One mid-18th-century English traveller wrote: “The territory around Siena and the stretch of Tuscany between Siena and Florence appear to the traveller as a new paradise and a new land.” What with the vineyards, olive groves and oak woods of Chianti, the barren hills around Crete (where even a single tree stands out), and the holm oak and chestnut woods of Montagnola, the rich and varied countryside around Siena offers a perfect landscape for villas and gardens.
The central role villas played in the local economy around Siena between the 18th and 19th centuries is plain to see in Ettore Romagnoli’s approx. six hundred vedutas of villas, churches and towns, in which the cypress tree is often a common denominator. During the period when country homes began to become villas in the 16th century, properties were enriched with significant new elements such as tree-lined avenues, noble chapels, greenhouses, nymphaea and, above all, gardens. Despite the transformations wrought by time, we may still today find a wood, a “ragnaia”, a theatrical space, or a long, tree-lined avenue leading to some symbolic highlight (the Villa at Cetinale being a prime example).
Some of these villas have wondrous interiors, elegant furnishings and precious items, for example paintings on their walls of allegorical and mythological themes, or naturalistic decorations such as the ones by Ignazio Moder at Geggiano Villa, in rooms transformed into gardens.