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  • Writer's pictureMary Gray

A Brief History of Villa Bardini in Florence

What is Villa Bardini?

Villa Bardini is a 17th-century villa named after a famed antiques dealer that’s now a peaceful cultural centre with beautiful adjoining gardens.

Villa Bardini

Villa Bardini History

A fresh, carefully manicured garden with hilltop views was an asset coveted by all the wealthy families of Renaissance Florence. What’s now known as Villa Bardini was first called Villa Manadora, after the nobles for whom it served as a ‘casual’ summer retreat from the city’s harsh heat. Built in the 17th century, it was located just beyond the medieval walls and featured a Baroque garden and an elaborate series of vegetable patches. A revolving door of families moved through the property until 1913, when antiques dealer Stefano Bardini purchased the complex and embarked on a restoration project. Building an avenue up to the house, he unfortunately destroyed the majority of the original medieval gardens.

The newly restored Villa Bardini then transformed into Stefano’s business headquarters. Nicknamed the ‘prince of antique dealers’, he used the premises to greet his clients and guests, peacocking his wealth in a bid to earn their trust with their precious goods. These were the ‘golden years’ of the villa, but the prosperity gradually faded under Ugo Bardini, Stefano’s son, who shirked the responsibility – or rather, the burden – of building on his father’s legacy. After years of total abandonment, two local foundations worked to bring the house and its garden back to their original splendour. It’s now a cultural centre open to the public, and regularly hosts temporary exhibitions that, in any other city, would surely draw legions of stress-inducing crowds. Here, though, the Bardini’s shows are mostly an off-the-beaten-path respite from Florence’s famous museums.

Wrap up your visit with a modestly priced glass of prosecco, wine or soda on the terrace bar just a few steps from the villa and enjoy the view. If you’re here in the summertime, note that the space beneath the bar, elegantly watched over by guardian-like statues, frequently serves as an open-air cinema of contemporary films and Italian classics.

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