Historic Tuscan Villas in Castelnuovo Berardenga

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The most monumental building in Castelnuovo Berardenga, near Siena, is Villa Chigi Saracini, built around 1820 by Galgano Saracini, who commissioned it and probably also designed it. The austere Classical style building is surrounded by an Italian garden and by an English park, which was designed in 1834 by Agostino Fantastici. This combines natural elements such as the lake, the sponge-rocaille grotto and the water courses with architectural structures such as the Doric style tepidarium separating the park from the garden. In 1866 the beautiful neo-Baroque fountain by the Sienese sculptor Tito Sarrocchi was placed near the monument dedicated to Michelangelo, by the same artist. The series of statues of great musicians, among whom Chopin and Verdi, were ordered by Count Guido Chigi Saracini, the founder of the Accademia Chigiana. In 1914 Arrigo Boito was the Sienese nobleman’s guest at the villa: the foundation of the famous music Academy was his suggestion.

Villa Arceno

Villa Arceno, which lies at the center of a vast estate in Castelnuovo Berardenga, is reached by passing through a tunnel designed by the Sienese architect Agostino Fantastici for Emilio Piccolomini Clementini in 1844. The place-name is probably of Etruscan origin, deriving from the proper name Arsnal, translated later into the Latin Arcinius. In Roman times there was probably a rustic villa here, similar to the one of Monti. Some historians believe that a stretch of the via Cassia Nova, built by Emperor Hadrian in 123, passed nearby; from the Valdichiana it reached Valcortese and here crossed the road that joined Siena to Grosseto. A document dated 1056 records Liutprando’s donation of the lands of Arceno to the Badia San Salvatore a Fontebuona, mentioning the Church of San Salvatore in Arceno; the church had already disappeared by the 16th century.
In 1222 these lands were given in perpetual leasehold to the Count of Montalto, a member of the Berardenga family. In 1520 the whole village of Arceno was sold for 800 Sienese lire to Matteo del Taja. Cardinal Flaminio del Taja had the villa built in the last decades of the 17th century. The majestic building owes its present appearance to Cavalier Emilio Piccolomini Clementini, who, on taking possession of the villa in the 1820s, engaged the architect Agostino Fantastici to renovate it and create its park. The villa’s austere, almost cubic structure opens up with a pietra serena loggia decorated by pilaster strips. The park, conceived as a Romantic garden, is a combination of unexpected natural views, evocative monuments and strange ruins. Hidden in the vegetation one discovers a neoClassical temple, a small water-lily pond with a fountain, an obelisk, a lake with three small islands and a little port for boats, created by diverting the course of the Ombrone river. As in other Romantic gardens, which strove to create “picturesque” atmospheres, there are many exotic plants, such as the 30 meter tall African cedar. The villa’s Baroque chapel, built in 1730, is dedicated to San Giovanni. Its facade with an elaborate central section defined by pilaster strips has a curved crowning and is topped by terracotta vases. The interior, with a barrel vault, has plastered walls broken by pietra serena architectural features and a polygonal apse at the end. From the villa, a long cypress lined avenue leads to the building known as La Calcinaia, dated 1878. A niche on its facade contains the statue of Marsia. Another avenue starts here and leads to an opening with a brick obelisk, clearly a magic and esoteric symbol.