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Villa Nieuwenkamp | Riposo Dei Vescovi

Giardini Fiesolani

Going along the Via Vecchia Fiesolana, you will reach a little piazza which was restored in 1980. There, you will see the entrance gate – decorated with an episcopal symbol – leading to the villa and the epigraph:

“Venendo a Fiesole dalla loro residenza di Firenze posavano qui per continuare it viaggio sulk tre, is somministrata dai R. di Padri del vicino convento San Domenico”

The big villa, protected on the north-eastern side by cypresses and by ancient walls, faces south-west in the direction of the Romantic garden. The main nucleus of the farmhouse on which the villa was located dates back to the le century In the le century, the humble house was the annexe of the Villa Rondinelli, locatedfurther up. In the lgh century the property was sold to a member of the Borghese family who started the transformation. The ancient part of the house characterised by a tower along the road was kept and a building was added perpendicularly to it. This building later on became the main block of the villa. On the façade, two loggias were placed; the first one, on the ground floor, was characterised by round arches and pillars/pilasters and the second one by rectangular openings and little columns at the first floor (about 1860). The villa was built in different levels in conformity with the shape of the hill. After some eccentric transformations by the Swiss architect Zurcher who even placed a sort of chalet on the top of the tower at the end of the 19th century, the villa, became property of the Dutch artist Nieuwenkamp in 1926 The artist made the villa known as his property and as a reflection of his eccentric personality. Wijnand Otto Jan Nieuwenkamp (1847-1950) decided to give shape to his love for Italy by transforming the villa into his personal museum. After long journeys to Java, in the Dutch Indies and some visits to Italy, WO.J.N. (as he signed each of his drawings), attracted by the climate and by the landscape, chose Fiesole to realise what he defines as “La Villa della Collin” (the villa of the hill). Until his death, he decorated the property with features of neo-Gothic and Oriental taste (designed by him and) made by local workers. He ordered sculptures, basreliefs and a variety of objects from Indonesia and he scattered them around the house and the garden. Every transformation of the villa and the garden is well documented in the wonderful  drawings by the Dutch artist, collected in an album. The drawings illustrate in a very detailed manner evely part of the villa, every transformation applied and many landscape and picturesque scenes from Indonesia or Italy The garden in its present state is green sceneg extending on a descending slope and it has a decadent charm in which the original structure is to be found. It was partly conceived in the 19th centuiy and enlarged by Nieuwenkamp between 1926- 1935 up to its present size of more than 4 hectares. From the villa, a path delineated by giant trees along the bamboo flowerbeds leads down to the park. The garden is divided into two parts by a cypress boulevard. This boulevard is also intersected by smaller boulevards. Each intersection corresponds to a level of the terracing. In the first terrace, you will feel observed by two busts representing women absorbed by their thoughts. In the second one, there is a fountain designed in an Oriental fashion, while in the third terrace you can see a pergola covered in wisteria overlooking a tennis court. The land is bordered by a wall surmounted by big Etruscan urns in terracotta — as a remembrance of the archaeological digs conducted by Nieuwenkamp in the ancient theatre of Fiesole. By going back to the main straight boulevard, you will pass by the vegetable garden and the fruit garden before reaching the fourth level. At this level, you can see rounded seats placed in an elliptical clearing surrounded by cypresses and three fluted columns. At the fifth level, a fountain located at the surround-ing walls indicates the end of the garden. By going back up, following the path on the right, you pass underneath a pergola covered by vines before entering a shaded passage. In a clearing flowered by cyclamens, it is possible to see the tombstone of Nieuwenkamp. This tombstone was placed by the artist himself while he was still alive. In this clearing the soul of the artist stirs while being protected by a Buddha.

Ines Romitti