Villa Schifanoia

There is a legend that this was the famous villa where a company of young people sought refuge against the terrible plague that struck Florence in 1300, and that theirs were the stories that became Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. The original fifteenth Century part of the villa belonged to the Cresci family up till the mid 1500s after which it had a succession of owners who transformed it and made additions to it. The famous French author Alexandre Dumas lived here for a time writing a book about the villa. In 1927 ownership passed into the hands of Myron C. Taylor, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See who completely renovated the villa to house his collection of works of art. Making use of the characteristics of the landscape, he created vast classic gardens on three terraces built on different levels, enriching them with fountains, statues, basins and sundials still in working order, and other embellishments. The villa was subsequently donated to Pope Pius XII and it remained in the hands of the church for some time during which it was used as a college for young Americans studying in Florence. It has been Italian state property since 1996 and as such is presently used by the European University Institute.