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Villa Le Balze

Giardini Fiesolani

The garden surrounding the villa, designed by Cecil Pinsent and Geoffrey Scott from 1913 for the wealthy American Charles Augustus Strong, husband of Bessie Rockefeller, stands on a steep piece of land known as the Baize (cliffs) di Maccia. The actual work on the garden was started in 1914 and then, after 1917, continued by Pinsent alone. Situated on a long and narrow terrace that opens out over the landscape, the design made the most of the space by creating open perspective axes that gave onto a series of views. The building itself, placed at a central point between the formal and the wild garden, acted as a mediator between artifice and nature. entering the grounds from Via Vecchia Fiesolana, the first “room” we encounter, known as the Orange Garden, is divided up into eight sections of lawn. It leads into the Garden of the Fountain, closed off towards the south by a high wall that now hides the view over Florence. Many of the decorative elements like the mosaics and the objects carved in local stone were carried out on designs by Pinsent himself. These include two River Gods, two statues of Hermes, four busts of Greek philosophers (Charles Augustus Strong had taught philosophy at Harvard University), while the medallion on the right of the fountain is in fact Pinsent’s selfportrait The statue of Venus on top is the protective goddess of the garden. Pinsent also designed the fountain with the grotto, placed where the original entrance to the property once stood. Villa le Baize has been the property of Georgetown University of Washington D.C. since 1979.

Ines Romitti