesi merchants built between the 15th and 19th centuries, investing the fruits of their business and banking activities in central Europe. More than three hundred Villas, large and small, are spread out over the arc of hills that both defines and brings to a close the geographical bounds of the Plain of Lucca. Among them: Villa Reale di Marlia, Villa Grabau, Villa Bernardini, Villa Oliva, Villa Mansi, Villa Borbone delle Pianore and Villa di Carmigliano.
during the Renaissance period the villas were both places for recreation and active agricultural enterprise closely linked to that production of silk which had made a fortune for the rich Lucchese merchants. Afterwards when they turned towards financial activities, the villas maintained an important economic role as financial guarantees of solvency. With the decadence of the Lucchese Republic, the villas exclusively became places of magnificence that bore witness to the prestige of its owners. In more recent times after the unification of Italy, you can note, especially in Versilia and the immediate surroundings of Lucca, the flourishing of new constructions in Art Nouveau style, private residences which respond to the needs of the new industrial society.

Art nouveau villas | With the arrival of 1870 the Town Council becomes the owner of the walls of Lucca and urban plans are immediately put underway to systemize the bastions and the surroundings as well as the opening of new doors. During the first years of the 1900's the ring road is practically finished and the ring is completed with avenues which run from the city of Lucca in the directions of Viareggio, Pisa, Pescia and the Garfagnana. On the ring road and along these four main routes, building construction takes place from the end of the 1800's to the beginning of the first World War using an allotment programme which mainly interested the rich middle class who had made their fortune directly or indirectly due to the emigration phenomena, which particularly favoured moves towards the U.S.A., a consistently evident factor in Lucca since the 1880's. This middle class is made up of rich traders, food industrialists, bankers and money dealers, who, thanks to immigration patterns, manage to make their businesses prosper. The chosen type of architecture for these residences and often for factories, shops, offices etc. too, is that of the little villa and town house, differing from the Lucchese country villas given that they are permanent residences. The chosen architectural language is Modernism. It follows the main traits of 19th century architecture showing neoclassic divisions rather than the new Liberty line. The new style is applied mainly in floral patterns and found on the main façade with pictorial and ceramic decoration, balustrades and iron gates in typical animal, phytomorphic and coup de fouet depictions. It is rare to find a building that is entirely planned using the new style both in construction and decoration. In order to have a panoramic vision of the vast majority of these buildings we can suggest an itinerary that follows the walls along the ring road and then, from here, departs along the three deviations towards the areas which, for the construction work carried out at the beginning of the 1900's, conserve a significant number of buildings worthy of interest: Sant'Anna on Viale Catalani and Puccini; San Concordio and San Marco on Via Civitali. A further itinerary of the historic centre must be advised even though it does not tie in with the themes discussed in these files. There you will find interesting Liberty style decoration on the façades of historical buildings, in particular on shop fronts which at the end of the 1800's go through an important renewal process linked to the new middle class society. Sources: texts by Glauco Borella - Centro Studi Cultura Eclettica Liberty e Dèco

Art in Tuscany | Art nouveau villas |
Art Nouveau Villas in Lucca | Via Matteo Civitali
Art Nouveau Villas in Lucca | Along the Via Catalani and the Viale Puccini

Podere Santa Pia

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

Il parco dei Mostri di Bomarzo
Wikimedia Commons contiene file multimediali su Villa Argentina