Italiano English
Download PDF

Love, art and gardens: the villa "I Tatti" in Fiesole

The villa "I Tatti", located on the hills between Florence and Fiesole, is now an important center for international study and research, the Center for History of Italian Renaissance at Harvard University (the oldest American university), but it is also a beautiful garden "Italian". Villa and gardens were bequeathed to the American university by Bernard Berenson, the famous art critic, considered as the greatest connoisseur d 'art Italian, who had lived there until his death in 1959.
English Garden, Tuscan style. The old building (evidenced by documents since 1500) was purchased by Berenson in 1906 and transformed by Cecil Pinsent and Geoffrey Scott, recently arrived in Florence, and in this project continually solicited by Berenson and his wife Mary, who indirizzarono several choices and landscaping work. For example, their aspiration to have lawns "English" was made possible by a large tank of water placed on top of the garden, and the walkways and stairways that connect the various floors were paved with mosaics of cobblestones. Pinsent and Scott conformed the south-facing slope with a series of terraced floors, closed on the sides by tall cypress trees and divided by geometric flower beds bordered by box hedges, distributed along the central avenue. The project could then merge the formal garden with the surrounding landscape thanks to a series of tree-lined avenues (cypresses, oaks, fruit) that led into the countryside. I Tatti for Cecil Pinsent formed a formidable test, through which he could become the recognized specialist in the formal garden "Italian", then working at The Cliffs at Fiesole, and especially in La Foce in Val d'Orcia, for Iris and Antonio Origo, Friends Berenson, considered his masterpiece. Pinsent's creations are now considered the most beautiful gardens "Italian" even if made four centuries after the Renaissance.

The interview. Since the death of Mary Berenson (1945), the gardens of Tatti were progressively neglected, but from the change of ownership at Harvard University began a long period of restoration and maintenance, also made possible by the generous donation of Lila Acheson Wallace (co-founder of the Group Reader's Digest), which lasted more than 30 years and completed in 2010, with new buildings for gardeners and the new greenhouse.
She showed us the head gardener in the garden, that is a woman:  we say this without any surprise because the kind it fits well to the task, made of passion, meticulousness and taste. During the visit we bothered with constant questions, of which we give a summary.
What is the structure property?
 Today, the property is divided between the villa and garden, covering about 3 and a half hectares, and the agricultural widespread, with its 35 hectares of olive groves, vineyards and woods.
What's a Swiss hills of Fiesole?
I arrived here in 1993 on the initiative of the then head gardener, to take care of the greenhouses and production of cut flowers, as well as the floral decorations for the villa, subentrandogli after a few years to run the activities in the garden.
How many people work to keep this Eden (and meanwhile I look at the profusion of flowers)?
You need four gardeners fixed, but you add a spring seasonal, as many blooms in the garden require assiduous care.
Much of the garden is the result of restoration or even reversals. Who he's busy?
I come from a training oriented towards the production, so the experience in managing a historic garden I've made here to Tatti where responsible for the garden is a historic, and together we plan interventions. This garden is relatively recent and fundamentals were the pictures stored in photo library that allow us to reproduce what parts restoration. But it still remains a part that must be interpreted, especially the volumes of pruned trees groves and avenues, here takes over our sensitivity to try to understand the intentions of Pinsent but he left very few writings, for this we rely mainly on the diaries of Berenson and their correspondence.
Now I'm twenty years working here, what level of preparation did you find in the new gardeners?
The training offered by the institute agrarian is very general, there does not exist a path of specialization for gardeners, and certainly not for those who want to work in a garden center. In recent years I have noticed that many young people seeking to improve their professionalism by specialization courses, mostly private. The Agricultural School of Monza is a really very interesting for young professionals, but also the Association for Boboli its course for gardeners to historic gardens proved to be a valid address.

The interview with the head gardener who accompanied us on a walk I the park of the villa