Villa Schifanoia and the Cappella
From August 2016 Villa Schifanoia is home to the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies.
Originally Villa Schifanoia was probably part of a large swathe of land belonging to a single owner that included other villas and country houses in the surrounding area such as Villa Palmieri, La Badia, Villa Il Granaio, Villa Malafrasca. This land was known as ‘Schifanoja’ or ‘Schivenoglia’, meaning a place where to get rid of ‘la noia’, or boredom. In fact, it is thought that Villa Palmieri (which still exists, and is just across the road from Villa Schifanoia) was the setting of some of 14th-century Decameron stories, by Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio: a place where young people sought refuge from a bubonic plague epidemic and kept themselves entertained.
The original central structure of the villa dates from that period: built on two floors, with a large portico on the ground floor facing South and opening onto a large terrace. Two staircases connect the terrace to the beautiful gardens.
From the mid-15th century the villa was owned by the Cresci family, who made their fortune as merchants and dyers, before passing through Italian hands – bought, inherited or gifted as a dowry – for the following centuries.
Until the eighteenth century the external structure remained unchanged except for the garden which was progressively transformed into a ‘giardino all’italiana’ based on symmetry, axial geometry and order.
When the Ciacchi family, a noble family linked to the papal Curia, took over the property of the villa in the second half of the eighteenth century, they clearly wanted to leave a mark: in 1847 they built a small chapel dedicated to Saint Thomas and indeed several architectural elements of both the chapel and the villa are emblazoned with their family emblem.
The 20th century was marked by foreign ownership, including Australian, British and American. The character and atmosphere of Villa Schifanoia changed: from being the Summer residence on the hills of Florence for aristocratic local families to entering the cosmopolitan circle of the city’s Anglophone community, and becoming the main - although often only temporary - residence of its owners, a place where prosperity, culture and glamour would meet.
In 1927, the Villa was bought by the wealthy American businessman Myron C. Taylor and his wife. Taylor was also an antique collector and passionate historian; he made the Villa’s gardens bigger and made sure it was well kept.
In 1939 Taylor was nominated the personal representative of the US President to Pope Pio XII; Villa Schifanoia then became a place where personalities from the political and financial worlds would meet and where the American diplomat would hold.
In 1941, Taylor donated the villa to the Catholic Church, who installed the Little Company of Mary as directors of a Rosary College, an artistic and cultural educational institute for young American girls. The school closed in the 1980s and In 1986 the Italian government bought the Villa to make it one of the European University Institute (EUI) seats. From August 2016 Villa Schifanoia is home to the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies.
To get to Villa Schifanoia from the bus stop in San Domenico, cross the road and take a sharp left into Via Boccaccio.
Villa Schifanoia is about 150 metres down the road on the right hand side after the traffic lights. The Cappella is the small building next to the Villa.
Via Boccaccio 121
Tel. [+39] 055 4685 550, Monday-Friday 8.00-19.00
Page last updated on 08 February 2024