The original thick-walled stone-built part of the house (soon to be the therapy room) is believed to date from the 12th Century and it is thought that there may be another floor beneath what we can currently see. Having quite enough space already, I do not plan to dig down to find out!
The main building as we see it now was built between the 18th and early 19th Centuries. As happens, the house has been extended and modified over the centuries and decades. Changing fashions saw updated décor. Some of what would have been soft terracotta tiles were replaced in a harder wearing geometric terracotta tile, especially in the areas where guests may have entered and the tiles seen, as these were still very expensive tiles.
Some of the more beautiful affreschi were painted over in the early Liberty period. The remnants of this later decoration is what I am striving to retain and what adorns many walls now. Ultimately I would like to restore the original paintwork to its former glory but that is a job for a specialist art restorer
The house was the Francini family home. And a very grand home it was, too. Although by nature rustic rather than glamorous this would have been the equivalent to a country manor house with the family owning all the surrounding land.
I found Estate account books in the house and when time permits I shall enjoy piecing together the working history of the house.
Sig.ra Fedilla Francini was the mother of Carlo Del Prete. Although born in Lucca, where his father was a doctor and, at one time, the mayor, Carlo Del Prete spent much of his childhood in this country idyll with his mother and grandparents. Sig.ra Francini continued to live at the villa to a ripe old age, although sadly alone and the house slowly fell into disrepair.
The changing political scene of the inter-war years in Italy had a significant impact on the family’s wealth. Then, combined with the misfortune of death and later the complicated inheritance laws, the house went beyond disrepair and sadly into abandon and utter neglect.
When I found the house it was in a terrible state. The plumbing system consisted of one single cold tap and that was it!! The garden and where the pool now stands was a bamboo jungle which was so dense one could not walk through it and it extended and enveloped the gate-posts, which we weren’t even sure were there.
Needless to say, a house of this size will be a project for ever more, but thinking of the 10 brand new bathrooms now installed, the heating system and brand new electrics, not to mention some brand new floors and rooves, I must remember to celebrate how much I have managed to do to make it a wonderful and comforting family home.