Photo Credit: Pink Dress and Portrait of Hortense Acton by Riccardo Cavallari

“When I read about the nineteen-twenties today, I feel I might be reading about butterflies, and that the contemporary critic has turned entomologist…The butterfly never settles on any flower for long.”

-Harold Acton


Transatlantic Modernities: Villa La Pietra in the Twenties is a compound and transversal collection exhibition project that was active from 2014-2017.  The project originated from the exploration of the Acton family home, guests, objects and artistic milieu during the “Roaring Twenties”. Those years saw the establishment of the Actons as prestigious members of Florentine society, art collectors and extraordinary hosts with impeccable taste–entertaining many Italian and Foreign intellectuals and artists within their renowned villa. During this time of peace and prosperity, before the Great Depression of 1929, great advances were made in both social rights and technology–womens’ suffrage, the invention of the car, radio, etc. On the cultural side, as Harold Acton wrote of the vibrant flowering of artistic production—and the ” butterflies” that created them—from poetry and literature to the fashion of ‘flapper’ dress, music, dance, theater and art, resulted in a rich and multifaceted decade.

For more information about this project please contact


Explore the themes below to learn more about the Acton family and their world.

The Actons & The Twenties

In the United States, they were known as the Roaring Twenties. But what was this time like for the rest of the world? Through the lens of the Acton family, we see that in Florence, Italy, the period had the same air of glamour and frenzy, with a unique dash of Tuscan influence.

Read More

The Garden

The garden of Villa La Pietra is an extraordinary combination of life and art, present and past, that continues to evolve and change.

Read More

Performance: Music & Theatre

Performance was an important part of the Actons’ sensibility from their arrival Florence in 1903, as the villa and gardens lent themselves as settings for improvised theatrical events.

Read More

Fashion & Lifestyle

By looking at five of her rare and expensive Callot Soeurs gowns in five rooms of Villa La Pietra, this section explores Hortense's and the Acton family’s lifestyle.

Enter this Project


The Villa La Pietra Guestbook represents a living memory of the Florentine and international visitors to the Acton family residence up to 1994.

Explore the Guestbook

Books & Readers

The La Pietra Library is a characteristic example of a book collection of a family belonging to the Anglo-American community living in Florence at the beginning of the 20th century.

Enter this Project

Project Contributors

Francesca Baldry (Collection Manager, Project Curator, Texts)
Cristina Bellini (La Pietra Library Research)
Claudia Beyer (Textile Conservator, Technical Photography, Project Co-Curator)
Joy Bloser (IFA Conservation Center Student)
Gabriella Butler (NYU Student)
Sonia Caccamo (Textile Conservator)
Riccardo Cavallari (Photographer)
Amber Faith Cassese (Copy Editor)
Margherita Ciacci (NYU Faculty, In Search of Lost Guests)
Cristina Fantacci (Tour Coordinator, Project Outreach)
Lisa Hoag (NYU Student, Project Co-Curator, Texts)
Courtney Kezlarian (NYU Student)
Mia Uribe Kozlovsky (NYU Student, A Tale of the Pink Faille)
Alta Macadam (Acton Collection Photo Archive Research)
Beatrice Masih (NYU Student)
Bermet Nishanova (IFA Conservation Center Student)
Scott Palmer (NYU Faculty, Coordinator of Instructional Technology and Digital Initiatives, Website)
Stefano Pasolini (Object Conservator, Technical Photography)
Costanza Perrone Da Zara (Textile Conservator)
Ilaria Sborgi (NYU Faculty, Reading the Readers)
Sydney Solon (NYU Student, Website)
Deborah Trupin (Textile Conservator)
Ellyn Toscano (Former Villa La Pietra Executive Director)
Xinming Xu (NYU Student, Website)
Michael Wong (NYU Student, Website)
Sam Zawacki (NYU Student)