There are two good reasons to treat yourself to a day at Villa Reale in Marlia, a few kilometers from Lucca. The home of two great noblewomen who transformed it into a marvellous place, amidst fragrant gardens and blooming camellias, sumptuous residences and ... legendary love stories.
Take a day in spring
to discover a place that never fails to amaze you, with two exceptional guides: Princess Elisa and Countess Mimì.
Many pages to read through connected by a red thread. A cultured, innovative and very ambitious woman, Napoleon's sister bought the villa from the Orsetti family and made it her palace in Empire style. And voila, here is Villa Reale.
Elisa redesigned the park, with the size of a city, in the English manner for romantic days. Grass carpets that intertwine on a slight slope, moving water bodies and perspective games to enhance the neoclassical facade.
You can walk following her footsteps and the scents of many new botanical species that she imported as a botany enthusiast from all over the world.
Here the princess of Lucca loved to have fun with Prince Felice Baciocchi and their young daughter Elisa Napoléona. In the Verzura theater sculpted in the greenery, a natural stage of rare beauty for historical figures, you can still hear the seductive violin of Niccolò Paganini playing.
You can have a visit in the luxurious apartments of the future Duchess of Tuscany. In the bedroom with a majestic wallpaper, twelve splendid tapestries celebrate the love between Cupid and Psyche. And in the court room and the billiard room, Elisa's favorite games were played.
Turn the page and here's another story
the story of Anna Laetitia Pecci, a Roman countess, since 1923 owner of the "royal" residence bringing it back to great glory.
From an aristocratic family, her mother was a Spanish aristocratic, her father chief of the Papal Noble Guard, she married to the wealthy American banker Cecil Blunt.
Art lover, appreciating talents and worldliness, the countess frequented the intellectual circles of Paris, artists, poets, writers, crowned heads and personalities of the high society who were guests in the villa of Lucca.
Donna Mimì loved to amaze people with special effects. The villa is reflected in a lake designed in 1924 by the famous architect Jacque Greber and in a heated art nouveau pool, in a glamorous atmosphere, even the Spanish painter Salvador Dalì came for a swim. And from there it's just a few steps to the Spanish Garden, inspired by the Alhambra, designed to amaze and entertain illustrious guests with water games, allegorical statues and fantastic nymphaeums.
Anna Laetitia was also a great collector. Today in the restored Clock building it is possible to visit her bizarre collection of letters from Pope Leo XIII, very rare volumes, Native American clothes and dolls with traditional costumes that she purchased around the world.
The love of Elisa and Mimì for Villa Reale
is revealed by the flowering of the beloved "francesini" and of the camellias, an explosion of colors and elegance.
Over thirty varieties of Camelia japonica arrived at the beginning of the nineteenth century from the Royal Palace of Caserta, sent directly to Elisa by her brother Giuseppe Bonaparte, king of Naples.
From the most extravagant shapes, each with its own name and character, in red, white, pink, orange and purple shades. Small botanical treasures enhanced by the noble Pecci-Blunt family from the two large avenues at the beginning and at the end of the path accompanied by the relaxing sound of the water of the stream that runs through the gardens.
The ancient Countess Nencini struts with the double white flower edged with pink in intense shades, the elegant Bellina Major and the lively Moshio with orange flowers shine. Among the earliest is Prince Eugène Napoléon, a cherry red cultivar with lighter streaks, originally from Belgium and dedicated to Prince Eugene Napoleon.
A pleasant day to end with an aperitif in the shade of the café overlooking the lake, tasting a Royal Elisa, a camellia-based cocktail that you can only find here. Fresh and sweet but also acid and savory.
Quench your thirst at any time of day or night...but the recipe is Top Secret !!!
img: pianadilucca.it - JOBDV