Starting from Piazza del Carmine this morning we were a group of ladies celebrating the reappearance of the sunshine and looking forward to a day celebrating the Tuscan sun in some of the best loved gardens around Florence.
The Villa Medici
We began with the Villa Medici – first purpose build Humanist Villa designed by Michelangelo Mizzollotto on behalf of Cosimo di Medici – the big Daddy of Florence, who was making a lot money in Florins and foreign trade and salving his conscience as a usurer by investing a lot of money in religious art works.
Poor Cosimo had a lot of doubts about his trade and used to spend a long periods trying to work out the meaning of life in St Jerome’s retreat based in the hills of Fiesole. The retreat was used recently in the film of Michael Ondaatje’s book the English Patient.
The views below of the city of Florence are beyond belief spectacular so Cosimo decided to buy the plot of land below his retreat in order to spend more of his “free” time in the perfect villa with it’s camera con vista (room with a view) over the City he already, more or less, owned.
The Villa is featured in many renaissance paintings including The Annunciation by Biagio di Antonio, shown above.
The current garden layout was developed for Anglo-Irish Expatriate mother of Iris Origo – Sybil Cutting by English Architect and garden designer Cecil Pinsent
Overall the layout is probably much as designed by Pinsent although according to Katie he would probably have strongly disapproved of the pots of red Azaleas disturbing his preferred palettes of subtle blues, creams and whites!
Our second stop was a short walk away from the Medici Villa to the integrated Villa and Garden project called Le Balze that Cecil Pinsent developed for American Philosopher Charles Strong (28 November 1862 – 23 January 1940) when he moved to Florence in 1906 with his daughter after his wife, Elizabeth Rockerfella died.
Also built into the hillside it is a miracle to find quite so much garden and house design developed in quite such a small strip of land!
And like all the Villa’s in Fiesole – it has a view to die for!
After Le Balze we went to the mock medieval rebuilt castle of Vincigliata for a wine and local produce tasting – and, of course, a visit to their gardens – but it was a little windy up there in the hills yesterday – fortunately our welcome from Emanuele Grezzi was as warm as ever.
Finally we visites Il Palmerino – the home of writer Violet Paget – whose nom de plume was the more masculine Vernon Lee. We had a fascinating visit round the three family homes and gardens of the family who inherited the house completed by a refreshing glass of home made wine!