Francesco lead us down the winding streets of Florence to the heart of town where we were ushered through an unassuming gate, past security and straight into an immense carport where Countess Rezia Miari Fulcis stood chatting with a guardsman or two.
Her eyes lit up when she saw Francesco and they hugged like family.
Francesco had grown up a part of the family as the chauffeur's son spending elementary years bouncing between the palace and seaside vacations homes. When Donna Anne, Countess Rezia's sister, had been given Rennacci Villa (where we were staying) as her own, his father and their family had followed her there. "Donna" is the title equivalent of "Lady" in Italian. A royal daughter is given the title when she marries outside of the royalty. The Countess was the only sister who married royally.
So, walking into the palace was like coming home for Francesco. On top of that, Countess Rezia turned to each of us with open and accepting arms as though we were family as well.
With that warm welcome, we were brought into the palace and given a tour.
Part of the house was a little more modern and used as living space.
The greater detail existed in rooms reserved for entertaining state visitors. The Renaissance architecture was so incredibly beautiful and these were the rooms of more interest.
I just loved the way Countess Rezia talked to Francesco like he was a much loved nephew. I suppose growing up as a part her sister's household created that bond.
Walking through these halls, I asked him how it was to grow up here. He smiled and said simply it was "unique".
I can only imagine.
This was the grotto fountain, recently drained for some work to be done.
Which actually made it easier to see all that fine detail.
Those original Renaissance carvings among the slabs of coral ornately carved and placed; stunning.
Of course with the Corsini coat of arms in there.
We made our way through the ballroom.
Those chandeliers held real candles to be lit to illuminate the finest parties back in the day.
We moved through and Charlotte started having a fit over Newel constantly carrying her.
I'm sure it was just us because the Countess didn't seem to mind one bit, but it all felt slightly disruptive so Charlotte and I withdrew for a moment to try and give her a reset.
So there you have it ... time out in the ballroom of the Corsini Palace. Oh man, do we love that girl ;)
And one day we can truly tease her about being a royal pain.
Most of the state rooms just serve as a private gallery of paintings.
By famous artists.
Dozens of them.
Just hanging there.
With no traffic.
I was speechless.
Look at the color on this Botticelli!
You can't even get this up close to famous works in a museum.
Every set of double doors along the back open to this view of the river.
These were used for viewing the paintings on the wall of windows. They eliminate the back lighting and create clarity for viewing.
Such a funny ancient looking contraption but it really worked!
I wish I'd gotten a picture of the Corsini family tree from our villa wall. That genealogy goes all over the place.
Several of the Corsini's have held the position of Pope. Raphael painted this portrait of Pope Julius II. Then he made a couple of copies to send as special gifts.
The Corsini family received one. In order to create the copy, pin pricks were made into the canvas to outline where the penciling should be done.
It was pretty cool to be so close as to see the detail and outlining of the copy. Maybe just a copy of the original but still a copy at the hand of Raphael.
That right there is a treasure.
There were rooms upon rooms of art.
Each room had one of these paddles for identification.
Aren't those neat?
Countess Rezia gathered the children around to tell the story of this painting.
The palace gave way to occupation by the Germans during WWII. One drunken night, one of the officers was cursing the church and fired a random shot at this Pope.
Priceless painting destroyed forever and they have just never bothered to restore it.
But, I think it has more of a story to tell now.
Following that episode, the Corsini family tried to secretly remove most of the works to country estates and returned them after the war.
We headed back down the main staircase.
The Countess was pretty blown away by seven children and I think we kind of fell in love with her. She fit right in with our bunch. She kissed each cheek as we departed. So much grace, so much poise, and so much warmth. What a pleasure to have her remind me to hold my children tight because these days pass so very fast.
We left the palace and headed back down the road to the far end where we were brought in through another gate and warmly accepted by Donna Giorgiana, third sister to Donna Anna and Countess Rezia.
She was so excited to meet us and brought us through her home to her garden where she had set out a lunch for our family.
We were blown away once again, by the Corsini hospitality.
She told us all about her original Renaissance garden. Not a thing, other than up keep, had been changed over time. Those original statues were priceless.
We sat under her trees, enjoying the shade and our lunch.
Younger kids really fell in love with her dogs ;)
Donna Giorgiana asked if she could keep Celia for awhile and show her all around her world. I think Celia would have been content to stay right there.
We found a little friend in the garden.
I think he was ready to run when we finally let him go.
We left leaving an open invitation for her to come and see us in Colorado where we hope to entertain her every bit as royally.
After such a lovely day with such lovely company, we headed home so impressed with the humility and openness of one of Italy's royal families.
Once owning all of the southern lands of Italy and joining ties with the Medici family owning the north, one would not expect such greatness to be so relate-able and yet we felt we had made friends for life.
All our love to them and appreciation for a day that we will remember always.