Time seems to stand still at the Gardens of the Villa Buonaccorsi in Le Marche. Located outside Potenza Picena, the Baroque gardens are a perfectly preserved landscape from the 1700s based on symmetry and geometry. The garden is situated near Recanati, between Macerata and the Adriatic Sea. It was laid out in the 1700s and is one of the few gardens in Italy that maintains the original garden plan intact in every detail. It has been called one of the most fascinating and least known of all the gardens in Italy.
There are five terraces of geometrically-planned flower beds and plantings. Elegant statues line the rows and look out at the hills of the countryside. The property comprises over 12 acres and moves from the terraces down the hill towards the Asola stream and a woods with pines, cypress, linden and holm oaks.
Famous for its many mythological statues, sculptures, fountains, niches and water features, Villa Buonaccorsi’s overall structure dates back to the 18th century, with five terraces on the hillside crossed by laurel hedges, fishponds and geometric flowerbeds that look like colorful diamonds and stars.
The Buonaccorsi’s were an ancient Macerata family. When they were ennobled by Pope Clemente XI in 1701, Count Simone celebrated his new status by bringing in architect Giovanni Battista Contini to beautify his city palazzo, together with the 17th century villa and garden of his country estate.
One of the projects for the palazzo involved the construction of a gallery devoted to Virgil’s The Aeneid, with highlights from this great epic decorating the walls. However, Count Simone died seven years later and it was his 39-year-old son, Raimondo, who completed the gallery.
In a move that surprised everyone, he commissioned all 19 of the paintings from Italian artists of different schools. The gallery was much admired for its stylistic diversity and Raimondo became renowned as an avant-garde patron of the arts. It was Raimondo, too, who took over the construction of the garden his father had started. Not a lot is known about him, but by all accounts he was a rather low-key individual, thoroughly devoted to his family. He married in 1699 and by 1726 he and his wife had become the parents of 18 children. He was very inventive in ways to keep his children entertained. Within the garden, he had a puppet theater constructed using state-of-the-art mechanical devises to move the puppets. When the automatons were activated, a huntsman blew on his horn, the blacksmith hammered in his miniature forge and a harlequin clown banged on his drum. It was an incredibly lively place.
Raimondo’s sense of humor is revealed in the grotto where two fervently praying monks are mocked by a hidden devil, who can be seen popping out from a recess, sticking out his tongue. He designed water sprays to ambush the unsuspecting, an aviary filled with singing canaries and various ingenious carved figures equipped with musical instruments. Standing in a niche on the top terrace was Pan, the symbol of nature and fertility. He was the guardian of the garden and as soon as anyone crossed his eye-line, his pipes would start to play.
Amusing as they are, these features are almost incidental to the overall scheme of the garden, which is devoted to the scented and more subtle pleasures of terraces filled with lemon trees, box hedges and flowers. Near the grotto is an artificial lake in the woods for the children as a place to play. The original stone tables and chairs are still scattered about and there are obelisks jutting upward along with a citrus grove. A secret garden by the chapel and the grandiose Viale degli Imperatore – Walkway of the Emperors – round out the attractions. It was designed to be enjoyed by old and young alike and nowhere is this better expressed than in the garden’s 105 statues. They range from the family’s dogs, masked dwarves and Neapolitan commedia dell’arte characters, to the avenue of somber Roman Emperors and mythological deities.
For Raimondo’s children, the garden was a place of wonder and enchantment. The last Contessa died in 1970 and the family sold the villa a decade later to a group of friends who loved the garden so much they formed a company to preserve it. The villa now stages private functions, photo shoots and weddings in the chapel, while the garden remains a joy to visit.