VILLA BOTTINI - Lucca
Villa Bottini, formerly Villa Buonvisi and known locally as 'al
giardino'(at the garden), is one of the two villas within the city
walls, Villa Guinigi nei Borghi being the other.
Due to its urban setting, it is quite different to the numerous
other villas which are situated in the countryside or in the hills
far from town. It is indeed one of the finest examples of Lucchese
Renaissance architecture and it influenced the design of many other
villas in the area.. If you take the Via Elisa entrance, you will
be overwhelmed immediately by the simplicity of the villa before
you: an austere quadrilateral building surmounted by an elegant
roof terrace. This provides an architectural contrast with the high
portico on the opposite fašade of the villa (later closed off with
French windows) which allowed easy access to the gardens from the
villa proper. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the original layout
of the gardens apart from the unique entrance to the water-lily
pond at the back, designed by the Florentine architect Buontalenti.
The discerning visitor will appreciate the three influences which
contributed to the overall design of the estate: the architect who
drew up the original plans of the villa (whose identity remains
unknown to this day), Vincenzo Civitali to whom the design of the
portal and windows are attributed, and Buontalenti mentioned earlier.Within
the villa, on the ground floor, visitors can admire the striking
beauty of Ventura Salimbeni's frescoes which depict mythological
and allegorical scenes dating back to the end of the 16th-century.
The roof terrace offers an extraordinary view of the town extending
well beyond the walls to the hills north of Lucca. The original
layout of the kitchen and the utility rooms can be seen in the basement.
Over the centuries the villa has experienced good and bad times
and was even abandoned for a considerable period of time. Since
it became public property, however, it has been restored and opened
to the public. At present, it houses the local Arts Information
Bureau and from time to time conferences and Town Council meetings
are held there.
If you would like to make arrangements to visit the villa then
VILLA GUINIGI - Lucca
The property, now state - owned, has housed the Villa Guinigi National
Museum since 1968. Paolo Guinigi, Lord of Lucca from 1400 - 1430
and husband of Ilaria del Carretto (whose beautiful tomb, sculptured
by Jacopo della Quercia, can be seen in the Cathedral), had it built
in true Lucchese style modeling it on the first manor houses built
in the area in the 1300s.
Besides the typical rectangular shape, the key features of these
14th-century villas were the portico, mullioned windows and a saddle
roof which rested on sturdy outer walls. Each of these distinctive
characteristics can be observed in Villa Guinigi from the portico
on the ground floor to the crenellated side walls and enclosure
wall which highlight its Gothic aspect. Rather than standing at
the front of the villa to admire it, one should try to obtain a
lateral perspective. In so doing, one can appreciate just how Sercambi,
a famous chronicler in Guinigi times, illustrated the villa in his
Due to the numerous changes the villa has undergone throughout
the centuries, not to mention the restoration work carried out to
transform the building into a museum, the villa has lost its residential
character. Nonetheless, a distinctive atmosphere of romance and
grandeur pervades the villa and it remains one of Lucca's most important
monuments. The museum houses a vast range of objects of historical
The museum is open daily from 9 - 2 pm. For further information
VILLA REALE - Marlia
The Dukes of Tuscia resided in this beautiful villa during the
Longobard period. The property then passed into t he hands of the
Avvocati family. Subsequently, it was owned by the Buonvisi family
who, due to bankruptcy, sold it to the Orsetti family in 1651. Much
work was carried out on the building at that time and the beautiful
park and gardens date back to then. Not much is known of the actual
layout of the villa as iconographic records are not on hand.
However, one can assume that the style was in line with the other
Renaissance villas in Lucca. It was Napoleon's sister, Elisa Baciocchi
Bonaparte, Princess of Lucca and Piombino, who gave it that regal
touch at the beginning of the 19th-century when she obliged the
Orsetti family to abandon the villa as she had set her heart on
However, most of the changes implemented by the Princess did not
affect the beautiful 17th-century gardens whose key features include
'the water theatre' at the rear of the villa, the elegantly landscaped
lemon garden and fountain area, and the unique 'teatro di verzure'
or 'green theatre', so called as the box trees were pruned in such
a way as to create the background to the grassy stage. Many plays,
including Racine's "Fedra", were performed here, whilst Niccolo'
Paganini's 'diabolic' violin virtuosos resounded often in this spectacular
theatre. The violinist performed regularly for the Princess whose
swooning caused such a stir that Paganini him self once declared,
"on occasion the royal Princess faints at my playing and hence she
often leaves the theatre so as not to deprive her guests of my music".
The villa, on the other hand, underwent radical restructuring -
new rooms were created and foreign architectural elements were introduced
by the French architect BienaimŔ.
The ambitious Princess extended the boundaries of the estate even
further by incorporating the nearby 16th-century Villa del Vescovo
( the summer residence of the Diocesan Curia in Lucca at the time)
and its beautifully landscaped garden - one of the most magnificent
in the whole of Tuscany - with its playing fountains and water lily
pond designed by a member of the Florentine Buontalenti school.
The villa became the summer residence of the Borboni family af ter
the fall of Napoleon. They were succeeded by the Grand Dukes of
Tuscany and later by Vittorio Emanuele II after the unification
of Italy in 1860. When Prince Charles of Savoia was disinherited
following his marriage to Penelope Smith, a British middle class
lady, Vittorio Emanuele II parted with the villa. The couple spent
their lifetime there and were laid to rest in the chapel on the
estate. When their son, who was known as 'the mad Prince' due to
his eccentric behavior and religious mania, died in 1918 the villa
was sold to a group of local people in the hope of clearing the
enormous debt he had accumulated over the years. These locals, in
the hope of making some extra money, had hundreds of century old
trees cut down and sold as firewood. Shortly afterwards, the villa
was purchased by the Roman aristocratic family Counts Pecci Blunt
and it has been in their family ever since.
The gardens had, needless to say, deteriorated over the years
but were completely restored to their former grandeur by the French
architect Jacques Greber. Moreover, a few modern facilities were
added such as the swimming pool, tennis court and children's pavillion.
However, at present the villa is not open to the public but guided
tours of the park are offered. Hence, one can admire the beautiful
fašade of the villa, which contrasts strikingly with the lush green
lawns stretching into the distance, not to mention the hedged-in
gardens and hidden corners all to be discovered on your tour of
this microcosm of surprise and charm. Metternich, in a letter to
his sister in 1817, wrote, "Marlia is indeed a divine place". He
was obviously deeply affected by the charm of the area and it continues
to this day to enchant the visitor with its stories, its history
and array of people who have come and gone over the decades. The
park is open to the public from March 1st to November 30th, but
can be visited by appointment during the winter months. A guide
is provided and daytime tours commence at 10, 11, 3, 4, 5 and 6
During the months of July, August and September the park is only
open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and remains closed on Mondays
throughout the year. For further information phone (+39)- 058330108
VILLA GRABAU - S. Pancrazio
Villa Cittadella, now owned by the Grabau family, is one of the
five most important Renaissance villas in Lucca. A key feature of
this estate, apart from the magnificent garden with its towering
trees, English style lawns and trimmed hedges, is the beautiful
lemon house which, although built for agricultural purposes, is
a masterpiece of design.
If you are part of a larger group you can phone to Mrs. Francesca
at (+39)-0583 406325 to arrange visit the park.
VILLA QUERCI - S. Pancrazio
The elegant fašade of Villa Querci, (originally Villa Cenami and
subsequently Villa Bernardini) can be seen through the large entrance
gates; however, these are kept closed to guarantee family privacy.
On the opposite side of the road, descending towards the plains
of Lucca, lies the long but alas no longer tree-lined avenue which
gave access to the villa in the past. The estate is probably the
most impressive and majestic in the area.
This is due in part to the layout of the park, less elaborate than
others perhaps, but more in line with that of the Lucchese 16th-century
villa, and in part to the acres of land used for farming and farm
activities: hence the lemon house, the flour mill, the oil mill,
the wine cellars and the stables. The villa was designed and built
in the mid-16th-century and its key features remain the double staircase
to the front, the architectural style of the main floor and the
spacious portico to the rear from which the lord of the villa could
command a view both of the hills and plains. At the beginning of
the 19th-century, Bartolomeo Cenami, equerry of Princess Elisa Baciocchi
Bonaparte, lived in the villa. In the hope of pleasing her, he added
some modern elements, hence the neoclassical aspects: the bas-relief
on the fašade, the terracotta balustrade on the eaves and the belvedere.
The Bernardini family, who purchased the villa in 1828, certainly
took great pride in the upkeep of the estate and it is because of
their work and that of the present owners that Villa Querci is so
VILLA ARNOLFINI (La BADIOLA) - S. Pancrazio
This magnificent villa, (built in the 16th-century but extended
subsequently) which nestles in the foothills of Matraia in a very
secluded place, houses the Butori family olive oil and wine business.
Luchino Visconti, the film director, was enamoured of the villa,
so much so that he chose it for the setting of his last film "L'innocente",
which was based on a novel by Gabriele D'Annunzio. In fact, La Badiola
takes its name from the villa in D'Annunzio's novel. The owners
intend taking up residence in the villa, so as a result it is not
open to the public. However, it is well worth stopping to get even
a glimpse of this stately abode and the family have no objections.
The telephone number is (+39)-0583-30633.
LA SPECOLA - S. Pancrazio
The neoclassical observatory building in San Pancrazio, better
known as La Specola, has to this day never been completed. Designed
by the Lucchese-born Lorenzo Nottolini, the observatory overlooks
the plains of the River Serchio and, on a clear day, offers an excellent
view of the villas in the area, not to mention the spectacular view
of Lucca, its tree-lined walls and town centre. (Lorenzo Nottolini
was born in Lucca in 1787 and worked mainly in his home town. Nominated
Royal Architect in 1818 at the court of the Borboni,he was also
famous as a civil engineer; he designed the local aquaduct in 1822
and the suspension bridge over the River Lima in Bagni di Lucca.
He died in 1851.) The building was part of an ambitious plan drawn
up by Maria Luisa di Borbone, Duchess of Lucca, in her desire to
introduce innovations to Villa Reale. Designed originally as a coffee-house,
it was later transformed into an observatory after the restructuring
work had been done. A depletion of funds led to work on the building
coming to a halt: the rear with its look out tower was never completed
nor was any ornament added to the plain fašade or the finishing
touches put to the building as a whole. It is a perfect example
of an unfinished building and remained abandoned for years. However,
Giuseppe Ciambelli, the present owner, has since restored the building
For further information contact (+39)-0583-928441.
VILLA GUINIGI now VILLA PARDINI - Matraia
Vincenzo Guinigi had this building restored between 1546 and 1547
and his son Tommaso continued work on it around 1610. The layout
of the villa, the various floors, the design of the windows and
the Doric portico are identical to those at Villa Cenami Querci.
Set on a natural terrace high in the hills, the villa overlooks
the hills of Matraia and the surrounding land which has not been
cultivated since the last century. The villa is not open to the
public, but Francesca Pardini at Colleverde Farm may be able to
organize a tour of the estate for you if one of the owners is available.
VILLA FATTORIA MAlONCHI - Tofori
Maria Pia Maionchi was, without a doubt, the person who set the
ongoing trend towards opening up these beautiful Lucchese villas
to the general public. An excellent host and businessperson, it
is possible at her 'fattoria' to enjoy villa holidays, participate
in organized excursions, consume light refreshments and purchase
the 'fattoria's' own produce. High walls enclose the villa, which
probably dates back to the 17th-century. Architecturally, it may
appear austere and simple with very little ornament; yet few other
Lucca villas enjoy such a superb setting and blend in so remarkably
well with the surrounding countryside.
The garden is on two levels (access to the lower level is by an
elegant staircase), and offers a splendid view of the hillside vineyard.
The owners are great lovers of classical music and often organize
recitals and concerts for their guests and friends in this delightful
setting which is also congenial to pleasant conversation and rendezvous.
The rooms in the farmhouse are pleasingly comfortable and charming
and a convivial atmosphere pervades. Worth mentioning are the old
bakery and the cellar, which have been fully restored, and the gazebo,
all perfect places for pleasant conversation. Despite the villa
being the private residence of the Maionchi family, respectful and
discreet guests may ask to visit the gardens and mysterious cellars
which are not usually open to the public.
If you require further information, just telephone (+39)-0583-978194
VILLA FATTORIA DI FUBBIANO - Tofori
This 18th-century villa, square in design with a double staircase
to the front, elegantly blends the traditional and the modern. The
villa includes a large swimming pool set onto a natural terrace,
which overlooks the village of San Gennaro to the east. Wine cellars,
converted farm buildings and small farmhouses, restored with simple
elegance, surround the villa and create this small residential complex
set in tranquil scenic surroundings. (This is one of the rare cases
where accommodation can also be arranged in the villa proper, upon
request.) Four DOC wines produced, three reds and one white, extra
virgin olive oil, delicious jams and preserves, along with the other
farm produce, should be sampled. The telephone number is (+39)-0583-978011,
VILLA FATTORIA GAMBARO - Petrognano
Due to the lay of the land, this villa, built in the 17th-century,
faces north-west but it can boast the most panoramic view of the
plains of Lucca and Valdinievole from its small rectangular-shaped,
split-level garden. The grounds of the estate extend up into the
hills, yet the villa proper is confined to a small area of land
near the roadside. It is separated from a unique hamlet, which is
also on villa property. It is worth stopping for a moment to admire
the fountain, used in the past for washing clothes, before replenishing
with refreshments at the Posto di Ristoro (open from May to September).
However, wine and olive oil produced at the Fattoria of Counts
Gambaro can be purchased throughout the year, and if you phone (+39)-0583-978043
you can arrange to see the garden by appointment. In the summer
it is possible to stay in one of the many apartments, but if you
would like to make accommodation arrangements please phone the villa
VILLA ANTELMINELLI now VILLA MESCHI - S. Colombano
The central part of the villa dates back to the 16th-century,
but the villa proper has undergone numerous changes since as can
be seen today. It was known locally as 'the bishop's villa': Princess
Elisa Baciocchi bestowed it to the Diocesan Curia in Lucca as they
had unwillingly relinquished possession of the bishop's palace attached
to the grounds of Villa Reale in Marlia.
It belonged originally to the Antelminelli family, who were distant
relations of Castruccio Castracani. It was used as a meeting place
for the Great Duke of Tuscany's emissary as far back as 1596 during
Bernardino di Baldassare Antelminelli's trial. The villa developed
horizontally over the years and boasts two square dovecote towers
which were probably built during the first half of the 17th century.
Curzio Franciotti, who purchased it in 1670, carried out extensive
renovations, dedicating much time especially to the layout of the
gardens. At present the Meschi family offer farm holidays to those
interested - accommodation is arranged in the finely converted farm
A swimming pool on site is available. For further information phone
VILLA MANSI - Segromigno
This remarkably elegant villa is the symbol of Lucchese villa
architecture. It is the most well-known of all the villas in the
area despite it not being highly representative of the classical
16th century style. The greater part of the work done on this finely
and intricately decorated villa as we see it today can be attributed
to Muzio Oddi, the architect from Urbino who had been summoned to
Lucca to design the third and final ring of walls around the town.
Countess Felice Cenami, who was the owner of the villa at the time,
called on Oddi in the mid-1630s to completely renovate the building
on the advice of her brother-in-law, Paolo, who at the time was
a monk in Paris. So it is thanks to this architect, a stranger to
Lucca and its local culture, that Villa Mansi and the nearby Villa
Santini Torrigiani built in the same period are so different from
the other Lucchese 16th-century villas whose style is so much more
These villas boast an elegance somewhat more in line with the elegant
and refined taste of the period and can be seen as the prelude to
the splendour and magnificence of that baroque style that never
flourished in Lucca. Many other hands beautified the villa and its
gardens during the 17th century. The Mansi family became the owners
in 1675 and a member of their family is the protagonist of one of
the most mysterious and fascinating legends in local culture. Lucida
Mansi, a sort of female Faust, made a pact with the devil and sold
her soul in exchange for eternal beauty. However, when called upon
to honour him she was sent tumbling down off the Walls in her carriage
by Evil. Ottavio Mansi entrusted Filippo Iuvarra, the great architect
from Messina and a leading exponent of late European baroque style,
with the layout of the gardens and the renovation of the grounds.
The original Renaissance plan was completely altered giving way
to an elaborate and very effective display of playing fountains,
fish ponds, pathways and ever-changing perspectives which were without
rival in the entire area. Most of Iuvarra's work was undone in the
1800s when the gardens were completely remodeled and left in their
natural state. A visit to the interior - across the loggia and into
the large reception room - is indeed quite evocative. The large
canvasses by Tofanelli bear testimony to the neo-classical taste
prominent in Lucca in the Baciocchi period. Both the villa and grounds
are open to visitors daily, with the exception of Mondays, from
9.30a.m.-12.00 p.m. and from 2.00p.m. until dark.
If you require further information about the villa or any of the
services offered (banquets, meetings, fashion shows, parties) contact
any of the following numbers:(+39)-0583-920234, (+39)-0583-920096,
VILLA TORRIGIANI now VILLA COLONNA - Camigliano
This building is indeed a synthesis of the splendour, refinement
and elegance present in all the Villas of Lucca. From the end of
the monumental avenue, flanked by century old cypress trees, a clear
perspective of the ornate fašade of the villa can be obtained through
the very decorative wrought-iron gate. Outside the villa a fortified
village, French style, was built with look-out towers at each corner.
It was infact called Borgo Parigi, i.e. Paris Village, and housed
the gardeners and farmers who worked the land outside the enclosure
walls of the estate as the land within the walls was landscaped
in an elegant and stately fashion.
The so-called "di Flora" garden, second only to the gardens of
Villa Garzoni in Collodi, bears witness to the excellent taste that
the Lucchese landscapers were renowned for. It is such a pity that
only part of the magnificent layout remains as this garden is a
result of the sectioning of the secret garden in the 1500's . Thanks
to the play on levels and to the beautiful architecture which graces
the garden, the visitor is led into a tiny charming world of flowers,
herbs and waterworks where that magical sensation of feeling enclosed
yet never restricted pervades. Grottoes, water-lily ponds, grotesque
sculptures, carefully selected rough and rugged materials all contribute
to that fairy tale atmosphere which enthralls the visitor whose
attention in the past was further captivated by the stunning waterworks,
the hidden surprises and the fascinating perspectives. The original
building dates back to the mid 1500's and was probably the Villa
Buonvisi mentioned in the records of the trial for the murder of
Lelio Buonvisi in 1593. Muzio Oddi carried out major work on the
building a century later in line with Villa Mansi. The yellow tufa
and grey stone brighten the composite fašade and highlight the marble
statues in the niches . Decoration triumphs thanks to the work of
a non-Lucchese architect Alfonso Torreggiani from Bologna.
The audacity of the then avant-garde commissioner, who agreed to
the renovations, Nicolao Santini, a noble knight who travelled extensively
and had relations with Paris, must also be recognized, along with
that of his grandson Cesare Santini "a very kind gentleman who was
well accepted in Lucca". The interior of the villa is quite stunning;
it is heavily adorned with pinchbeck, friezes and baroque ornaments
but softened by Vincenzo Dandini's paintings and by the fine decorations
carried out by Piero Scorzini from Lucca. The two staircases and
rounded walls are indeed breathtaking both for their design and
effect and the lighting from above enhances the whole. The avenue
continues into the cultivated hills to the rear of the villa, an
indication of how cultivating the land was always an integral part
of villa life. From the tree-lined avenue, framed in seven hundred
century-old cypress trees, the view of the multicolored fašade of
the villa is indeed spectacular and it is well worth leaving your
car to walk up the avenue and enjoy this magnificent sight. The
villa and gardens are open daily to visitors.
For further information contact (+39)-0583-928889.
VILLA DE VERA D'ARAGONA - Pozzuolo
This villa was built on the crest of a hill and is surrounded
by olive groves, vineyards and chestnut trees. It offers a spectacular
panoramic view of Lucca, a fairyland in the distance with its town
walls lined with leafy plane trees. The central part of the building,
which has two floors and an attic, is rectangular in design. The
portico and loggia on the first floor were built at right angles
to the main building. The villa is not, however, open to the public.
However, as the garden at the front of the villa is of modest proportions,
a view of the whole can be had from the outside.
VILLA BURLAMACCHI now VILLA ROSSI - Gattaiola
The original layout of the villa dates back to the mid 16th-century.
It was built for Francesco Burlamacchi, the unfortunate hero who,
in the name of federalism, planned a rising of the Tuscan towns
against Medicean dominion. He was betrayed by a tip-off, however,
and was consequently beheaded by the authorities. His statue reigns
in Piazza San Michele in the centre of Lucca and is a symbol of
that independent and reforming philosophy which has always found
expression in Lucchese civilization. The villa was designed by Nicolao
Civitali, son of Matteo, who also designed Palazzo del PotestÓ in
Piazza San Michele. However, Francesco Burlamacchi never saw the
villa completed as a result of the vicissitudes of his personal
life. The building was purchased and completed in the 17th-century
by the Santini family who also continued work on the interior. The
frescoes depicting mythological and symbolic figures in the magnificent
ballroom on the first floor are by Bartolomeo De Santi and date
back to then as do the 'quadrature', the decorations on the vaults
which create architectural illusions. The design of the villa is
quite austere; it is an elegant quadrilateral building - almost
a cube. The rear fašade of the building, however, opens onto a spacious
portico which was beautifully decorated, along with the rooms on
the first floor, with frescoes by Francesco Antonio Cecchi in 1720.
Unfortunately, nothing remains of the original layout of the garden
for during the last century it was re-landscaped 'English style'
with tall trees, gentle sloping lawns and pathways for romantic
strolls. There is also a Palazzina on the estate which was probably
built in the 1800s when the landscape work was carried out. It has
all the characteristics of a villa-farmhouse along with the adjacent
greenhouses and Neo-Gothic farm buildings. Here again the rear fašade
opens onto a double portico thus denoting its dependence on the
villa proper. Ownership of the villa has been in the hands of many
other renowned families besides the present one: the Santini family,
the Montecatini family and the Altieri family. Even the very refined
Count of Nieuwerkerke, a personal friend of Emperor Napoleon III,
lived in this villa which has always been very well preserved.
If you would like to visit the villa and the estate, contact Mrs.
Francesca Duranti Rossi at (+39)-0583-512177.
VILLA BURLAMACCHI now VILLA VIGNOCCHI - Vicopelago
A long cobblestone avenue, lined with cypress trees, leads to this
building which was probably built by Nicolao Civitali in the 1540s.
The villa boasts that same elegant air as some of the more stately
Florentine Renaissance dwellings. It is a massive and impressive
mansion which is clearly visible from a distance as some of the
vegetation has been removed. The asymmetric portico on the right
of the villa (designed as an exterior living area) adds an even
more noble and original touch to the building, along with the blind
arches on the left side of the fašade. To the rear of the villa
lies Villa Martino Bernardini, whose view of the valley is obstructed
by Villa Burlamacchi. Consequently, the latter earned itself the
nickname 'Villa dell dispetto' or "Villa of disrespect", which has
been passed on from generation to generation over the centuries.
The gardens and avenue are open to the public - a telephone call
to announce your arrival is appreciated.
The telephone number is (+39)-0583-379035
VILLA LA PRINCIPESSA - Massa Pisana
Villa La Principessa is situated on the site of the villa which
Castruccio Castracani degli Antelminelli (lord of Lucca and legendary
captain under Ludovico il Bavaro) had built in 1318 and which is
rightly considered "the first Lucchese villa on record". An image
of it immediately comes to mind as Sercambi, a local chronicler,
depicted the scene of a murder in one of his miniatures and the
villa appears, in full Gothic style, in the background. (It was,
in fact, very similar to Villa Guinigi in the town centre which
appears in Itineraries 1 and 2.) Nothing remains to be seen of the
original building, however. The villa as we see it today is the
result of various alterations over the centuries. Vast renovations
were carried out in the 1800s by the Bourbons and the south wing
and loggia quite probably date to then. The villa is hidden behind
high enclosure walls and a screen of tall trees, hence it can only
be seen from the 18th-century landscaped gardens. The interior of
the villa has been completely refurbished in French 'relais - chateaux'
style as the villa was transformed, in the 1970s, into an exclusive
hotel and restaurant.
The telephone number is (+39)-0583-370037.