“My excuse is that I was born and brought up in a typical Tuscan villa which had always been inhabited since, and perhaps before, the fifteenth century when Francesco Sassetti bought it. Each generation has left a trace but it is essentially Tuscan in its simplicity and adaptability. To have opened one’s eyes, physical and mental, in such surroundings, and to have watched the garden grow […] as it might have been before the craze for so-called English or landscape gardening overwhelmed it in the nineteenth century, has no doubt influenced my personal vision and attitude.” Acton 1970, 10
The garden of Villa La Pietra was created at the beginning of the twentieth century at the behest of Hortense Lenore Mitchell (1871-1962) from Chicago, married to the Londoner Arthur Mario Acton (1873-1953). It is one of the earliest examples of the revisitation / reinvention of the historic Italian garden in Tuscany, which scholars have described as the Renaissance Revival Garden.
When it was created, the fashion for the romantic English-style park, with informal and bucolic compositions inspired by the spontaneity of nature, had already spread widely in Tuscany starting from the first decades of the nineteenth century, as demonstrated by some gardens in Lucca and Pistoia and the gardens of Villa Stibbert, Castello di Vincigliata, Pratolino, and Cascine.
At the turn of the new century, however, the significant Anglo-American presence in Tuscany (about 40,000 expatriates out of 240,000 inhabitants in Florence and its surroundings) prompted a renewed interest in the values and language of the Renaissance and, consequently, in the Italian formal garden, studied in those years by intellectuals such as Janet Ross (1901), Georgina Grahame (1902), Edith Wharton (1904), Vernon Lee (1908), and George Sitwell (1909).
In the same years, …. (click to continue reading)