Villa La Pietra Gardens
for Financial Times

“Villa La Pietra is nestled in the hills a mile north of Florence’s centre. Elegant cypresses line the road from its northern gate to the faded ochre of its plaster façade while lemon trees in large terracotta pots line the walled kitchen garden. The hard light of the Florentine summer is filtered by holm oaks and stone pines as numerous statues cast dark shadows across the terraces and parterres of clipped box. It is hard to imagine a more Italian scene but while many visitors may feel transported to the cinquecento there is something in the character of this garden that betrays its foreign influence. La Pietra is not simply an exercise in Renaissance revival, a popular style among the burgeoning expat community in Tuscany at the turn of the 20th century, but rather the result of one family’s idiosyncratic attempt to recapture the atmosphere of the garden’s Renaissance past.

Arthur and Hortense Acton, he being a minor English aristocrat of Neapolitan descent and she the daughter of a wealthy Chicago banker, first rented and finally bought La Pietra in 1907. They quickly embarked on their mission to restore its classical heritage by eradicating the unimaginative exercise in the parco all’inglese which they had inherited. Remarkably the Actons’ arrival represented only the third change of hands in the property’s history. There have been gardens at La Pietra for more than 550 years, since Francesco Sassetti, bank manager for the Medici, first bought an old agricultural property in 1460. It was subsequently sold to the Capponi family who owned it for 360 years before the Actons took possession, expedited by Hortense’s inherited fortune.”

from the article by Jonny Bruce on The Financial Times, October 27 2017