My name is Niccolò and I belong to the great family that has owned Villa Monsoglio and its farms for more than 130 years. Honestly, I don’t know what my great-great-grandfather was thinking when he bought all this in 1884. It’s difficult for me to comprehend it today. Perhaps it was a desire to enhance and hand-down a house and estate that is so extraordinary that Leonardo da Vinci painted it in the background of the Mona Lisa. Or, maybe, he wanted to be part of a history that included some of the most famous Florentine families such as the Peruzzi, bankers and merchants of the Guelph faction, or the Capponis and their famous son Gino the most renowned member of the family who was an intimate friend of the writers, Ugo Foscolo, Alessandro Manzoni and Giacomo Leopardi.
My ancestor Francesco di Giovanni Pasquali da Cepperello purchased Villa Monsoglio and its lands for 240,000 lire on 6 June 1884. So much has transpired since then, and there are so many stories to tell…of shirts and parachutes, of red crosses painted on the roof, of sly stewards and love affairs, of adventures that smell of silk and tobacco, of a movie, shot in one of the farmhouses, that surprisingly took the box-offices by storm. But then, not even my famous great-great-grandfather could have imagine all would happen within these walls over the past 130 years.
Together with my family and those who are helping me in this venture, I wanted to envision a different future for Villa Monsoglio. A future that would be interesting and at the same time respectful of the villa’s artistic features in terms of their uniqueness and heritage. On the one hand, all of us are becoming more and more aware of the fact that conserving the cultural heritage is essential for developed societies, on the other, there is the need to revitalize and freshen up the beauty of something that cannot be locked up in a cabinet.
I began building the future of Villa Monsoglio, piece by piece, in January 2015 according to a plan that would give it a definitive boost. An important and across-the-board restoration that lasted five years – 2006-2011 – presented us with an enormous question about the future. In addition, the villa and the wealth of paintings on its walls had to be adapted to today’s lifestyles. In other words, we had to start thinking about a new and different future. “Events in Tuscany” is the phrase I chose for the new logo – Villa Monsoglio – redesigned and enriched with a symbolic component.
The “pledge” we made concerns the ability to plan 360° events in the villa and on its surrounding 350 hectares that reach to the banks of the Arno River and a good part of the Nature Reserve of the Penna Dam. The goal is to host new events, potentially be the setting for other hit movies like Leonardo Pieraccioni’s Il Ciclone [The Cyclone], to create a gourmet experience with the world-famous Donatella Zampoli who is resident chef for all the occasions that matter.
The enormous farm estate, with its paths that wind through cultivated and untamed greenery for kilometers, is the ideal place for holding team building & coaching events: it is where working strategies and alliances can be built and tested, where a business can plan its future in a protected and enchanted setting. But, it is also the ideal place for those who decide to stay nearby, for example at the Il Borro residences, and still use and enjoy the villa’s facilities for events and fashion shows.
The Mona Lisa is definitely the most famous painting in the world. The landscape that takes up a good part of the picture is a depiction of the Laterina and Pergine Valdarno area, in other words, the land surrounding Villa Monsoglio. So, it is no surprise that the land looks familiar to those who come to Villa Monsoglio – an understandable déjà vu if we think of the Mona Lisa’s fame. We know that Leonardo da Vinci was working in the area at the beginning of the sixteenth century (on commissions from Cesare Borgia in 1502 and from Pier Soderini, a family friend, in 1503).
Two major projects, that are still part of the villa’s artistic heritage, were undertaken during the two decades straddling the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth: the grand, double-pincer, Baroque staircase leading to the lawn, and the wall- and ceiling frescoes in the ground floor rooms by Atanasio Bimbacci, a disciple of Baldassare Franceschini called “Il Volterrano” .
During World War II (1940-1945) the battlefront was very close. At some points, Villa Monsoglio served as a hospital and a refuge. To protect it from air raids, a huge red cross was painted on the roof to tell the Allied pilots that the villa was a field hospital. The front ran along the banks of the Arno River, German troops were quartered near the villa, the Allies were on the other side of the river.
Around here, silk shirt for farmers were a necessity before they became fashionable. Local farmers picked up the parachutes that had been used by Allied troops to land behind the German lines, or that were dropped in the area with foodstuffs and supplies and made them into shirts. What had begun as a wartime necessity soon became fashionable – a luxury for the local farmers whose clothes had been reduced to rags.
For the many Italians who saw it in the theaters, this movie that broke box-office records in 1996-97, put the seal on Leonardo Pieraccioni’s reputation as a master of cinematic comedy. The film is about what happens when a troupe of Flamenco dancers unexpectedly arrives in this quiet corner of the Tuscan countryside. The born-and-bred Florentine director chose Villa Monsoglio’s “Giuncaia” farm to present the true essence of the Tuscan countryside.