La Pietra derives its name from a stone pillar (in Italian pietra) marking the distance of one Roman mile from the Florence city gate of San Gallo, today Piazza della Libertà. For many centuries, Villa La Pietra was the home of prominent Florentine families: the Macinghi in the 14th century; the Sassetti from 1460-1545; the Capponi from 1545-1877; and the Incontri until the 20th Century. Francesco Sassetti was a banker and a humanist connected with Lorenzo de´Medici and his villa included an important library.

In 1903, Hortense Mitchell Acton, daughter of a prominent Chicago banking family, and her husband Arthur Acton took up residence at La Pietra, joining a thriving community of culturally passionate expatriates. They immersed themselves in a diverse Florentine society of writers, historians, artists and art collectors. Over the next thirty years the Actons enriched their house and garden with an expanding art collection.

A library of 10,000 volumes with many first editions, a family archive and an important collection of over 17,000 photographs are also part of the Acton legacy. The collection is arranged as it was in the Acton’s time, not as a formal museum display, but as a decorative ensemble in which works of art play off each other and the styles of the historic villa building itself. Villa La Pietra stands as the best-preserved example of an Anglo-American private collection in Florence from the early years of the 20th century still intact. The Acton collection continues to be actively utilized for research and study not only by the students and faculty of the NYU community but also by scholars and artists in Florence and worldwide. The artworks, building, and garden have been officially listed as cultural heritage and fall under the protection of the Italian Ministry of Culture.

Collection Conservation

Since the beginning of NYU’s stewardship of the site in 1994, conservation of the collection has been a central priority.

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Collection Resources

Villa La Pietra serves as a rich resource for ongoing research in art history, conservation, and Italian history. Learn more about the available resources.

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