DISCOVER A TREASURE
Off all the traditional tourist tracks. Left out of all books and city guides. Not included in any special events to bring in the public. If Florence were to boast a remarkable number of hidden treasures, the villa and park of Rusciano would tick every box in this category.
A place that is barely featured on city maps and, outwardly, whose entry in the nearby streets possesses no signs so as to communicate what is hidden behind a grey and seemingly run-of-the-mill gate.
Villa di Rusciano is reached along Via Benedetto Fortini, in the south side of Florence, just above the Gavinana neighbourhood.
Visitors who decide to spend a couple of hours discovering a dream place will realise straight away how a visit to Villa di Rusciano has a dual importance: 1) as having witnessed part of the history of Florence and 2) having seen an architectural, historical and natural setting that practically nobody knows and visits.
On your way to Villa di Rusciano – now the offices of the Environment Department of Florence City Council – you pass through a park blossoming with age-old and tall trees and seemingly boundless green spaces, which extend way beyond what visitors can actually see.
As a matter of fact, the area extends across a large expanse of hill, even including an olive grove with more than 300 trees.
Having crossed the park, you reach the actual villa, which has an eminent history and was worthy of the greatest residences of the nobility of the era.
Boasting a fascinating and prestigious past, built in the first half of the sixteenth century, commissioned by Luca Pitti, Villa di Rusciano was constructed by following the design guidelines dictated by none other than Brunelleschi.
On the other hand, this is also reported in a direct testimony by Vasari. In his time, but – for a long time afterwards in subsequent centuries – the villa was used as a residence: noble, beautiful, impressive, as the calibre of its owners imposed.
It was utilized in this way too by the English banker Kerrich, at the end of the nineteenth century, and the Austrian baron De Stum up till the early twentieth century. It was at this time that the buildings underwent various embellishments, which, in fact, left only the grand staircase and some decorative parts at rare intervals of the original plan by Brunelleschi.
The varying purposes of Villa di Rusciano began in 1917, resulting in the building being used as a shelter for war orphans. In time Rusciano was earmarked as an educational establishment till virtually the Nineties with the desks of a scientific secondary school within its age-old walls.
Lastly came the public appropriation with – at present – the city offices, which offers a real advantage: providing free access to the park and, with a stroke of good luck and manners, inside the villa too.
If you ask inside, you're bound to come across someone who will throw open the doors of Rusciano; someone who's in love with this place, who wants to share the charm and history with those unable to picture.