Impruneta, passaggio del fronte.
Impruneta, passaggio del fronte.
A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a famous villa in Fiesole, the Villa Saliviati.
Of course the villa has its own (gorgeous) chapel; here is a detail of the ceiling:
And the villa also has a grotto:
There is a lot of interesting interior detailing:
In the 14th century, the castle of the Montegonzi was built on this property land already belonged to the Del Palagio. In 1445, Arcangelo Montegonzi sold it to Alamanno Salviati , the man who introduced the cultivation of salamanna and jasmine grapesin Tuscany.
Alamanno commissioned Mielcozzian workers to reduce the castle to a villa, with a garden and woods . In 1490, the nephews of Alamanno, dividing their uncle’s assets, and gave the villa to Jacopo, who was related to Lorenzo de ‘Medici.
Giovan Francesco Rustici also took part in the works. Between 1522 and 1526 he created for the villa a series of terracotta roundels with mythological subjects (such as Apollo and Marsyas or Jupiter and Bellerophon ).
In 1529, the house was sacked by the anti-cult faction and between 1568 and 1583 Alamanno di Jacopo Salviati and his son Jacopo further enlarged and embellished the villa, with the gardens ( 1570 – 1579 ) and the buildings that border the northern border and create a scenic backdrop connected to the villa.
New Year’s eve, 1638, was an event to remember. That evening, in this villa, the severed head of the lover of Caterina Canacci, was brought to the villa, hidden under the linen that the wife of Salviati, Veronica Cybo, sent him weekly.
During the WWII, the grotto was used as the post of an allied command: Lensi Orlandi recounted the memory of nocturnal visits of “kind and rich Florentine, often mature matrons”, who “crossed the threshold of those rooms to give honor to the admired winners” [2 ] .
In 2000 the monumental complex, together with its gardens, was purchased by the Italian Government to be destined for the European University Institute , which made it the seat of the Historical Archives of the European Union ; one can mention, among the various documents contained in them, the personal papers of the founding fathers, such as Alcide De Gasperi , Paul-Henri Spaak , Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi .
This villa was in communication with Villa Emilia (which was higher up) – which in ancient times was a convent of Cistercian nuns suppressed in 1453 – through an underground gallery : hence the other name with which the villa is known, “del Ponte at the Badia “.
The main body of the villa reveals its military origins, especially in the two crenellated turrets, in the corner, and in the crowning with the walkway on corbels , very similar, for example, to that of the villa of Careggi . It is made up of two adjacent buildings, but with similar architectural features: the east one is more massive and tall, the west one is of smaller volume and height.
The building is arranged around the central courtyard, portico on three sides with columns in pietra serena with Corinthian capitals ;the entablature towards the inside is decorated with graffito friezes, with the rounds of the Rustici inserted into this strip in correspondence with the round arches.
You get to the south facing of the villa through a long cypress avenue that once led to the Via Faentina and that after the construction of the railway was modified, creating a passage on it.
The Italian garden , in front of the villa, is built on three terraces at different levels and, although it is being restored, it is made up of geometric flower beds in boxwood with flowery essences. The property is then surrounded by a large English park , where there are, among other things, a bamboo grove, two ponds and, scattered here and there, various items of furniture, such as statues, temples, caves, fountains, pavilions and more.
“Trapani! Trapani, don’t you see?” [British] Capt. Edward Croft-Murray exclaimed as the skyline of the Sicilian coastal town first appeared through the porthole of the Allied aircraft. [The Brit] Sitting next to him, Maj. Lionel Fielden, who had been drifting off into daydream for much of the flight from Tunis, opened his eyes to the landscape below. “And there, below us,” Fielden later wrote, “swam through the sea a crescent of sunwashed white houses, lavender hillsides and rust red roofs, and a high campanile whose bells, soft across the water, stole to the mental ear. No country in the world has, for me, the breathtaking beauty of Italy.”
…As soon as the first Monuments Officers reached Sicily, the implications of such a mandate [to preserves as many cultural works as possible] proved as difficult as its scope was vast. The Italian campaign, predicted to be swift by Allied commanders, turned into a 22-month slog. The whole of Italy became a battlefield. In the path of the Allied armies, as troops slowly made their ascent from Sicily to the Alps, lay many beautiful cities, ancient little towns and innumerable masterpieces. As General Mark Clark declared with frustration, fighting in Italy amounted to conducting war “in a goddamn museum.”
From the safe distance of 2018, it is interesting to think back to the situation in Florence during WWII, especially after the Allied Forces liberated the Renaissance citta’.
The leaders and troops of the Allied Forces are my heroes. There are many to name. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is foremost among them. I recently wrote a post on his directive, which saved many cultural monuments in Italian. Here is a picture of Ike in Italy:
As the Allies liberated region after region in Italy, starting from the southern tip and working their way north, thanks to the farsighted leaders, as many cultural works as were possible were saved.
These wonderful postcards, with their simple illustrations of the Florentine architectural masterpieces, tell a poignant story.
The cumulative weight and momentum of General Marshall’s mid-October admonition about the importance of protecting Italy’s cultural treasures, followed by successive warnings from McCloy and Woolley and the reports of Monuments officers themselves, finally produced a change.
On December 29, General Eisenhower Eisenhower issued a directive that placed the responsibility of protecting cultural property squarely upon the shoulders of every commander and, in turn, every officer and every soldier.
It also, for the first time, introduced the Monuments officers (referenced as “A.M.G. officers”—Allied Military Government) to everyone in uniform. Here is Eisdenhower’s directive:
To: All Commanders Today we are fighting in a country which has contributed a great deal to our cultural inheritance, a country rich in monuments which by their creation helped and now in their old age illustrate the growth of the civilization which is ours. We are bound to respect those monuments so far as war allows. If we have to choose between destroying a famous building and sacrificing our own men, then our men’s lives count infinitely more and the building must go. But the choice is not always so clear-cut as that. In many cases the monuments can be spared without any detriment to operational needs. Nothing can stand against the argument of military necessity. That is an accepted principle. But the phrase “military necessity” is sometimes used where it would be more truthful to speak of military convenience or even of personal convenience. I do not want it to cloak slackness or indifference. It is a responsibility of higher commanders to determine through A.M.G. Officers the locations of historical monuments whether they be immediately ahead of our front lines or in areas occupied by us. This information passed to lower echelons through normal channels places the responsibility of all Commanders of complying with the spirit of this letter.
signed: DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
Ike’s directive was bold; it was concise; and it was now official policy. His Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, issued an accompanying order that provided more specific details on how this new policy should be implemented.
Woolley remarked that Ike’s words “made it clear that the responsibility for the protection of monuments lay with the army as a whole and not with the [Monuments officer] specialist.”
Even Churchill weighed in on the matter: “The weakness of the Monuments and Fine Arts organization in the past was . . . due to the fact that it had . . . depended on an external civilian body not in touch with the Army. . . . The new arrangements which have been worked out in the light of experience are well calculated to promote, as far as military exigencies allow, a more effective effort to protect historical monuments of first importance in the future.”
Many problems lay ahead for implementing this new order. Mistakes would continue. The order would be put to the test in a major way within just six weeks.
But it marked the turning point for the Monuments officers and their work. For the first time since Mason Hammond had landed in Sicily, the Monuments Men had the backing of the Commander-in-Chief. Their work contributed greatly to the experience Eisenhower would take with him to England to plan the invasion of Western Europe as the newly appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force.
Edsel, Robert M.. Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis (p. 68). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
In 1565, by connecting the Uffizi and the Pitti and provided the Medici with an escape route in the event of political unrest. Its narrow hallways are decorated with more than a thousand paintings, mostly self-portraits, by many of the artists whose works adorn the walls of the city’s museums and churches. Farther north is the Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall), the Duomo, and the Accademia, home to the world’s most famous piece of marble, Michelangelo’s David.
In the summer of 1944, war placed this legendary city, and centuries of creative achievements, in danger of utter destruction.
ON NOVEMBER 10, 1943, Adolf Hitler remarked to Ambassador Rudolf Rahn, “Florence is too beautiful a city to destroy. Do what you can to protect it: you have my permission and assistance.” Hitler’s affection for the city initially gave Florentine Superintendent Giovanni Poggi and other city officials hope that Florence would be spared the fate of Naples. The fact that Rome and Siena had escaped major damage also encouraged them.
But, as Allied soldiers inched closer each day, a small group of dedicated souls—now seen as guardian angels of Florence—became increasingly concerned that the coming battle would overtake their city. They had few resources and dwindling options. These benefactors’ best hope was to push Germany and the Allies to jointly declare Florence an “open city,” first suggested by the Director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut, Friedrich Kriegbaum.
But for a city to be declared “open,” it had to be undefended; there could be no military targets; and both sides had to have freedom of entry. In Florence, German forces had positioned two artillery batteries in the della Gherardesca and dei Semplici Gardens. They had stationed soldiers at numerous mortar positions in the city.
Additionally, Florence, like Rome before it fell to the Allies, served as a major rail transport hub for the German Army. Even after the Allies’ air attacks on the Santa Maria Novella and Campo di Marte marshaling yards, men and materiel moved through the city.
Undaunted by these facts, German leaders referred to Florence as an “open city,” accusing the Allies of refusing to publicly affirm that designation. For their part, the Allies wouldn’t declare Florence an open city until the Germans removed their guns and soldiers.
The standoff held through the spring and early summer of 1944, while Allied forces were engaged in combat operations hundreds of miles to the south. Things grew much more urgent following the liberation of Rome in June and of Siena in July.
City officials believed that their portable art treasures, tucked away by Poggi in Tuscan villas, were safe. But protecting the city’s architectural treasures still depended upon securing an official, unequivocal declaration of Florence as an open city.
Members of the principal group working toward this designation were the German Consul, Gerhard Wolf; the Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa; the Extraordinary Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary of San Marino to the Holy See, Marchese Filippo Serlupi Crescenzi; and the Swiss Consul in Florence, Carlo Alessandro Steinhäuslin. These four men did more to save Florence than anyone else.
After four years of service in the German Army, Gerhard Wolf attended Heidelberg University, where he met Rudolf Rahn, who would become a lifelong friend. In the years following graduation, both would enter Germany’s Foreign Service. Seeking to distance himself from the Nazi Party, Wolf accepted a position as the German Consul to Florence.
Cardinal Dalla Costa, a seventy-two-year-old prelate, was another of the city’s guardians. Soft-spoken yet forceful, he assumed an increasingly visible role in defense of the city. During Hitler’s 1938 visit, he ordered that the windows of his palace be shut in symbolic protest. He declined to participate in the official celebrations, explaining that he did not worship “any other cross, if not that of Christ.”
As the situation became more desperate, the cardinal agreed to issue notices that stated, “His Eminence Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, Archbishop of Florence, declares that this building and the artworks inside, are under the protection of the Holy See.” While he pleaded with the German commanders to respect Florence as an open city, he did so knowing that, “in order to truly protect Florentine works of art, it would be necessary to place a huge pavilion made of impenetrable steel and unbreakable bronze, to cover the entire city.”
Edsel, Robert M.. Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis, W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.