by Francesca Soldani
A 16th century historic dwelling told by who lives there and looks after it.
Nature awakens in Spring, colours become stronger and the ancient camellias steal the show. Strolling in the gardens of Villa Torrigiani in Camigliano at Capannori, in the province of Lucca is a truly inebriating experience for the senses: the musicality of the birds singing and the peals of the nearby Chapel bells, the explosion of greenery, the theatricality of the multi-coloured baroque façade of the dwelling and the water features of the fountains are of a rare beauty.
“Crossing the gates at Camigliano means delving into an almost primordial nature. We must let our senses guide our body. The visitor can follow the itinerary alone, from the entrance of magnolias towards Flora’s Garden to enter the Grotto of the Winds, to admire the calm of the large fishpond and go straight into the Villa” says Lady Vittoria Colonna dei Principi di Stigliano, president of the “Associazione Ville e Palazzi Lucchesi”. The garden is truly a casket of beauty to be unveiled step by step: the flowering of the camellias, the rare exotic plants such as the olea fragrans, the gigantic liriodendron tulipifera, the huge sequoia and Flora’s statue dominating the dome of the Grotto of the Winds from above and awakens nature with the spring breeze. Everything is music here and every detail is in total harmony with the landscape: “Flora’s Garden is an example of spectacular theatricality, of baroque scenography where stone is blended with mortars and is enriched with statues and fountains. It is a secret passage leading to the fresh and mysterious atmosphere of the Grotto: a real theatre of flowers and architecture symbolizing the lights and shadows of life” observes Lady Vittoria. And while we reach the main entrance of the Palace she tells some family history.
In 1651 Nicolao Santini, ambassador of the Republic of Lucca at the court of Louis XIV, purchased the Villa, a then 16th-century agricultural estate, from the Bounvisi’s. And, thanks to the creative flair of the architect André Le Notre, the artefact of the gardens of Versailles, important renovating works got under way. He created large pools in the garden where the facades of the Palace are reflected surrounding them with carpets of flowers. During the Romantic Period, they were substituted by the present lawns after the wedding between Vittoria Santini and the Marquis Pietro Torrigiani. The outdoors and indoors of Villa Torrigiani naturally and harmonically blend into one thanks to the trompe-l’oeil frescoes by Pietro Scorzini and to the mythological decorations embellishing the ceilings of the rooms and the vault in the Chapel. The furniture, the consoles on which the coat-of-arms of the Santini family can be seen, are as original as the 16th-century floor in Tuscan terracotta tiles. “A visit inside Villa Torrigiani is always guided to guard the family heritage. As with every house, the Villa needs to be lived in, taken care of and maintained. Preserving it is an important mission. Throughout the times, the family has created and loved this place of nature and art and it is fundamental today to open it to the public to share its history” Lady Vittoria concludes with a smile.
For visits to Villa Torrigiani in Camigliano: every day from 18th March to 5th November
10.00am to 1.00pm and 2.30pm to 6.00pm
Visits in winter are only upon booking.