Romolini Immobiliare is proud to present Villa La Vagnola, a wonderful 18th-century manor villa built at the border of the medieval town of Cetona. The property is embedded in an 11-hectare estate running along the historic centre of the town. The building, which at first look might look like a typical manor house of the Tuscan countryside, belies unique interiors, decorated with unrivaled style. The building offers 15 bedrooms, each one decorated with its own unique style which makes it different from all the others, and is completed by a beautiful Italian garden on the rear.
Around 1750, the Cetona nobleman Salustio Terrosi wanted to celebrate his marriage with Maria Antonietta Vagnoli building for the occasion this luxury villa. The location he chose was crowded with ruined building and crossed by water streams which made the area an unhealthy swamp. In order to be able to build the villa, the existing building were razed and the ground leveled through imposing works to entirely remove water which would potentially make the building unstable after its construction.
Once these preliminary works had been carried out, the villa was built in the location that it occupies nowadays, with direct access from the main square of Cetona. Under the villa, Terrosi had a network of tunnels and caves dug and then decorated with beautiful travertine blocks quarried from Mount Cetona. The villa reached its current shape when two adjacent buildings were joined into a single residence.
The villa still belonged to Terrosi family in the mid-19th century and in 1849 the building witnessed the passage of Giuseppe Garibaldi in Cetona. The at-the-time lieutenant of Civic Guard, Pietro Terrosi, witnessed in person the arrival of the man which would later become the Hero of the Two Worlds and years later, in 1859, published a brief memory titled Garibaldi a Cetona – Racconto Storico di Pietro Terrosi (Florence, Tipografia Mariani, 1859) where we can find an account of those two days.
“The dawn of 17 July 1849 was preceded by a stormy and rainy night. While I was waking up, as usual at the first light of the day, a loud voice called my from the road below my window; I stood up, ran to the window and leaned out: it was the sergeant of the Civic Guard, on his night-shift, telling me that the general Garibaldi was in Cetona with his followers” (p. 7). The people of Cetone welcomed with open arms the general moving north through the peninsula followed by his army after the failure of the Roman Republic. Everybody in Cetona did his best to help the guests, “meanwhile the General together with his army staff, entertained in my halls, speaking warm words of affection for Italy to everybody, but mostly to the young Scipione Terrosi, who received a marksman rifle as a gift” (pp. 16 – 17). The villa hosted the general during his stay in Cetone, guest of Pietro Terrosi and the gonfaloniere Rodolfo Gigli.
At dusk, on 18 July 1849, “the legion refreshed, dressed up, as if back to a new life, walked cheerfully among the jubilant citizens when the drums announced the order to leave from that hospitable land which welcomed them with extreme pleasure” (p. 19).
Terrosi affirms that “the Tuscan people, in particular the people of that Castle (Cetona, Ed.), […] helped and celebrated as brothers those poor men, and when the Italian fate seemed dark, they saluted the heroic commander as King of Italy. And it was like a prophecy was spoken by the people of Cetona, for not ten years would pass that the hero, which didn’t even have a spot to rest his exhausted body that day, would command his army, defeating the Austrian troops, leading those Tuscan soldiers which were not long before under Austrian command. And now, Garibaldi and Vittorio Emanuele are the two most beloved Italian patriots” (pp. 26 – 27).
The memory of Garibaldi in Cetona was so strong that the communal administration named the main square after the general (nowadays Piazza Garibaldi, just outside Villa La Vagnola) and built monuments to the hero of the two worlds. Garibaldi himself was always grateful toward the citizens of that small Tuscan town which offered him and his man such a warm welcome. He kept a regular correspondence with Pietro Terrosi and one of the letters (written by Garibaldi himself) has been etched on a commemorative plaque visible in Cetona: “My dearest friend, I received your kind letter from November and your nice book […] where I found sorrowful but dear memories. I fondly remember […] Cetona’s hospitality towards me and my brothers in arms – what remained of those proud men which upheld the Italian honor in Rome. Should luck ever bring me back to those lands I’d see your town with filial fondness. In the meantime, please bring my regards to your family and your fellow citizens […]”.
The exteriors of the villa are unique in their conception. Right after exiting the building, we end up in the beautiful Italian garden designed by architect Paolo Pejrone (1941), a lifelong garden enthusiast whose formation is akin to Russel Page’s. Pejrone’s job led him all over the world in Italy, France, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Greece, England and Germany for both public and private works. Amidst the hedges and the decorative plants of the garden we can see a commemorative monument to Garibaldi, a Turkerie built in 1837 to welcome the Turkish Pasha visiting Cetona and the old winter garden, a beautiful building finely decorated and nowadays covered in creeper.
Moving past the garden one enter a small wood housing a ragnaia and a beautiful 200-seat stone amphitheater. The word ragnaia (with ragno meaning ‘spider’ in Italian) was initially used to describe a dense wood of tall trees between which nets were pulled to catch small birds. Over time, the ragnaia lost its practical purpose of capturing birds and the term shifted to describe a decorative wood where one can escape the unpleasant sun of summer.
A unique feature of Villa La Vagnola estate is the presence of an Etruscan tomb dating back to the 7th century BC, which was carefully disassembled, moved to Cetona, reassembled and decorated with original findings dating back to the Etruscan period too. One of the walls still displays a beautiful fresco.
As for the exteriors, interiors of Villa La Vagnola have no rivals. The many halls and bedrooms are finely furnished and decorated with highly sought elements. The architect and interior designer Lorenzo Mongiardino (1916 – 1998), who worked side by side with directors and librettists such as Franco Zeffirelli, Peter Hall, Giancarlo Menotti and Raymond Rouleau, was tasked with redesigning the interiors of the building by following his own specific canons, later exposed in the book Architettura da camera (1993). Inspiration stroke Mongiardino while he was looking watercolor painting from the early 19th century depicting several rooms of Austrian and German houses, with their unique and peculiar style. Another illustrious building used as a “source” is Palazzo Pitti in Florence, whose colorful interiors and the motives on the walls are clearly recognizable in the decorations inside Villa La Vagnola.
The mix of common and antique elements has always been a central idea in Mongiardino’s work, as well as the use of painted panels and trompe-l’œil decorations simulating architectures in neoclassical style. And Villa La Vagnola is no exception: the ample halls boast frescoed ceilings which simulate the coffered ceilings of Roman buildings (the Pantheon of Rome above everything else) and painted columns which support the cornices parting the walls from the ceilings. The ceramics covering the floors and several walls are all hand-made by specialized artisans, as well as the beautiful wallpapers (hand-made too) which we can see mostly inside the bedrooms.