Must-see Gardens: Villa Marlia

This post is also available in: Italian


Our beautiful gardens and estates are eventually reopening to visitors. Among them, Villa Reale di Marlia, in Capannori (Lucca), is one of the most surprising historic abodes in Italy, where Elisa Bonaparte lived and renovated the beautiful park.

The Royal Villa of Marlia is just 5 miles away from Lucca and it’s a true enchanted wonder, which has hosted noble families and great patrons of art over many generations and changes of ownership.

It was originally built as a fortress for the Duke of Tuscia in the early Middle Ages. Then the whole property passed to the Avvocati family and then to the Buonvisis, merchants and bankers, who eventually transformed it into a stately palace. Following bankruptcy, the Buonvisi family were forced to sell it together with most of their assets.

In 1651, Olivieri and Lelio Orsetti bought the property and changed many of its features, renovating the park according to Baroque style, as well as creating new courtyards, paths and scenic gardens, including Teatro di Verzura (Green Theatre) and Giardino dei Limoni (Lemon Garden). They also built the elegant Palazzina dell’Orologio, used as a farm and the stable.

At the beginning of the XIX century, Napoleon’s sister, Princess Elisa Baciocchi, expanded this grandiose complex. She upgraded the ancient Palazzo Orsetti and the front loggias that would serve as an official entrance. Nonetheless, the princess left the splendid XVIII century gardens intact, including Teatro di Verzura (Green Theatre) carved into the vegetation and Viale delle Camelie (The Avenue of Camellias); the latter still features several rare varieties dating back to the XIX century.

After the fall of Napoleon, the dukes of Parma and later the grand dukes of Tuscany took possession of the villa which, with the unification of Italy, eventually passed to King Vittorio Emanuele. The latter eventually gave it to Prince Charles, the brother of the last king of the Two Sicilies. Disinherited following his marriage to Penelope Smyth, Charles and his wife spent the rest of their lives in this very villa. In order to cope with their son’s debts, the villa was eventually put up for sale, together with the furniture –many trees in the park were sold as well for timber.

The count and countess Pecci-Blunt finally bought the villa just in time to save its park. They asked a famous French architect, Jacques Greber, to restore the garden, while they created woods, streams and a most romantic lake as the perfect addition to one of the classic Italian gardens of the time owned by the Orsetti family. The Pecci-Blunt couple also resumed the tradition of generous hospitality and hosted the famous violinist Arturo Paganini, many members of the EUropen Royal families, and the American painter John Singer Sargent: he was the one to exquisitely capture the whole estate in several of his great watercolour paintings.

The current owners, a young family extremely fond of the villa and its park, dedicate themselves to bringing back the splendour of the past. They have made the park “pet and family friendly”. opening it to anybody who seeks relaxation in a wonderful and most charming natural environment. Packed lunches are allowed as well in such a soothing and most evocative atmosphere.

A masterpiece of charm and elegance, the property was saved from abandonment thanks to a family of modern patrons, who, also during the recent months of pandemic lockdown, continued the restoration work: in addition to enjoying the splendid flower gardens around the villa (e.g. the XVII century water theatre), visitors will be able to visit the empire-style apartments of Elisa Bonaparte for the very first time. But there’s more as the villa and the garden have been fitted with all the necessary requirements to welcome visitors in complete safety and in full compliance with the current laws and regulations; for example, the recently-launched online ticketing system can eliminate unnecessary queues, while guaranteeing social distancing also when accessing the premises.


18 May – 31 October: open 7 days a week from 10 AM to 6 PM.

Last entrance by 5 PM.

For more information, please visit


Please visit


The new Villa Reale Cafè is the result of the restoration of the early XX century “game pavilion” – visitors can thus relax in the gardens sipping cool drinks and enjoying some tasty snacks in a most unique natural and architectural context – in full compliance with current pandemic-related rules and regulations.


Thanks to the Tebikii start-up company from Lucca, the official “Villa Reale” application can be now downloaded for free on your smartphone; it features a video guide about the park and an audio guide about the Villa. The app is available in Italian, English, French, and German.





This post is also available in: Italian

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