Villa Pitiana  


Villa Pitiana is situated at 430m above sea level and its imposing structure divides the last olive groves of Valdarno from the centuries old trees of the Vallombrosa.

On 3rd July 1039 the Abbess Itta of the convent of S. Ellero donated the land in Vallombrosa to S. Giovanni Gualberto but to maintain them had to add a farm with vegetable garden and vines in Pitiana. Halfway through the 13th century Pitiana’s strategic position made it a bone of contention in the Florentine Guelph-Ghibelline struggles.

The oldest part of Villa Pitiana, dating back to the 14th century, is certainly a “casa da signore” as these fortified buildings were called, characterised by the presence of a high tower not unlike the tower-houses of S.Gimignano. In the summer of 1483 Lorenzo il Magnifico de’ Medici tried in vain to purchase Villa Pitiana from General Biagio Milanesi.

From the 15th to the 17th centuries, Tuscan agriculture underwent one of its most difficult periods. Political power was now under the control of merchants and bankers and commercial activity was subsidised to the detriment of farming.

Pitiana underwent a vast restoration in the Renaissance: in 1610, as shown by the date on a slab of stone, the rear wing was added with its three-floor facade. From the same period is the late-Mannerist coat-of-arms with the staff of S. Giovanni Gualberto and the mitre (symbol of the bishopric dignity of the abbot of Vallombrosa) in the larger courtyard of Pitiana. In 1808 when Tuscany was annexed to the Napoleonic Empire, the Abbey of Vallombrosa was suppressed and all its possessions including Pitiana were alienated to private owners to replenish the state coffers – except the forest which remained state property.

The Church however managed to regain ownership of Pitiana for a brief time. Eventually, Villa Pitiana passed into the possession of the Grottanelli as mentioned by this name in many old maps.

At the end of the 19th century the Pitiana farm was definitively transformed into a villa with its splendid facade, although the rear part continued until recent times to be a working farm.

The new part is, architecturally speaking, still in the academic style of Renaissance origin influenced by the work designed and carried out in Florence by Giuseppe Poggi towards 1865-70. At the beginning of the twentieth century the railway from S. Ellero to Saltino passed near to Villa Pitiana and the station still remains today.

In 1931 other work was carried out although it is difficult to judge its extent (recorded in writing on the right portal of the entrance hall): it was probably the conclusion of work begun in 1897, with the restoration of medieval parts and interior modification.

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