Before embarking on my Tuscan teaching adventure through Il Chiostro, my gardening friend Harriet Herschel told me we must see the Villa Cetinale; she said the estate had one of the best gardens in Italy. Edith Wharton wrote about it in 1904 in her bestselling book Italian Villas and Their Gardens illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. The villa was built in the 17th century by Flavio Chigi, nephew of Pope Alexander VII. The Chigi family was historically one of the most important in Siena, and continues to be a prominent Italian family. This was one of their country homes when they wanted to escape the city. Acitivites included hunting, horse-racing and prayer--quite a range! (The famous Siena Palio horserace was conducted here when the Campo was unavailable due to Siena/Florence warfare). This is a view of the front of the villa--the entire estate is positioned on an axis that begins at the foot of the property with a huge statue of Hercules, and ends on the heights at the Romitorio, a hermitage built by Flavio Chigi a little later than the villa and garden.
The entire estate is stunningly beautiful, but my favorite aspect was the Santa Scala, a set of 200 steps that lead to the Romitorio.
To the left is the view of the hermitage after we ascended the Santa Scala.
Pictured to the right is what the rear of the Villa looks like from partway up the Santa Scala.
To the right is Britt Sutherland's rendition of the clock tower, with small thumbnails that she created first as she was deciding how to paint.
Below is Rita Marlowe's painting of the same subject, seen at somewhat closer range, with the olive grove more prominent.
To the right is Carol Savonen's view of the Santa Scala, which she scaled as soon as she had completed her sketch!