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VILLA SALVIATI European University Institute © ALESSIO GUARINO

EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY INSTITUTE In the 14th century, the castle of Montegonzi stood here, built on lands previously owned by the Del Palagio family. In 1445, Arcangelo Montegonzi sold it to Alamanno Salviati, the individual who introduced the cultivation of Salamanna grapes and jasmine to Tuscany. Alamanno commissioned Michelozzo's craftsmen to transform the castle into a villa, complete with gardens and a forest. By 1490, Alamanno's grandchildren, dividing their uncle's estate, bestowed the villa upon Jacopo, who was related to Lorenzo de' Medici. Substantial renovation works began in 1493, possibly involving Giuliano da Sangallo, lasting approximately a decade. Giovan Francesco Rustici contributed to the project, creating a series of terracotta roundels depicting mythological subjects like Apollo and Marsyas or Jupiter and Bellerophon between 1522 and 1526. In 1529, the residence was plundered by the anti-Medici faction, and between 1568 and 1583, Alamanno di Jacopo Salviati and his son Jacopo further expanded and embellished the villa, including the gardens (1570-1579) and the buildings along the northern boundary, creating a scenic backdrop linked to the villa. On New Year's Day 1638, the severed head of Alamanno's lover, Caterina Canacci, was brought to the Salviati villa, concealed beneath the linens sent weekly by Salviati's wife, Veronica Cybo.

The villa later passed to the Aldobrandini-Borghese family, and on December 30, 1844, it was purchased "lock, stock, and barrel" (meaning with all furnishings) by the Englishman Arturo Vansittard. It subsequently came into the possession of the tenor Giovanni Matteo De Candia, known as Mario in the arts, who resided there with his wife, the soprano Giulia Grisi, then to the Swedish banker Gustave Hagerman, and finally, in 1901, to the Turri family. During World War II, it served as an Allied command center; Lensi Orlandi reminisced about nocturnal visits from "gentle and affluent Florentine women, often mature matrons," who "crossed the threshold of these halls to pay appropriate homage to the highly admired victors." A long period of semi-neglect followed, during which the villa was inaccessible even to scholars (Lensi-Orlandi visited in 1950, but Harold Acton could not in 1973).

In 2000, the monumental complex, along with its gardens, was acquired by the Italian government for the European University Institute, which established it as the headquarters of the Historical Archives of the European Union; among the various documents contained therein are personal papers of the founding fathers such as Alcide De Gasperi, Paul-Henri Spaak, Altiero Spinelli, and Ernesto Rossi. Renovation works were completed in October 2009, and on December 17, 2009, President Giorgio Napolitano inaugurated the Historical Archives of the European Union. This villa was connected to Villa Emilia (located higher up), formerly a convent of Cistercian nuns suppressed in 1453, via an underground gallery; hence the other name by which the villa is known, "del Ponte alla Badia."


The main body of the villa reveals its military origins, particularly in the two corner battlemented towers and the parapet with walkway on corbels, reminiscent of the villa at Careggi, for instance. It consists of two adjoining but architecturally similar structures: the eastern one being more massive and taller, the western one smaller in volume and height. The building is arranged around the central courtyard, with a portico on three sides featuring columns in Pietra Serena with Corinthian capitals; the frieze inside is decorated with sgraffito friezes, with Rustici's roundels inserted in this band corresponding to the rounded arches. The interior spaces often feature ribbed vaults, barrel vaults, and cross vaults.


Access to the southern facade of the villa is through a long cypress-lined avenue that originally led to Via Faentina and, after the construction of the railway, was modified to create a passage over it. The Italian-style garden in front of the villa, built on three terraces at different levels, though undergoing restoration, consists of geometric boxwood parterres with flowering species. The property is then surrounded by an extensive English-style park, which includes, among other features, a bamboo grove, two ponds, and scattered throughout, various decorative elements such as statues, temples, grottoes, fountains, pavilions, and more.

VILLA SALVIATI A FIRENZE Archivi Storici dell'Unione Europea