Private Florence Landmarks Open for 2022 FAI Autumn Days
The weekend of October 15-16 FAI (Italian Environmental Fund) coordinates special openings of villas, palaces and castles, many normally not available for public viewing. Visitors have two days to discover and enjoy Tuscany’s cultural heritage. This fall the organization offers 28 sites throughout the region for touring with guided tours conducted by young volunteers at the price of a small donation. The city of Florence includes five places in the listings, all architectural and artistic treasures waiting to be discovered.
The FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) is the National Trust for Italy, responsible for maintaining and restoring private historical venues of importance throughout the country for future generations to enjoy. Today, FAI manages thousands of properties through donations or grants by the Italian government.
This grand palace sits just south of Porta Romana on Arcetri hill. For many centuries Poggio Imperiale served as the summer residence for first the Medici family and later the Lorraine family. It was here that in 1770 Mozart performed his only concert in Florence. Now a public boarding school, the UNESCO heritage site is not normally open to the public.
During its long history, it has often been at the center of Italy’s turbulent history and has been rebuilt and redesigned many times. Today the complex includes a Chinese wing with four rooms decorated with ornate Chinese hand-crafted wallpaper and paintings portraying flowers, exotic birds and scenes from 18th century Chinese life. The neo-classical Chapel of the Annunciation contains Luca Giordano’s “Discovery of the Cross” and the 16th century “Madonna and Child and St. John” attributed to the school of Puligo.
The villa, given to Isabella de’Medici by her parents Cosimo I and Eleanora of Toledo, on her marriage, was the home of an unhappy union which eventually led to her murder by her jealous husband. Later, the villa was occupied by Elisa Baciocchi, sister of Napoleon I, who remodelled it in the Neo-classical style.
Poggio Imperiale, Piazzale del Poggio Imperiale 1, Florence, will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 5:30 pm with 45-minute tours.
This former residence of Baroness Fiorella Favard de l’Anglade was an urban villa, overlooking the banks of the Arno. Commissioned by renowned architect Giuseppe Poggi, the noble residence today houses the Polimoda, School of Fashion Business and Design. The sumptuous edifice seems filled with intrigue and the essence of the mysterious baroness, said to be the mistress of Napoleon III.
The interior reflects the taste of 19th century Parisian villas with frescoes by Annibale Gatti and a majestic ballroom filled with statuary, gold stuccoes and a magnificent wooden chandelier.
Palazzo Favard, Via del Curtatone, will be open Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.
Participants in the FAI Autumn Days will also be able to tour the baroness’s smaller Villa Favard in Rovezzano in the south of Florence. Originally a fortified rural settlement from the 15th century, Favard acquired it in 1855 and commissioned Giuseppe Poggi to carry out modernization in neoclassical style. She transformed the villa into a center of culture, hosting artists and intellectuals of the time.
The villa became was converted into a military hospital in World War I and occupied by German troops in World War II. Surrounded by a beautiful park filled with native and exotic trees, visitors can stroll the grounds and imagine its varied past.
Villa Favard, Via Rocca di Tedalda, 451, will be open Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. At the end of the last tour, visitors can enjoy a concert by the Luigi Cherubini Music Conservatory.
Villa La Favorita
This villa, never before accessible to the general public, originally was an 18th century farm owned by the Ospedale degli Innocenti. In 1914 it changed hands and the construction of a villa both elegant and austere was initiated.
Today it’s the seat of the Italian Academy of Forestry Sciences, with the farmhouse leased to the European University Institute. Surrounded by a formal two-hectare garden, the property affords superb views of Florence and Fiesole.
Villa La Favorita, entrance at Piazza Edison, 11, will be open Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 3:30 pm. The 45-minute tour includes uphill walking, so participants are advised to wear appropriate footwear. Reservations are required.
Castle of Montuato
This Renaissance villa, set in a park of cypresses and oaks, was built in the Middle Ages as a fortress complete with stone tower and walls. Later acquired by the powerful Ghibelline family, the property changed hands again in the 17th century and was transformed into a sumptuous Baroque residence with frescoes embellishing the walls.
Today the property is owned by the Vallecchi family, of publishing house fame, and is a popular wedding venue.
Castle of Montuato, Via di Montauto 124, Impruneta, will be open Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 5:30 pm, offering a 30-minute tour. Admission is reserved for FAI members.
FAI, a non-profit organization, invites the public to become a member and help to protect the historical and artistic heritage of Italy. Membership costs from €10 for students to €29 for individuals to €56 for families. For complete information, see the FAI website: www.fondoambiente.it