Villa Oliva.

Historic Gardens

THE GARDEN

The park of the Villa, entirely fenced, extends for about five hectares and is made up of various types of gardens. In an interesting 17th century Terrilogio we find the property reproduced and described.

The double façade access to the valley of the Villa consists of four imposing stone pillars that denote the ancient splendor of the Buonvisi family. In fact, they were built in gray stone, embellished and enriched by friezes in white marble, as evidenced by the remaining lateral volutes, the half columns, in which the two materials alternate, the niches, one of which is still surmounted by the coat of arms of Buonvisi. The pillars were also made more animated by stylized stone masks and geometric decorations made with black and white river stones, decorations that will then also recur in other works of the Villa. The entrance gate opens onto a long and spectacular avenue of cypresses; at the bottom of it, in all its beauty, the stately home appears.

The peculiar characteristic, however, is not given so much by said row, but by another, parallel to it, consisting of imposing and ancient hornbeams: these, intersecting at their summits, constitute an arboreal vault, which connects to the villa through a series of small scales. This pergola, unique of its kind, replaces the more usual pergola of plants such as vines, wisteria, jasmine, common in other places. The upstream access, consisting of two curved tympanum pillars, with masks and mosaics, also decorated with the Buonvisi comet, is more sober.

The garden in front of the building has a double slope of the land that rises to the north, where the Villa is located, and to the east; to remedy this, terraces were used, which still exist today, intended for various crops: the various areas are separated by low walls, grassy hills, low box hedges. (Buxus sempervirens L.) The overall structure of the garden is still today marked by particular effects of surprise and movement. In fact, going along the cypress-lined avenue (Cupressus sempervirens L.), on the right there is a “green room”, made with yew plants (Taxus baccata L.) and laurel (Laurus nobilis L.); in the middle of it, among the dark green of the trees, stands a light stone table flanked by two benches. Further on we find a round gushing basin, terracotta statues and a stepped waterfall adorned with tuff. To the left of the entrance gate, in addition to the row of hornbeams already mentioned, we find a plantation of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus Labill.); this area west of the main entrance in the past was used for the cultivation of vines and fruit trees.

In addition to the aforementioned avenue of hornbeams, scattered throughout the park we find other suggestive arboreal creations such as, for example, a beautiful belvedere covered by arched yews, bordered by a balustrade with columns that opens suggestively on the garden below and on the landscape of the hills. surrounding the city. The beauty of the place is enhanced by the stone and terracotta statues which, with their symbolism, recall us to the destination of the place: a barn owl and a beautiful Diana sitting, with her faithful dog and quiver, are positioned in a plantation of holm oaks (Quercus ilex L.), which constituted the ragnaia, that is the place intended for the placement of nets to hunt birds.

The north garden is characterized by the presence of one of the most original statues of the Villa, the so-called “Pitocco” which represents an old man, immortalized in a natural pose, sitting on a low wall, with his legs abandoned along it, his back slightly curved.

The beauty of the park is accentuated by the fountains whose functioning was and is favored by the richness of the area’s waters. In the ancient system, still functioning, the water from the springs was conveyed into a large tank which, thanks to the slight difference in level of the ground, guaranteed a constant functioning in the supply, necessary both to feed the jets of the fountains, and to irrigate the garden and vegetable garden. In the north garden there is what is considered to be the most beautiful fountain in the park: that of the “Sirena”, attributable, according to Isa Belli Barsali, to the same architect who created the entrance to the east. It is leaning against the surrounding wall and its top is surmounted by a tympanum, which supports a Buonvisi coat of arms.

In the center, surrounded on the sides by two stone pillars, adorned by two caryatids that stand out against the background of a symmetrical decoration made with black and white river stones, and by grinning satyrs, is the figure of a winged mermaid. If the fountain is beautiful, the fake cave is equally interesting, also located in the northern area. This building, with a purely sixteenth-century taste, is located in an amphitheater of holm oaks that enhances the fake naturalness of the tuff stones and stalactites. In the center of the cave, seated on a boulder, there is a putto, crowned by fantastic horses and winged cherubs with fish tails.

In addition to satisfying the aesthetic taste, this fountain had the task of feeding the basins of the terraces with its waters and, in particular, the avenue of hornbeams. The peculiarity of this work is constituted by an opening in the central part of the cave that allows you to see the lands in front of the lock.

Another source, which still today is dominated by the Buonvisi coat of arms, is that of the Abundance. The nineteenth-century-style statue emerges from a niche, which incorporates the decoration, albeit more linear, with gray stone and white marble bands of the entrance gate.

THE VILLA

The first documents on this Villa are quite late and date back to 1593, when Alessandro Buonvisi, in his will, while leaving his son Lodovico heir to all his possessions, expressed the desire that his wife Angela, if he had not found the accommodation together satisfactory to his son, could go and live in the Villa of S. Pancrazio; the other consists of a detailed Terrilogio dating back to the 18th century, which shows the plan of the garden and the design of the building.

From the aesthetic characteristics it is believed that the project for the construction of the Villa was commissioned by the Buonvisi, between the end of 1400 and the beginning of 1500, to Matteo Civitali. Civitali (1436-1501), a distinguished sculptor, carver, architect, worked in Lucca and in other Tuscan cities. Culturally trained at the Florence school of Lorenzo dei Medici, he transferred the taste of the Renaissance into his works, that is, the search for harmony through the study of proportions and perspective. Among his most notable works of architecture remains the Palazzo Pretorio in Lucca. The characteristic of this building is constituted by a beautiful and harmonious Loggia and this element is also present in the upstream façade of the Villa Buonvisi in S. Pancrazio.

The building itself is very linear: the rectangular plan is marked, on the south facade, by three rows of windows, perpendicularly aligned with each other. In the center, the large entrance portal is surmounted by a small stone balcony, enriched by columns and by a tympanum interrupted by the Buonvisi coat of arms.

On the north facade, the harmonious portico is made up of five arches and four linear and imposing stone columns that rise up to include two floors. Outside the portico is delimited by four series of low columns, also in stone; inside we find symmetrical windows that surround the entrance portal, surmounted, as in the south facade, by a small balcony.

This building is inspired by orderly and elaborate balances, highlighted by “full” and “empty”, which denote the conscious search for an all-Renaissance beauty marked by the harmony of forms.
The Villa was the favorite seat of two Cardinals, Girolamo and Francesco who, when they were in Lucca, chose it as their home. In 1661 Cardinal Girolamo hosted a Sacred Synod, which was attended by Pope Alexander VII himself; and another Synod was called there by Cardinal Francesco in 1700, a few months before his death.

The Buonvisi stable, linked to a singular legend, is also of great artistic value; the bet of Buonvisi with the king of France Louis XIV. Buonvisi claimed that the stables of San Pancrazio were more beautiful than any room in the palace of Versailles. Intrigued, the king sent one of his ambassadors to verify the veracity of Buonvisi’s words. The messenger arrived on the spot found the walls of the stable entirely covered with gold coins bearing the effigy of the Sun King. The ambassador, faced with so much splendor and the image of his king, could only recognize that Buonvisi had won the bet.

Contact:

VILLA OLIVA BUONVISI
Address: Via delle Ville, 2034,
City: San Pancrazio, 55100 LUCCA
email: info@villaoliva.it | Phone: +39330446252
Web-site: www.villaoliva.it/

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