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The Villa Rucellai di Canneto is located in the Bisenzio river valley, on the lower slopes of the Retaia - the last ramparts of the Calvana pre-Appennine chain.  Previously  in its place there were buildings probably connected to the nearby ancient etruscan track to Mugello, today known as Via di Valibona, and the roman road that runs through the neighborhood of Canneto and up along the left bank of the Bisenzio river all the way to Colle.


In the middle ages Canneto was a fortified post of the Republic of Prato (12th-13th century) built to survey the valley along with two other forts, one known as Torricella, also transformed into a villa, on the right bank of the river near Santa Lucia, and the second whose remains are still visible at Poggio Castello above the Via di Valibona.

The Villa has gradually achieved its present aspect through four main periods.

The first, the medieval, when the fortified tower was built with its almost square layout, today corresponding to the main living room and the area beneath it. Traces of this tower still remain such as a row of alberese stone blocks on the south-western corner towards the garden, and a stretch of the cut alberese stone wall to the north, with its typical floor marker, used later as base for a small bell-tower.


Dating to the second period is the characteristic symmetric 15th century tuscan house, on three floors, each with three openings, a central columbarium tower, and a fish-breeding pool set in front of the facade. The pool, now a modern swimming pool, is mentioned in one of the "Discorsi degli animali" (Animal Discourses) written in 1540 by Agnolo Firenzuola, once Abbot of S.Salvatore in Vaiano. This house is listed as a "casa da signore" (gentleman's house) in the first florentine "catasto" (estate register) of 1427.

During the third period, corresponding to the first half of the 16th century, large scale works were undertaken to connect the two earlier buildings - the medieval tower and the gentleman's house - with important additions and improvements giving unity in renaissance style to the new architectural complex.  This is how the harmonious southern facade originated, giving on to the garden with the "inginocchiate" windows whose design was repeated on the 15th century part to substitute the old first floor windows. Other additions were the elegant tuscan loggia facing west, the large entrance hall with its typical 16th century vault with stone supports, a small terraced garden, and the wing north of the ancient tower now used as dining room and guest room. Many of the alberese stones from the dismantled tower were used in these works;  these stones also emerge in many corners of the new buildings and in the supporting walls of the surrounding terraces.


The fourth period, comprising the last three or four centuries, has given origin, at various times, to all the subsequent additions. These include enlargement of the garden arranged "all'italiana" (italian style), further terracing obtained with thick walls, construction of lodgings and farm buildings such as the oil-mill, wine production and storage rooms, grape drying rooms, cellars and limonaia "lemon house". In the 19th century part of the surrounding woods was enriched with cypress and pine trees and converted into an enclosed park, complete with paths, pools and a small pond.

Owing to its terraced layout along the lower slopes of the mountain, the Villa offers the peculiarity of having at least once access at ground level for six of its seven floors, the seventh being the top floor which is the old columbarium tower.


The following is an attempt at tracing the history of the owners from the 15th century to the present:

In the year 1427 (first estate register) the house belonged to the Vinaccesi's who sold it in 1458 to an important powerful Florentine citizen called Diotisalvi Neroni, adviser of Piero dei Medici (son of  Cosimo il Vecchio and father of Lorenzo il Magnifico).  Neroni joined a conspiracy against the Medici  in 1466. When the conspiracy failed, the Canneto property was confiscated and later sold to Lorenzo Davanzati whose daughter Titta bore it in marriage settlement to Francesco Del Tovaglia. The Del Tovaglia owned Canneto for close to three centuries, from the end of the 15th to mid 18th century, except for a brief interruption in the late 16th century when the Villa belonged to the Cavalcanti's.  Francesco Del Tovaglia had ample alterations executed before 1480, afterwards describing the building as a "casa da signore con torre a modo di palagio"(mansion with tower in the fashion of a  palace). Francesco's son Tommaso Del Tovaglia, mentioned in Firenzuola's fable and certainly the owner in 1534, is  presumably responsible for the large scale readjustment works described above. The Del Tovaglia coat of arms is still above the main door of the south facade towards the garden. In 1740 the property went to Girolamo De Pazzi, whose daughter Teresa Benvenuta bore it in marriage settlement to Giuseppe Rucellai in 1759. His son Giovan Pietro Rucellai inherited the property in 1766.  (This note is based on writings by Carlo Paoletti and Aldo Petri in the book "Ville Pratesi" (1964) and on the wide research conducted at the end of the 1970s by C.Cerretelli, M.Lucchesi and A.Tempestini for the Architecture Faculty of Florence University.)

In the first decade of the 20th Century, Cosimo and Editta Rucellai became proprietors of the Villa and Fattoria di Canneto when Cosimo's uncle, Paolo Rucellai, decided to ‘retire'.  Together they worked to modernize the house in order to make their seasonal visits with their family more comfortable, and made changes to the farm and gardens.  Eventually their son Giangiulio Rucellai inherited the estate and he and his wife, Teresa, made the house a home where they could live year round.  This work was aided by the disastrous results of the construction of the railway line up the Bisenzio Valley in the early 1930s.  This work, long planned and finally carried out, involved the digging and building of the short tunnels that pass under the village of Canneto.  The digging caused a shift in the hillside and the Villa suffered major internal damage.  In the midst of the repair work, the Rucellai were able to install and expand electrical service, plumbing, heating and telephone throughout the house.


During the ensuing 40 years, Giangiulio sold parts of the estate to simplifiy the work of the fattoria and to avoid bureaucratic difficulties regarding the boundaries of the land falling in different governmental jurisdictions.  After Giangiulio Rucellai passed away in 1969, the estate was divided between his four children, with Giovanna, his eldest daughter becoming the proprietor of the Villa and the land around it. When Giovanna Rucellai died in 2002, the estate became the joint, undivided property of Giovanna Rucellai and Paolo Piqué's four children (Giovanni, Lorenzo, Francesca and Alessandro) as it remains today.