In the summers of a century ago aristocrats and academics from the ancient University of Pisa as well as naval officers from the nearby port of Leghorn retreated to their patrician country residences built on the gentle hillsides shouldering Pisa. One of these, the Villa Giola, was built in the 1700's. Originally a hunting lodge, the villa acquired its actual dimensions in the second half of the 1800's, when the owners, two brothers, renowned for their philanthropy, descendants of a whealthy aristocratic family from Pisa, whose life was dedicated to the arts, added the tower which was to become their artists' atelier.
The two brothers, renowned for their philanthropy, invited for many years leading exponents of the Italian impressionist movement to spend their summers here. This was the golden era of the impressionists, known locally as the "Macchiaioli", derived from "macchia" which means as much as "dot" or "stain" and is a reference to the impressionistic stroke of the brush. This powerful, though at the time controversial, movement embraced some of the leading painters of the day, many of whom had studied in Paris. This was a time when artists were venturing beyond the confines of their studios into nature and the constantly fluctuating light and colours of the surrounding countryside, breaking with academic traditions, seeking new frontiers. There was a pressing urge to congregate among fellow artists to exchange ideas and derive strength from each other's inspiration. The wife of one of the two painting brothers, offered these striving artists a haven. Intelligent, cultivated and well-read, she flung open the doors of the Villa Giola to the most avant-garde artists, intelligentsia and writers of the time. Among these Fattori, Lega, Signorini, Kienerk and Cecconi came and stayed in the villa for many a long summer.
The present owners are direct descendants of the two brothers. They treasure their inheritance and one their most fervent wishes is to safeguard and upkeep this house which has such an important past. The spirit of those times has remained to this day. Villa Giola, with sun pouring in through the French windows, its pastel colours and spacious gardens is still a place to find fulfilment and inspiration. The house and gardens in their bucolic surroundings will give you a taste of some of the best that Tuscany has to offer: art and elegance, luxury and leisure among gently rolling hillsides. And from a more mundane point of view: fruit and vegetables from the villa garden as well as excellent restaurants in the vicinity specialised either in fish menus or Tuscan cuisine. There is a small trattoria just down the road, and many more are to be found in the country villages surrounding the estate.
Set high in the idyllic landscape of the hills south-east of Pisa, this patrician country house is approached by an age-old alley of birch trees which, beyond the tall gates, leads into the spacious and well-kept gardens of the villa. The villa is surrounded by extensive lawns, century old holm oaks, an orchard and a vegetable garden. Beyond the garden walls lie olive groves and fields. It was from here that these painters could venture out into the open countryside, capturing the play of light on nature in all its many hues and facets and transferring them to canvas.
On the ground floor, the large main living room opens onto an extensive lawn bordered by English roses and hydrangeas. Large holm oaks lend their shade to an outdoor living area. The kitchen is fully equipped and there are six spacious bedrooms all of which have a splendid view. They have been decorated in a traditional Tuscan country house style with metal bedsteads, cotton prints as well as paintings and other antiques belonging to the family. Above the painter's atelier, on top of the tower of the villa, a stunning loggia with arches on all four sides gives you marvellous views onto the surrounding landscape. The private pool of Villa Giola is located in a sunny and secluded part of the garden, which can be closed off by a gate for the security of small children.
The surrounding area
Pisa and Livorno are within a radius of 20 minutes by car, Florence, Volterra and San Gimignano are 45 minutes by car, Siena is an hour's drive away.
Lucca: At 45 minutes by car, Lucca is one of the most enchanting towns in Tuscany - strolling along the wide avenues along the top of the ancient city walls or in the narrow streets with their ninety nine churches, browsing among the old-fashioned little boutiques, sipping a cappuccino at one of the many bars, tasting the best ice-cream, visiting the richly endowed museums - is a sheer delight.
The famous villas around Lucca: Some of these historic villas are open to the public and a few have internationally renowned gardens, all of which makes highly rewarding sight-seeing while staying in the area.
The seaside: the nearest sea resorts are at approximately 20 minutes away. At a 40 minute drive north are sandy beaches along the coast of Versilia at turn of the century Viareggio and fashionable Forte dei Marmi with their trendy bars, designer shopping and some of the best seafood restaurants in Italy. You will find amore natural coastline in the Maremma, which is at a 40 minute drive to the south.
Carrara: A visit to the nearby marble mines, still active since the times of Michelangelo, jagged white slopes high up in the surrounding hills is a fascinating experience, while artists can still be seen working in the marble workshops below.
Airports and transport: Pisa airport is at 15 kilometres and 20 minute drive away. Florence airport is 80 kilometres and under one hour away. Rome international and intercontinental airport is three and a half hours away. Pisa has a well-connected train station.
Additional amenities include: 2 hair dryers, 2 large fridges and 1 large freezer, iron and ironing board, mixer, filter coffee machine, electrical orange press, parking for two or three cars, screens on all bedroom windows, washing machine and dryer, electric fans in every bedroom....Read more
As featured in USA TODAY and recommended by Travel + Leisure in its annual Villa Guide:
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