Villa Capponi

VILLA CAPPONI is located south of Florence and overlooks the City. It has one of the most delightful gardens in Tuscany. The garden is a perfect example of a ‘secret’ enclosed parterre garden.

Early site plan of Villa Capponi

Gino di Ludovico Capponi at the age of 17
Gino di Ludovico Capponi at the age of 17

HISTORY. In 1572 the wealthy merchant Gino di Ludovico Capponi bought this Renaissance villa from its bankrupt owner Niccolo Del Nero. Capponi created an elaborate parterre garden on different levels and built a private chapel which contains an altarpiece by Tommaso di Stefano.

In 1882 one branch of the large and prosperous Capponi family sold the property to Lady Scott, daughter of the Duke of Portland. In 1928 the property was sold to two cultured wealthy Americans, Mr. and Mrs.Henry Clifford, who commissioned the English designer Cecil Ross Pinsent to design extensions to the garden.

At the time Pinsent was residing in Florence and ran a design practice with young Geoffrey Scott. They received commissions for renovating the gardens of many villas and to design houses for wealthy American residents, in the style of the classic Tuscan villa. They also renovated Villa I Tatti for the Berensons.

Harold Acton, author of Tuscan Villas, visited the Villa Capponi and claimed that it had the most beautiful view over Florence of any villa he had seen. Other visitors to the villa included the writers Henry James and Edith Wharton. In 1987, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, made a nostalgic visit to the villa to recall the happy time she had spent there as a child with Lady Scott.


Rear facade of Villa CapponiTHE VILLA. The exterior of this sixteenth-century villa is deceptively plain. From the street there is no evidence that behind the austere stone façade lies an enchanting garden. The layout of the villa is simple. At the end of the 19th century Lady Scott redecorated the interior and added two loggias. The result is that the interior  of the villa is more attractive than the  exterior — the rooms are richly decorated and contain exquisite furniture and paintings. From the entrance a central corridor leads directly to the garden behind.


Entrance to the Secret Garden

THE GARDEN has been designed for personal use rather than entertainment. It comprises terraces on four different levels, with magnificent views over Florence. The first terrace, which is on the same level as the villa, is an area of lawn.  At the time of our visit a gnarled wisteria bordered the lawn; would it still be there? On the same level is the entrance to a delightful secret garden, marked by two columns crowned by terracotta griffins.


Higher parterre garden and a magnificant view of Florence.
Higher parterre garden

On two lower levels are box-edged parterres, separated by high turreted retaining walls with terracotta urns on some of the pinnacles. A flight of narrow stairs gives access to the first of these parterres, which is five metres below the level of the villa. A wrought-iron gate leads to the second parterre with a stone lily-pond in the centre. On the lowest level is a rectangular swimming pool, built in later years. The pool (which looked neglected at the time of our visit) is surrounded by cypresses.



Lower parterre garden with lilie pond

VILLA CAPPONI, is located on Pian dei Giullari at Arcetri, (south of Florence). The villa is not open to the public., but in the past it has  occasionally been included on itineraries of Villa and Garden tours of Tuscany.