The seventh edition of the “Enchanted Villas and Gardens” festival will feature classical music, food and guided tours from June 7 through July 19. Held in the evening, the concert series is set in grand villas once belonging to the Medici family. Scattered across the Tuscan countryside, the ‘Medici villas’ comprise 12 properties; in 2013, they were collectively nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Medici family, the former owners of the villas, were Italian bankers and patrons of the arts who had great importance during the Renaissance. Today, they serve as a reminder of the Medici family’s political, social and cultural legacy and impact on Florence and the surrounding area.
Upholding this reputation, the villas will be hosting concerts, for the 16th year running, for the public to enjoy at the minimal cost of €12. Guided visits and buffets will also be on offer at a select few of the villas, either for free or at a small extra charge.
The repertoire of the classical music emanating from the villas and gardens will range from composers such as Mozart to Tchaikovsky, with an emphasis on Russian composers. The performances will showcase the Orchestra of Tuscany (ORT), one of the finest in Italy.
The concert series will be held at eight of 12 former Medici residences. Here is the schedule, featured villas, their locations and brief descriptions:
Wednesday, June 7
Medici Villa La Petraia (9:30 pm)
Via della Petraia, 40, Florence
La Petraia’s rich interior, sweeping vistas of the Tuscan landscape and beautifully sculpted gardens and courtyards make it a dreamy venue for the opening night. An architectural wonder, the villa was designed under the rule of the Medici family but has since been further embellished. The repertoire will consist of the work of three Russian composers, including Arensky, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky, with Chiara Morandi as conductor and Jacopo Taddei on saxophone.
This villa was built in the 14th century, but the Medici family did not purchase it until the 16th century. Located near the city of Florence, the villa served the purpose of a quick getaway. The villa is an ancient castle that houses ballrooms, two sets of frescoes by Cosimo Daddi and Baldassare Franceschini, Giambologna’s statue of Venus-Fiorenza and 12 lunettes of the villas painted by Giusto Utens. The garden itself contains three levels, each with a separate view, where one catch a glimpse of a fountain by Giambologna in addition to the Florence skyline.
Thursday, June 8
Medici Villa of Poggio a Caiano (9:30 pm). Same program as June 7
Piazza dei Medici, 14, Poggio a Caiano
The villa was built in the 15th century and is a fine example of Renaissance architecture. Designed by sculptor Giuliano da Sangallo for Lorenzo de’ Medici, also known as “Lorenzo the Magnificent,” the villa’s most striking aspect is its imposing Greek-inspired facade, with eight slender Ionic columns and a pediment enshrining copies of a glazed terra-cotta sculpture made by Andrea Sansovino. The Museum of Still Life Paintings on the second floor features some of the Medici family’s art collection with works by Italian, Flemish and Dutch artists.
Friday, June 9
Medici Villa of Cerreto Guidi (9:30 pm). Same program as June 7
Via dei Ponti Medicei, 7, Cerreto Guidi
The villa sits in the center of Cerreto Guidi and was built in the 15th century. It served as a hunting lodge for the Medici family and today contains a wide collection of paintings, tapestries, sculptures, terracotta, majolica, hunting weapons, Roman and medieval artefacts.
Saturday, June 10
Medici Villa of Castello (7 pm)
Via di Castello, 44/46, Florence
“Tribute to Mozart” by the Chorda Quartet
Purchased in 1477, this villa is one of the Medici family’s oldest suburban residences. The villa’s garden was commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici and contains the Grotto of the Animals, decorated with birds and animals sculpted in marble or bronze, surrounded by seashells, mosaics, and stones.
Thursday, June 15
Medici Villa of Poggio a Caiano (9:30 pm).
The orchestra and cello soloist Ettore Pagano, guided by conductor Federico Frigo, will interpret the compositions of Mozart (overture of the opera The Clemency of Titus); Tchaikovsky and Haydn (Symphony no. 8, Maria Teresa).
Friday, June 16
Medici Villa of Cerreto Guidi (9:30 pm). Same program as June 15.
Saturday, June 17
Villa Demidoff – The Garden of Pratolino (6 pm). Same program as June 15.
Via Fiorentina, 276, Pratolino
Although most well-known for its Apennine Colossus, a work by Giambologna, the Park of Pratolino also boasts a fine collection of works by Buontalenti, the inventor of Italian gelato and architect of the villa and gardens. Commissioned by Francesco de’ Medici, the construction was completed from 1569 – 1581. The villa was demolished in 1820, but the garden was subsequently re-designed in the English landscape style, earning a reputation as one of the most romantic gardens in Tuscany. The property of a Russian industrialist and later Yugoslavian prince, the gardens were eventually bought by the province of Florence, which opens it to the public from April until October each year. With over 99 different species in the park and winding, woodland paths, the grounds will provide an idyllic backdrop to the concert.
Wednesday, June 21
Medici Villa La Petraia, Florence (9:30 pm).
Conducted by Nicolò Jacopo Suppa, the orchestra, featuring soloist Francesco Papa, will play a Mendelssohn concerto for violin and orchestra and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 4.
Thursday, June 22
Medici Villa of Poggio a Caiano (9:30 pm). Same program as June 21.
Friday, June 23
Medici Villa of Cerreto Guidi (9:30 pm). Same program as June 21.
Wednesday, June 28
Medici Villa La Petraia, Florence (9:30 pm)
The orchestra will perform Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 “Classical,” which was inspired by Haydn and Mozart; Hadyn’s trumpet concerto in E-flat major and Mozart’s Symphony no. 9, which the composer is thought to have written during a trip to Italy. (sophie holloway & cami fowler)
Five more concerts will take place at other Medici villas from June 29 – July 19. Stay tuned.