The restoration process has been a journey of rediscovery, involving a series of interlinked elements that constitute Villa Reale: the principle building on the estate and symbol of the brief reign of Elisa Bonaparte.
Villa Reale, in all its elegance, embodies a wealth of history, art and architecture. The overlaying of different styles across the centuries has culminated in the typical Italian neoclassical appearance of the Villa today, which also incorporates some French influences. The estate as a whole is extraordinarily beautiful, with historic buildings, large open spaces offering panoramic views, hidden corners, and a range of statues, fountains and gardens. As a large-scale and wide-ranging undertaking, the restoration project has benefitted from the dedication of Luca Borgogni Architects, and has been planned and executed in conjunction with numerous specialists.
The project has enabled a comprehensive documentation of the evolution of the estate, the main historic phases of construction and/or renovation, and has uncovered remarkable finds and precious evidence hidden inside the Villa. This has been thanks to comprehensive use of the latest technology, and the commitment of everyone involved: the constant collaboration of the engineer Francesca Cecati from the Lucca Inspectorate for built heritage and the arts, the intense and inspiring research carried out by archaeologist Nadia Montevecchi, the professionalism of Stefano Fabbri Engineering for structural elements and installations, and the competence of the technical Director Mario Magi Meniconi and the company Bruni.
The historical evolution covers four clearly identifiable key periods. In the 15th century, the Buonvisi brought the form of the original estate into being. The Orsetti family enriched and completed it during the 16th century, whilst the Baciocchi Bonaparte (beginning of the 19th century) and Pecci Blunt (20th century) families maintained and restored the important collection of built heritage. The present restoration aims to revisit and consider each of the phases outlined above, and to protect the contributions of each historical period. This allows for a more in-depth consideration of the Villa’s current status and appearance, the combined result of Elisa Baciocchi’s vision, the ongoing passion of the Pecci Blunt family and the passage of time.
Many historical documents have been recovered from various archives. These resources, alongside research carried out on the places themselves, have uncovered numerous finds. These include artefacts from the medieval period and evidence of a primitive, gothic outline of an original building, with a series of pre-existing arches. Research has also uncovered details of the colour layers conserved under the top layer of the façade. These pass from beige to ochre, green to brown and finally the present light limestone colour – this shade is due to the removal of upper paint/plaster layers in the last century.
The restoration project comprises careful analysis and acknowledgement of pre-existing buildings and styles, whilst simultaneously limiting itself to the conservation of the current architecture. During the first part of the restoration work on the façades, care was taken to study the construction methods and finishes of the brickwork, plasterwork and colours, the beautiful pots and vases dotted around the perimeter of the villa, various stonework, and the sophisticated system of rainwater collection and drainage. Simultaneously, the internal restoration aims to bring the rooms of this historical residence to life again, whilst respecting their original purposes and maintaining their architectural integrity. The huge rooms on the ground and first floors, including the famous room where Elisa slept, will be maintained and kept in use, as will the large rooms and suites on the second floor. They will be comprehensively restored, recovering fixtures, furniture and decoration, recapturing the special charm and elegance that characterizes the Villa.