In the High Medieval period, a fortified building belonging to the Dukes of Tuscia existed where Villa Reale stands today. When the property passed to the noble Buonvisi family, important Lucchese merchants and bankers, the ancient fortress had already been transformed into a distinguished property with two floors. The imposing building, with the ground floor dedicated to domestic staff and services, had a portico and was surrounded by gardens and fountains, with courtyards both in front of and behind the house.
Lelio and Oliviero Orsetti bought the Buonvisi property in 1651. Critics believe that the Orsettis demolished the ancient building down to its foundations, creating the new Villa, which was rebuilt and added to several times. This largescale programme of transformation took place over a long period, but most likely the renovation works finished during 1664, with the creation of a lateRenaissance style building which dominated the open lawned space, located in a large courtyard. The Orsetti Villa, compact and with a rectangular layout, featured rustication on its corners, with the façade facing downhill characterised by a balcony above the main entrance door.
During the Napoleonic period, in 1806, Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister and Princess of Lucca bought the property. From this point on, the Villa took the name Reale (Royal) from Elisa’s title as Queen of Etruria. When the princess began transformation of the Villa, the architects PierreThéodore Bienaimé and subsequently G. Marchelli maintained the dimensions of the building, but changed its aspect. The 18th century lines of the Orsetti residence disappeared and the top floor was raised, with a third storey added to create an area for domestic staff and services. This resulted in three floors of equal height, divided by double cornices. On the north façade, a portico and Italianstyle terrace were added. On the ground floor, the windows of the building were replaced with doors, creating the effect of a continuous loggia.