Thursday 24 June 2010
Villa Palmieri: the villa where the famous Boccaccio's novel, "The Decameron", is set
The villa was certainly in existence at the end of the fourteenth century, when it was a possession of the Fini, who sold it in 1454 to the noted humanist scholar Marco Palmieri, whose name it still bears. In 1697, Palmiero Palmieri commenced a restructuring of the gardens, sweeping away all vestiges of the earlier garden to create a south-facing terrace, an arcaded loggia of five bays and the symmetrically paired curved stairs that lead to the lemon garden in the lower level. The often-photographed lemon garden survives, though postwar renovation stripped the baroque decors from the villa's stuccoed façade. Villa Palmieri has suffered from having been a 'show-place' and the alterations of many owners to suit the fashions of their day, so that little of its original character remains.
The Villetta, an outbuilding formerly part of the extensive Villa Palmieri grounds, was purchased in 1927 by Myron Taylor, the American ambassador to the Holy see, who recreated a Beaux-Arts version of an Italian terraced garden and named it Villa Schifanoia. This portion is erroneous here, as in so confused the Villa Palmieri with the Villa Schifanoia.
Villa Schifanoia was built over the remains of the ancient Villa Palmieri. The main core of the villa, of 15th-century origin, belonged to the Cresci family until 1550. It has changed hands many times over the centuries, and seen many alterations and additions, such as the family chapel, built in the mid-19th century, and the large gate from which the avenue leads through the garden and up to the main entrance of the villa and a small two-storey outbuilding known as la villetta. In 1927 the property passed into the hands of Myron Taylor, the United States Ambassador to the Vatican during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. Taylor restored the villa to house his own art collection and also laid out a beautiful Italian-style garden on the generous stretch of land on the south side, divided into three elegant parterres edged with box hedges and arranged around a series of small fountains. The beautiful formal garden is enlivened with statues and other stone decorations, small pools and fountains, of which the one on the upper terrace is skewed off the main axis. In 1986 the villa was bought by the State and converted into a European University Institute.