Villa Peyron in Fiesole: charm, extravagance and symbolic paths
The hills of Fiesole, 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of Florence, immediately conjures delightful images. Lush vegetation, broken up by cypresses in strategic places, elegant villas with breathtaking gardens, panoramic views over the city of Giglio in all of its monumental beauty, parish churches, archeological sites, and abbeys that recount centuries-old stories, all characterized by the continual search for harmony and balance between man and nature.
The echoes of the Fiesole hills and their fascination was so strong that at the beginning of the 1800s, the number of foreigners, particularly British, who took up residence in this area began to grow significantly. Most likely they were drawn by what has attracted people to Fiesole since the Renaissance, when wealthy Italian families, artists, poets and writers flocked here to experience a city that lies somewhere between reality and mythology, capable of suggesting the splendor of its glorious past.
Around the semi-circle created by the natural slopes on which Fiesole rests, villages, lovely gardens, terraced vegetable gardens and small farms were created. To give you some idea, there are at least 177 historic villas in this area. These include the very famous, such as Villa Schifanoia that, according to legend, hosted the group of people whose stories make up the Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, or Castello di Vincigliata, which John Temple Leader made the heart of his revival of the medieval in architecture, the minor arts, and in the organization of landscaping beginning in 1850.
However, here we will focus our attention on Villa Peyron, whose surrounding park seems to cast a sort of spell, with its series of glimpses, passageways, proportions, and slight imbalances that make it vibrant and rare. Amidst the rows of cypresses, the boxwood hedges, and the positioning of certain statues, some visitors have perceived obscure meanings, others have found references of an erotic nature. For this reason, it is worth making a visit, breathing the air, and trying to experience for yourself what the villa and the garden have to offer.
The villa was built on what were, originally, ruins from an Etruscan settlement, on top of which a defensive fort was constructed in medieval times.
The name comes from the Peyron family, that made its fortune by moving from Piedmont to Fiesole to develop its business in cloth and carpets. Angelo, the paterfamilias, commissioned Ugo Giovannozzi for the project, who created the initial structure, but it was his son Paolo that transformed it into a place that reverberates its complex personality. It is almost as though he wanted to communicate a way of looking at the world through art and gardening. Paolo chose to live here and was buried here, and showed his devotion to art and beauty by changing, embellishing, replacing and superimposing various elements of the villa and the garden, creating a sort of kaleidoscope effect.
The outline of the villa is rather severe and is completely covered in stone. The tower and certain adornments give it a medieval air.
Inside you will find one of the most incredible collection of clocks anywhere. Paolo was a great admirer of these gadgets, and he decorated the villa with more than 100 timepieces that he owned. He was the only one authorized to wind them, because he did not view them as simply ornamentation, but valued them for what they represented: the inexorable passage of time. The collection of Lalique glass is also worth noting, created by the Rene Lalique, a great French goldsmith at the beginning of the 1900s, who designed remarkable jewelry and vases depicting elements of nature, animals and female nudes in art deco style.
But it is mainly the garden that makes this place an undeniable treasure. It developed in what was once the Fontelucente Woods, and is maintained exactly as Paolo designed it, distributed over three terraces that slope downwards toward Florence. They follow the axes of the villa and are the primary elements that make up the garden.
Scholars have reflected on the composition of cypresses, spaces, copses, scenic overlooks, hedges trimmed symmetrically in some places, asymmetrically in others, which together seem to convey a meaning that is at once obscure, philosophical, and sensual.
It should be noted that the initial planning of the garden was mainly carried out by Paolo, who then spent the rest of his life making adjustments, and began with a gesture worthy of a swordfighter. His first action was to rip open a passage at the back of the woods, a gash that even today seems symbolic and alive, given that the rest of the vegetation remains dense and compact.
The forested area was decorated by adding stone walls, fountains, wells, columns and vases. The status were salvaged from some villas along the Brenta River in Veneto, after the originals were destroyed during the Second World War.
Villa Peyron presents itself as a spot brimming with beguilements and symbols, where artists, visitors, and admirers of beauty left their marks. As Le Corbusier said, “…yesterday evening, at sunset, we went up the hill overlooking Florence, where Fra’ Angelico was born, where Böcklin lived for a long time. We walked up to Fiesole, it was incredible, a revelation. I understood why these important figures from the 15th century were portrayed as they were in their works: they were nothing less than great artists that were moved by a natural environment worthy of the gods. They understood this and were able to use it in their art….”
Villa Peyron can be visited every day from Monday through Sunday (including holidays) by making a booking at least 5 days in advance. From 29 March 2013 to 5 August 2013 and from 30 August 2013 to 4 November 2013, the gardens will be open to the public without a booking on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00am to 6:00pm.
Telephone: +39 055 200 66 206
Fax: +39 055 200 66 236
Secretary and Manager of the Foundation: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com