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Located in the hills of Ponte a Signa, the splendid sixteenth-century Villa already reveals the charm it offers the visitor; born as a manor house in the sixteenth century, it enjoys an enviable view. Built in the sixteenth century by the architect Giovanni Antonio Dosio, the villa initially included two buildings, one of which was used as a residence for the client and the other for agricultural use, connected by a long wall on which a portal opened. Only a few elements remain of this original structure, such as the splendid double staircase and the kneeling windows in pietra serena. Acquired in 1540 by the Pucci counts, in the last years of the century the abbot Alessandro Pucci decided to make it a suitable place for meditation, in the peace of nature; Collector and protector of young artists, he commissioned the Florentine architect and antiquarian Giovanni Antonio Dosio to transform the manor house and its outbuildings into a refined park of natural and artificial delights. The facade, the vaults and the rooms of the dwelling were frescoed by the painter Giovanni Balducci favoring the taste and aesthetics of Francesco I. Today the late-Renaissance spirit of Villa Pucci survives only in the garden, whose statuary decoration lasted for many decades: the animal sculptures executed by Romolo del Tadda, involved in those years also in the construction of the Boboli park, were enriched in fact by the interventions of the heirs. Suddenly the abbot Alessandro died, the villa was first inherited by his brother Roberto; later, lacking direct heirs, it passed to another branch of the Pucci family and although stripped of its beautiful furnishings for hereditary questions, the Bal “Giulio Pucci continued the embellishment of the garden enriching it with statues inspired by mythological tales and forces of nature . At the end of the 19th century the villa was bought by the Campi family and in 1906 passed to the property of the famous tenor Enrico Caruso.
Caruso made use of the work of the architect Vittorio Sabatini, who made the bodies of the two pre-existing buildings symmetrical, and employed in the works the inhabitants of Lastra, who gave the tenor the stone column still visible today, as a sign of gratitude for having thus contributed to boosting the local economy. Conceived as a place of rest and recovery of family affections, the villa was sumptuously furnished and enriched by sumptuous and precious furniture, such as the famous Neapolitan crib; the garden was broken up and reassembled in the guise of a theatrical setting. At his death, followed in 1919, the property passed from first to his son Rodolfo and to his brother Giovanni, then to the engineer Blanchi. Purchased by the Count de Micheli, who undertook to restore its Renaissance appearance to the garden, the villa was ceded to the Gucci family in 1990 and repurchased by the municipality of Lastra a Signa in 1995.
The gardens of Villa Caruso Bellosguardo have maintained the original layout of the Giardini all'Italiana, built by the abbot Alessandro Pucci; among the typical box hedges there are numerous Mediterranean essences, accompanied by signs indicating their name.
Serena stone sculptures and colonnades frame the lemon vases and the hedges whose design was reorganized at the time by Count De Micheli.
At the center of the garden, right in front of the large entrance arch, there is a fountain with a typical water feature. Recently the Amateur Botanical Library has enriched these spaces by proposing a path of reading, still in structuring and dedicated primarily to valuable cultivars of camellias coming from the Vivai Molendi.
The park represents one of the most interesting parts of this monumental complex, as it still retains much of its sixteenth-century structure with lush flora and sculptural findings.
In every season of the year, various types of cultural events are promoted inside the Villa and in the Gardens.
Guided tours are by appointment and are conducted by operators of the Megaron Cultural Services (tel. 055 480489), while the park is open to the public free of charge every weekend with the following schedule: Saturday from 15.30 to 19.30 and Sunday from 9.00 at 12.00 and from 15.30 to 19.30.
Villa Caruso: Villa Caruso Association
The Villa Caruso association, promoted by the Municipality of Lastra a Signa was established in December 1996 with the participation of representatives of the economic, productive and cultural realities of the territory. Its primary purpose is to promote, at all levels, study activities, documentation and dissemination in the artistic and cultural field and mainly in the field of music and opera.
In particular, to achieve its specific goals, the Association:
a) promotes and carries out research on musical activities, from a cultural, economic and social point of view;
b) collaborates with other bodies, including community and international ones, giving their own contribution of studies and documentation;
c) organizes conferences, meetings, courses of study, seminars, exhibitions and exhibitions, to increase study and experience exchanges in their fields of activity and for the enhancement of Lastra a Signa and the peculiarities of its territory;
d) promotes, in its field of activity, the publication of studies, research, magazines, essays;
e) establishes and reinforces ties of friendship and collaboration between the U.S.A., Campania and Tuscany communities in the name of Enrico Caruso, also including the stimulation and growth of cultural, commercial and tourist exchanges.
The Association is located in the Villa of Bellosguardo, granted by the Municipality owner.
The monumental park is open to the public on public holidays, Saturday from 15.00 to 19.00 and Sunday from 9.00 to 12.00 and from 15.00 to 19.00.