Villa Massei sits high on a hill overlooking beautiful countryside near the town of Lucca. It’s easy to argue that any garden would look spectacular in such a setting. When a 16th century hunting lodge, with its old bricks, faded terracotta plaster and French-blue doors is another part of the backdrop, how could you fail to produce something worth seeing?
Americans Paul Gervais de Beedee and Gil Cohen have been developing Villa Massei and its surrounding gardens since 1981. I’ve seen quite a few old Italian gardens and what interested me most about Villa Massei is how there’s both a homage to that centuries old style of conifers and formal clipping, as well as more modern features and interpretations. Although the garden is well-maintained, the plants when I saw them had that sexy look of designer stubble cultivated by many Italian men, which I did rather like. On both.
The garden sweeps around the outside of the buildings, progressing through open lawns, clipped buxus topiary, a rose walk, and pond, past a large swimming pool and pergola, and through a much wilder garden filled with an assortment of perennials and only loosely-clipped shrubs. The main entertaining courtyard at the back could seat several dozen people comfortably but still manages an air of cosy intimacy.
Below the house are productive gardens and orchards.
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