VILLA DI BIVIGLIANO
THE APPEAL OF HISTORY - THE CHARME OF NATURE - THE ART OF HOSPITALITY
The construction of the villa is most likely attributable to Filippo del Migliore who, in 1539, bought from the Stufa family “a stately home with its associated cottages and outbuildings on the site of Sant Romulus in Bivigliano in the place known as 'the Tower' with stables and a chapel”
The toponymic name 'the Tower' would back up the theory that the villa was built on the foundations of an old castle, likely the property of the noble family from Bivigliano the Cattanei di Cercina family dating back to the 11th century. What is certain is that, even if not the remains of an ancient castle, there was at least one of the typical stately homes found in the Florentine countryside in the late medieval period on the site, upon which various renovations brought the villa to its current configuration.
From these foundations, the new stately home took shape towards the end of the 16th century. It is possible that the building was designed by Bernardo Buontalenti or his studio, as in that same period he was working on the Medici villa at Pratolino that would later become the Demidoff residence. The project appears to have been financed by the Ginori family as evidenced by a payment of 232 scudi from Filippo di Agnolo Ginori to Domenico di Francesco Del Riccio on 6 May 1664 for “a house consisting of many rooms, four fields containing fruits and vines, located near the church of Saint Romulus in Bivigliano in the place known as Fonte delle Masse.” Another key date was in 1690 when renovation works were carried out at the site, both on the building but also in the surrounding parkland. The park displays an interesting naturalistic design which incorporates architectural elements such as a grotto, fountain, tables etc as well as an impressive system for channeling water that would have been created upon Ginori orders as evidenced by the family crest appearing in many places throughout the park. On the base of the grotto at the entrance to the wood is an inscription stating Filippo Ginori fecit anno 1690 - “work carried out by Filippo Ginori, 1690”
The estate, which was approximately 360 hectares, fell into abandonment and was bought at auction from Alessandro Ginori Soldani Bensi by the nobleman Luigi Pozzolini in 1858. At that time the boundary of the land ran from the hamlet of Caselline (at an elevation of c. 400m) up the steep hill to the monastery at Monte Senario (c. 800m). The Pozzolini family carried out essential work on the villa to make it liveable once again, as well as substantial improvements in making the surrounding farmland productive with the introduction of new crops, pasture, livestock and woodland, the fruit of which can still be seen today. The General Giorgio Pozzolini entrusted this task to the agronomist Tito Pestellini, who gave account of the progress of the work in a fascinating paper (The Bivigliano estate and its agricultural and forestry project) that was read at the Accademia dei Georgofili in Florence in July 1914. In this report there are descriptions of the improvements carried out by Pozzolini to the farmsteads through an intensive programme of forestation and reclamation of farmland. The text mentions approximately 16,000 firs and spruces, 80,000 pines, 4,000 cypresses, 10,000 oaks and numerous other species of conifers along with a plant nursery for producing further specimens. The cypress avenue and perimeter hedge, today a prestigious aspect of the building's appearance, are mentioned in the document as serving both as protection for the crops from the weather as well as a having a defensive function. Its effectiveness can be seen in the fact that the document also mentions the possibility of growing olive trees, a species suited to milder climates and lower altitudes than found in Bivigliano.
The estate remained productive until the Second World War, when the villa, the farmsteads and the parkland suffered considerable damage. Following the war, with social and economic change leading to the sharecropping crisis and the abandonment of farmland, the estate began to be broken up and sold off until reaching its current size of 35 hectares. The villa today is restored to its original layout. Standing out on the elegant main facade, with its five main sections, is the impressive balconied doorway, typical of the Florentine tradition at the end of the 16th century. On the north side of the villa is a large grass lawn that dates back to the second half of the 19th century, alongside which is the small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary of the Snow.