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 La Pietra near Florence



Villa La Pietra


Villa La Pietra is one of the grandest and most famous of all the villas of Florence. Preceded by a magnificent long cypress avenue and surrounded by an extensive estate with olive groves and fruit trees, it also boasts one of the loveliest gardens in Italy. Florence has been known for centuries for its villas on the low hills which surround the city. These were the country retreats of rulers and poets in the Renaissance, among them the Medici family and Humanist scholars. The villas are all beautifully sited in the countryside against the gentle contour of the low hills, and their green gardens extend into the carefully preserved landscape. At the beginning of the last century a number of distinguished Americans purchased villas in the environs when they decided to take up residence in Florence. These included Bernard Berenson at Villa I Tatti (and he bequeathed the property to Harvard) and Charles Augustus Strong at Villa Le Balze (now owned by Georgetown University), both just across the hills from the Actons' Villa La Pietra.
The site of a renaissance garden (1462) which disappeared and was replaced by an Italian Arts and Crafts garden designed by Henri Duchene for the English historian Arthur Acton. The garden is now owned by New York University. It has a theatrical character with box hedges, statuary, cypress trees.

Villa La Pietra was built in the 1460s for the Sassetti, a famous Florentine family. Francesco Sassetti was a manager of the Medici bank and a typical figure of Renaissance Florence who is commemorated in a chapel frescoed by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the church of Santa Trinita. His heirs sold the villa to Piero di Niccolò Capponi in 1545. Another member of this important Florentine family was Luigi Capponi, who became a cardinal and was director of the Vatican Library during the papacy of Innocent X.

In 1907 Arthur Acton's wealthy American wife Hortense Mitchell purchased the property from the Incontri, a collateral branch of the Capponi. Hortense was the daughter of William H. Mitchell, President of the First National Trust Bank in Alton, Illinois. Arthur was a painter and he collaborated with the American architect Stanford White as his agent in Europe, purchasing works of art for the homes of wealthy clients in America. At La Pietra the Actons took some twenty years to recreate a 16th-century Tuscan garden, designed in a series of outside 'rooms' surrounding the villa, with terraces, parterres, and fountains, linked by hedged walks providing vistas of architectural features and 180 statues. It came to be recognized as one of the most beautiful gardens in Italy, and was featured in all important publications on the Italian garden from the 1920s onwards. The Actons spent the rest of their lives here, entertaining in grand style both Florentines and the numerous other English and American residents in the villas surrounding Florence. The Actons were also acknowledged as perceptive collectors and they put together a remarkable collection of paintings and sculpture which is preserved in the villa to this day.

After the death of Arthur in 1953 and Hortense in 1962 the property was inherited by their son Harold, who, as an historian, was author of important works on the later Medici grand-dukes, and the Bourbons of Naples. He had been celebrated as a poet during his brilliant days at Oxford, where he befriended Evelyn Waugh, Robert Byron, Cyril Connolly, and Graham Greene, all of whom went on to have distinguished literary careers. In the 1930s he lived in China where he taught at the university of Peking and translated poetry and drama from the Chinese. A self-acknowledged aesthete he also wrote two volumes of memoirs describing his interesting life. His friends who were frequent guests at La Pietra included Nancy Mitford (the subject of a biography by Acton), Evelyn Waugh, the Earl and Countess of Rosse, and the Sitwells.

In Florence Harold Acton was one of the most famous Anglo-American residents of the 20th Century. He was also a close friend of his neighbor Bernard Berenson, towards the end of the great art historian's life, and often visited him at Villa I Tatti. Harold was an important benefactor of the British Institute in Florence, to whom he left the premises of its library (now named after him) on the Arno, and he was knighted in 1974 and made an honorary citizen of Florence in 1986. In later years he provided hospitality to the English royal family on their visits to Italy, including Princess Margaret and the Prince of Wales. He also carefully looked after the villa, garden, and estate and recognized the remarkable skills and culture of the local contadini who worked the land and tended the olive trees.

At the death of Sir Harold in 1994 he bequeathed La Pietra and his fortune to New York University, in order that the villa and its collections could be preserved, and the 57-acre estate, including four other villas, could be used for academic purposes. Currently the academic program is open to undergraduate students from NYU and other universities and covers many areas including economics, political science, business and sociology, as well as Italian Renaissance Art and Tuscan Gardens. NYU has carried out remarkable renovations at Villa La Pietra which have involved extensive maintenance work, as well as the restoration of works of art and furnishings, including the conservation of the wall hangings and tapestries which were in urgent need of attention. The villa is officially listed as part of the Cultural Heritage of Italy. The fine library of some 10,000 volumes has been catalogued and archivists are at work on the historic Acton family archives and photo collection. A careful restoration program is under way of the garden so that, in a few years time, it will regain the appearance it had at the height of its splendor in the late 1930s. Another historic villa on the estate, Villa Sassetti, has been carefully restored to provide a modern conference center.


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Villa La Pietra flyer (PDF)

The Acton Collection which fills the rooms in the interior of Villa La Pietra consists of more than 7000 objects from a wide range of styles and media including early Italian panel paintings, Flemish tapestries, Renaissance polychrome sculptures, French dresses, Art Nouveau silver, Chinese ceramics, and important Baroque furniture. The collection also contains a library of some 12,000 volumes, of which many are first editions as well as the family papers, including more than 16,000 photographs. The collection is arranged as it was in the Acton's time, not as a formal museum display, but as a decorative ensemble in which works of art play off each other and the styles of the historic villa building itself. Visitors can appreciate that this is the single best example of an Anglo-American private collection formed in Florence in the early years of the 20th century still intact in the home for which it was all intended, and, as such, it is of great interest as an example of the taste of the time.

Visitor Information

Villa La Pietra |
Via Bolognese, 120, 50139 Firenze ITALIA | Contact

Villa La Pietra, former home of the Acton family, is open to the public on special days.
Guided tours of the Villa, the Collection, and Garden are offered Friday afternoons. Advance reservations are required as spaces are limited. Bookings may be made by e-mail, phone or fax. The cost of the tour is € 20,00 per person, payable at the time of the tour.

Guided tours of the Gardens only are offered Tuesday mornings. Again, advance reservations are required as spaces are limited. The cost of the tour is € 12,00 per person. Tours are not available in August or during the winter holiday break (mid-December to mid-January).

Artist and writer's residency | Hidden secrets in Tuscany | Holiday house Podere Santa Pia

Tombolo Feniglia
Podere Santa Pia, famous wines in southern Tuscany
Podere Santa Pia
Tombolo Feniglia

Villa Medicea La Petraia
In the first half of XVIth century, the Medici became the owners of this mansion, which then was characterized by a typical medieval design. Following a project by Buontalenti, a good number of modifications were effected, until the works were completed, by the end of the XVIth century. The structure has a square base, it is two stories high and it has maintained the ancient tower.
The entrance is immersed in a wide surrounding garden. These gardens, on three levels, mirror the typical XVIth century layout, although a few modifications were included during the XIXth century From the Italian garden you climb up to the middle fishpond, and then you reach the suspended level of the Figurine, so called because of the fountain depicting Florence’s Venus.
The entrance portal is located on the southern edge, and the symbol of the Medici-Lorena hangs over it. From the hallway you can reach the central court, decorated with frescoes by Daddi and by Volterrano.
The glass coverings in the courtyard, turned into a ballroom, and the Imperial style furnishings in the halls were ordered by Vittorio Emanuele II di Savoia. Among the major elements of interest we will remember the collection of social games (Hall of games) and the small study, hosting a bronze statue by Giambologna.
Once the crowning of the fountain on the Level of the Figurine, the statue depicts Florence’s Venus drying her hair from the waters of Arno and Mugnone. The English park on the hill behind the mansion is also worthy of a visit.
Villa Medicea della Petraia, Castello, Via della Petraia 40, Firenze | (055 452691)

Giardino dei Semplici
The Orto Botanico di Firenze (2.3 hectares), also known as the Giardino dei Semplici, the "Garden of simples",[1] is a botanical garden maintained by the University of Florence. The Botanical Gardens of Florence is one of the oldest Botanical Gardens in the world, together with Padua and Pisa.
The garden was established on December 1, 1545, by Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and is Europe's third oldest, behind the Orto Botanico di Pisa and the Orto Botanico di Padova. It was first laid out by landscape gardener Niccolò Pericoli to a botanical system and plantings chosen by Luca Ghini, and rose to prominence under Cosimo III, with Pier Antonio Micheli as its director. As was typical of early European botanical gardens, its prime interest was in medicinal plants. However, as in 1753 the Società Botanica was formed, the garden's focus turned to "experimental agriculture" and its layout was revised accordingly. The garden grounds opened to the public in the mid-19th century, at about the same time that its glass houses (1694 m²) were constructed.

Villa Medici at Fiesole, near Florence, is one of the oldest Renaissance residences with a garden and is also one of the best preserved, but at the same time one of the least well known. While most of the villas dating back to the same period, such as Cafaggiolo and Trebbio, stand at the centre of agricultural concerns, Villa Medici had no connections at all with farming life.
The villa was built during the mid 15th century when Cosimo de' Medici the Elder employed Michelozzo di Bartolomeo to design it for his second son, Giovanni. 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. It owes its fame to Lorenzo il Magnifico who inherited the property in 1469 following the untimely death of his uncle. 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 Angelo Ambrogini, known as Poliziano. The quadrangular building is a typical 15 C edifice, with square pietra serena windows and broad loggias looking out over the surroundings.
The villa remained the property of the Medici until 1671.
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 [1] 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. 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.

Villa Poggio Torselli, near San Casciano Val di Pesa, is one of the largest and most elegant residences in the area of the San Casciano Hills, near Florence. Known in the past as the “queen of all villas”, it appeared on record as early as 1427 bearing the name of “Poggio Torselli”.
It was the property of some of the most remarkable patrician families in Tuscany: Macchiavelli, Corsini, Strozzi, Antonori, Capponi and Orlandini, who owned the villa until 1722. The "Season s' Garden", created in the 18th century offers the most astonishing image of its rebirth in April, with the scented blossom of the splendid bulbous plants: narcissus, tulips, hyacinths and many others spring plants such as, in particular, the firittilaria also known as "imperial crown" because of the orange tuft of bell-shaped, pendolous flowers surmounting the bottom of the stem that, thanks to its charme deserved one of the most clamorous nobilty's title of Villa Poggio Torselli.
But, not less perfumed and gorgeous is the exotic summer of the garden, crowned by plants of dahlia, sage, multicolour clematis and Indian giant ibiscus. And, in every season, the entire garden is surrounded by the golden crown of 120 secular lemon trees.

The Villa di Catignano was built at the end of XVII° century by the ancestor of the currents proprietors, Quinto Settano, pseudonym of Monsignor Lodovico Sergardi, a writer and a lover of the arts. The small borough already existed in 1500 with the name of "Clatinianum" as a property of Sergardi family. Nowadays the Villa, overlooking a beautiful italian garden, decorated with statues representing the four season, and the medievaltowers of Siena in the distance, welcomes guests who appreciate historical sites and suggestive atmospheres.

Villa I Tatti
Villa I Tatti in Settignano was home to Bernard Berenson, the Lithuanian Jew who became America's most illustrious critic and connoisseur of Renaissance art. For 50 years it was a mecca for intellectuals and collectionists from the world over. Today the art collection and library serve as a research facility for Harvard University.
In 1900, Bernhard Berenson bought a villa in the Tuscan hills of Settignano, outside Florence. Villa I Tatti subsequently would be forever associated with Berenson. The gardens of the Villa I Tatti were created by the English landscape architect Cecil pinsent and Geoffrey Scott.
The newly married art historians Bernard and Mary Berenson made their home at the Villa I Tatti near Florence in 1900. In the following years Mary, supervised the rebuilding of the villa and the creation of its elegant gardens. The Berensons pursued their work at I Tatti over a period of nearly six decades, and here they entertained a remarkable circle of friends :art historians ( Kenneth Clark, John Walker, John Pope-Hennessy), writers (Edith Wharton, Alberto Moravia), political thinkers (Walter Lippman, Gaetano Salvermini), musicians (Yehudi Menuhin) and countless other visitors from every part of the world. At I Tatti Bernard Berenson assmbled a choice collection of Renaissance art, including works by Giotto, Sassetta, Domenico Veneziano, and Lorenzo Lotto. He also formed a prodigious art historical research library and photograph collection. When he died in 1959, he bequeathed the house, its contents, and the gardens to Harvard University as a Center for Renaissance Studies.

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