The Historic Garzoni Garden
The Garzoni Historic Garden is an 18th-century delight, which has come down to us almost intact due to an effort that started in the 16th century and lasted two centuries. A vegetable garden and small hunting park alongside the noble Garzoni family’s country residence were transformed into a monument to artistic taste and well-being, the wise use of water, and the choice of plants. The landscaping exploits the apparent disadvantages of the steep terrain, converting them into elements of wonder and originality. It is a triumph of the enlightened 18th-century spirit, striving toward knowledge and higher awareness through the senses and pleasure.
Of all this, we are left today with a unique natural monument in Europe, constructed in the splendid season that formed the gardens of the Lucchese villas, with such share familiar echoes and inspirations as the one at the Royal Palace of Caserta or the Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel. Getting lost amid the wonders of this fantastic place—with its refreshing and evocative artificial caves, box-hedge theaters, statues depicting satyrs, gods, goddesses, animals, and biblical, historical, or folk characters, with dense bamboo groves. A magical experience.
With its symbols and the white figures that stand out or hide in the green there (try to find the Turk!), the entire garden sometimes seems an enigmatic narrative directed at the visitor.
Discover the prominent personalities who have concerned themselves with the villa and the Garzoni Garden, including Ottaviano Diodati, Francesco Juvarra, Francesco Sbarra, Count Mazzarosa and Carlo Lorenzini/Collodi!
Let your imagination run free while appreciating the variety of plants. The delicate hydraulic system essentially traces the 18th-century design and feeds the water features, waterfalls, and fountains. Cooling paths lead from the Scala d’Acqua (water stairway) to such delightful corners as the Teatro di Verzura, the Viale dei Poveri, flanked by picturesque figures, and the Maze. (According to tradition, engaged couples are encouraged to walk through the maze to ensure a long marriage and romance!) The unique and special Bagnetti Pavilion offers all types and shapes of bathing basins, each space designed to be hidden from the view of others. Not even the small orchestra that entertained the ladies and gentlemen while “bathing” could see what was happening below the stage. Thus, guests could enjoy the pleasure of cool water in the utmost discretion.
The villa (under restoration, not open to visitors) and the Garzoni Garden are a unified whole, with the former flanking as well as partly overlooking the latter. In ancient times, it was a fortress guarding the village of Castello. Later, it became the Garzoni nobles’ country house—a luxurious villa-monumental garden complex meant to showcase the Garzoni’s economic and political power and cultural superiority. The steep hill, which seemed to impede the creation of a large, prestigious garden, became a fantastic setting of greenery and water. Meanwhile, the large house was also converted into an imposing and luxurious villa, with the refreshing Palazzina d’Estate and a chapel hiding behind it. The place has had distinguished guests: Napoleon Bonaparte, whose sister Elisa Baciocchi ruled Lucca at the beginning of the 19th century; King Vittorio Emanuele III around 1910; the United States Ambassador in the 1920s. As a girl, Carlo Collodi’s mother, Angiolina Orzali, worked and met her future husband, Domenico Lorenzini, here. Some famous visitors can be discovered in the Historical, Artistic, and Environmental Documentation Center
The Garzoni family owned many of the surrounding agricultural lands and woods; the low-rise buildings around the garden were collection points for products of the earth. Today they house visitor’s services: ticket office, documentation center, and restaurant with cafeteria bar. The last descendant of the Garzoni family sold the property in the late 1920s. In poor condition by the late 20th century, the villa and garden complex were expertly restored at the beginning of the 21st century—the result of a partnership between the owner at that time and the Carlo Collodi National Foundation. In those years (and until 2021), the foundation was entrusted with the management and care of the garden through its subsidiary Sviluppo Turistico Collodi srl. The Garzoni Historic Garden was refurbished (its restoration unveiled in 2007), using an overall plan by Studio Gurrieri Associati (Florence), with Studio Emilio Faroldi Associati (Parma/Milan). Particular care was given to the Spaccio di Rosina (ticket office with documentation center and exhibitions) and the Butterfly House. The architect Giorgio Galletti (Florence) was responsible for the vegetation.
The restoration was overseen by the Superintendency for Architectural Heritage and the Landscape and the Historical, Artistic, and Demo-ethno-anthropological Heritage for the Provinces of Florence, Pistoia, and Prato, with funding from the Italian State.
The Garzoni Villa and Garden complex is recognized as a national monument (Law 364/20 June 1909, Law 688/3 June 1912, art.7). It is part of the European Route of Historic Gardens (https://europeanhistoricgardens.eu/); it was certified by the Council of Europe as a Cultural Route in October 2020.
The Collodi Foundation became the owner of the villa and Garzoni Garden complex on 20 May 2021.