The history of Villa Lecchi

Reference to “THE COURT OF LICHE” is first found in a document dated 994 where there is specific mention in the “MORGENGABE” of a wedding dowry inheritance that Tegrimo-Teuzo son of Ava of Ildebrando gave to Sindrada. Ava, wife of Ildebrando, of Longobard origin,  was the founder in 1086 of the island Monastery which today is the Island Abbey. (Abbadia Isola).

In a non-legal form and therefore not dated accurately (c.1150-1160) is the geneology, in the shape of an upturned tree, drawn up by the monks of the Abbey of San Salvatore (on the island) with the intent to indicate their great wealth gifted almost exclusively to the founders of the monastary and their heirs. The court of Lecchi also received bequests and changed its name over time from "LICHE" to "CASTELLUM DE LEKE" in 1147. During the 12th Century the property of the monastery (San Salvatore) was granted in fiefdom to the so-called "filii mazzi e fille rustici" (legitimate and illigitimate) heirs of Ava. Then in 1399 "The Court of Lecchi" was granted in benefit to a Florentine cleric who with a deed in 1401 relinquished it in favour of the Monastery of San Salvatore.
On the suppression of the Monastery, the assets of Saint Maria at Lecchi passed to the Benedictine monks of Siena. From what one can tell from the door of the private chapel, the Villa Lecchi dates back to 1500. It looked very different from today having only two floors and a classical, square Tuscan shape. But before this we can be sure that this place was the first residence in this region of the family Ventura or Venturi. Head of the family was Ventura di Iacopo who was born at Poggibonsi in 1264. He appears in the fresco of the central room of the villa, although he lived mainly in Florence. The beauty of the Villa's structure and all its buildings can be attributed to Marianna, daughter of the Cav Paul Lodovico Garzoni and Carlotta di Pietro Colon, adoptive daughter of Ippolito Venturi.

Marianna married the Marquis Carl Ginori in 1821 and began a series of wholesale transformations of the property, overseen by the architect Francolini of Florence. He completely modified the structure of the villa by adding the two turrets and enlarging the central body, leaving from the original structure only the section directly in front of the entrance. Francolini also designed a park consisting of arboreal plants, mainly decorative evergreens, grottos in porous rock, paths and marble statues. He also created the Belvedere, the terrace, from which you can still admire a typical Tuscan landscape today. Also attributed to Marianna are the frescoes in the Villa's dining room, depicting the most important ancestors of the Venturi family.

Immediately outside the gate, but sitting within the villa grounds, there is a building that has always been known as a farmhouse and has for almost two centuries been used principally for this purpose; only partly modified during the work of 1857 it remains almost unchanged and part of the earliest settlement of Lecchi dating back to 1500. At the beginning of the nineteenth century work began on the construction of the sentry boxes on the battlement walls thanks to a donation of stone from the Counts of STAGGIA Castle. In 1863 IPPOLITO GINORI, grandson of Marianna, inherits the villa and all its holdings. He modified two small outbuildings, creating a woodshed that in time became the Orangery to the Villa.

Before the Second World War the property amounted to approximately 1,000 hectares of land in the surrounding area of Lecchi, Monteriggoni and Poggibonsi. In 1920 the famous master restorer Cesare Benini, conservator of other important works at The Palazzo Pitti, restored the frescoes of the villa. Just after the war the agricultural reforms subdivided and sold the large estate to the peasants who had worked on it for generations.

Unfortunately, in successive years the villa and its buildings changed owners many times; a period when all the furniture and fittings that had been in the control of the same family for 300 years were left to decay. During the subsequent 50 years the small Madonna, normally found in a grotto in the wood beneath the villa, was stolen by the farm manager. The man was deep in debt and this wicked theft did nothing to change his fortunes. In this period a charitable organisation aquired for a symbolic value the said Villa Marianna renaming it, for religious reasons, Villa Santa Caterina after a beatified Sienese noble woman. It became a permanent home for disadvantaged, poor, orphaned children. Over time it also became a centre for the reception, education and rehabilitation for mentally ill children, often coming from Institutions.

In 1980 the new health regulations meant that the home was not legally recognised and they abandoned the villa which then literally fell to pieces. The villa and its assets which you see today was privately acquired in 1991 and has been transformed into an hotel in sympathy with the original form and as required by The Ministry of Cultural Heritage regulations.