In the past, the property belonged to the Zatis who, then, in 1563 sold it to Giulio D’.Alessandro del Caccia. Porzia de Tommaso de’ Bardi widow of Niccolo’ di Francesco degli Alessandri bought it in 1603 and it remained property of the Alessandris until the Count Carlo di Gaetano sold it in 1854 to John Temple-Leader who included it to its wide estate on the Maiano and Vincigliata hills. At his death, the property was inherited by Lord Westbury. In 1907, Bernard Berenson (1865-1959) and his wife May Pearsol Smith, already residents of the villa from 1900, decided to buy the house. At this time, the villa was ruined and the garden was just some scattered old cypresses and a lemon-house. However, during this time Berenson started to have a regular salary from the great American merchant Joseph Duveen and he was able to buy also the surrounding grounds. Starting in 1909, the villa and the garden were transformed by Cecil B. Pinsent and Geoffly Scott, introduced by the Berenson themselves to the large and rich Anglo-American community present on the Florentine hills. However, the relationship between the owners and the young architects was not idyllic and not without disagreements. Nonetheless all the vicissitudes, an Italian style garden was designed and established. Harold Acton commented on the garden in his book entitled “Ville Toscane”• “It is Anglo-Florentine. The proportions, and the meticulous precision of the details are more English than Florentine”. Some of the disagreements with “the boys” (as the Pinsent and Scott pair were nicknamed) faded out with time. From 1908 to 1915, Pinsent established the boulevard, the facade of the “big room”, the terraced garden, and the ilex wood. The gardens were located in a slope exposed to the south in a series of gentle terracing. Pinsent, understanding the essence of the Tuscan landscape, managed to well-immerge the classical garden in the surrounding hills. He drew the formal garden as a series of open-air rooms. The terraces are closed on both sides by tall walls of cypresses and by parallel paths shaded by ilex rows. Behind the villa, a pensile garden shapes a secret corner decorated with topiary pruned box. Going down from the facade of the villa to the terracing, the main axis of the garden crosses the centre of the lemon-house whose arch-shaped entrance frames a precious view of the garden. Berensons bust is situated in the garden: a garden which became very important to him, as he wrote “Unless it rains heavily, I cross the garden at least once a day as to feel the air, to hear birds singing and to admire the flowers and the trees.” In 1936 the villa, with its collection, archive of photos and a rich specialised library were designated to be inherited by Harvard University where it located the Centre for the History of the Italian Renaissance. In 1959, at the age of94 years, he died in this house, which he has loved very much. Nowadays, Villa I Tani is the seat of the Berenson Foundation.
Cecil Ross Pinsent (5 maggio 1884 – 5 dicembre 1963) è stato un designer di giardini e architetto britannico, noto per i giardini innovativi che ha progettato in Toscana tra il 1909 e il 1939. Questi hanno rivisitato in modo fantasioso i concetti dei designer italiani del XVI secolo.
Cecil Ross Pinsent nacque in Uruguay il 5 maggio 1884, a Montevideo, figlio di Ross Pinsent (un uomo d’affari con interessi ferroviari) e Alice Pinsent. Ha studiato architettura in Gran Bretagna.
Tra il 1901 e il 1906 trascorse qualche tempo a realizzare disegni topografici di chiese e case in Gran Bretagna e Francia; e nel 1906 stava facendo disegni simili in Italia. Lui e il suo amico Geoffrey Scott, durante un tour in Toscana, incontrarono lo storico dell’arte americano Bernard Berenson e sua moglie Mary Berenson.