Villa La Pietra. Florence, Italy.

Villa La Pietra was built for a prominent banker in the 1460’s in the Italian renaissance style - formal gardens and terraces would have surrounded the house.  By 1900, he original landscape had been replaced by a picturesque one with rolling hills, asymmetrical clusters of trees, and borrowed countryside views.  In the early 1900's, wealthy Americans Hortense Mitchell and Arthur Acton bought the property and created the famous garden we see today.  Working with Colombian landscape architect Diego Suarez, the design combines traditional historic renaissance elements with arts and crafts garden features:  formal terraces set on axes, intimate garden rooms, the use of sculpture to define space, and effusive plantings.  The result inspired many similar gardens around the world.  Now part of New York University, the mission is to preserve the “intellectual, cultural and artistic life” of the villa as if the Actons still lived there.  The Villa, art collection, and gardens are listed as Cultural Heritage by the Italian Ministry of Fine Arts.

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Hortense Mitchell in front of Villa La Pietra.  Her wealth funded the restoration.  Image source: NYU Villa La Pietra.

Hortense Mitchell in front of Villa La Pietra.  Her wealth funded the restoration.  Image source: NYU Villa La Pietra.