Il Palmerino, its multifaceted history at a glance
Its fifteenth-century owner, a goldsmith by the name of Ottaviano Antonio di Duccio – brother to the more famous Renaissance sculptor Agostino de Antonio di Duccio – is believed to have worked for the Medici clan, as the family’s jeweler. By the mid-sixteenth century, in 1545, it became property of the Benedetto Papi Palmerino family, and was given its name ‘Il Palmerino’, probably derived from returning Crusaders, who carried palms from the Holy Land. Later, villa ownership would change hands several times, becoming the property of several well-known Florentine families, including the Federighi, the Mormorai, and the Baldi della Scarperia. In 1855, Il Palmerino would discover its spiritual side, becoming a monastery for the Friars of Santa Croce, Florence’s largest Franciscan community, linked to the in-town basilica by the same name.
In the late nineteenth-century, with the advent of Leopoldine reforms, church assets were seized as state property, and Count Luigi Uguccioni acquired Il Palmerino at auction in 1868. The count Pio Resse and his wife Elizabeth Woodbridge Pearsall Phelps bought Villa Il Palmerino in 1882. They would renovate and enlarge the house, renting it, in 1889, to celebrated English author Vernon Lee, who would call it ‘this little half villa, half farm’, the perfect spot to escape the frequent cholera outbreaks that ravaged more populated areas of Tuscany in her time.
Lee would buy Il Palmerino in 1906. At the villa, she regularly hosted such literati as Edith Wharton, Henry James and Oscar Wilde, among others. At Lee’s death in 1935, the painter Federigo Angeli, and his wife, painter and poet Lola Costa purchased the property. Their children and grandchildren – Il Palmerino’s current owners – are active members of the Florentine arts community. They host scholars and artists from all over the world and promote cultural events under the auspices of Cultural Association ‘Il Palmerino’, an APS not-for-profit organisation.