The building you are now standing in is the ancestral home of the Sermolli family, a noble Italian family that bought the villa in 1602. Within a mere four decades, the Sermollis expanded the villa from its original 18 rooms to its current 54, including storage rooms, a kitchen, bathrooms and so on.
The wine cellar, which used to be the villa’s outer wall, is the sole surviving element of the original 13th century building.
The villa was the residence of the Sermolli family for more than three centuries, beginning in around 1640. The villa’s domain once included extensive farmland, a record of which is on view next to the reception desk in the old land register from 1878.
This land was pledged to farmers who were required to give the Sermollis half of their annual crops, which were stored in structures such as the limonaia, the villa’s outbuilding – now the site of the villa’s sun deck.
For centuries the quasi-serfdom to which the farmers were subjected enabled the Sermollis to acquire considerable wealth and purchase farmland and fishing lakes on the marshy plain below Buggiano.
In the mid 17th century Count Leopold began draining the marshes – an effort that was called bonifica. Up until then all villages, towns and cities had been built on hills because the plains mainly comprised marshland where malaria was rife. Once the century-long process of draining the marshes had been completed, cities and towns could be built on the plain – including Montecatini Terme, whose original location was called Montecatini Alto (“high Montecatini”). Many residents of Buggiano Castello also migrated elsewhere, causing the town to be eclipsed by nearby Borgo a Buggiano (“the hamlet near Buggiano”). In the 18th century even the city hall was relocated from the magnificent 13th century Palazzo Praetorio (on the piazza 200 meters above the villa, which can be visited) to Borgo a Buggiano.
More than 20 successive generations of Sermollis lived in the villa until 1954, when the last childless family member was residing there and the villa, which was in dire financial straits, was sold to an American composer.
Most of the farmland had already been sold off or had been laid waste by military conflicts and rural migration. Nonetheless, the striking Buggiano red that the Sermollis used in the paint for all of their buildings is still visible today – a testament to the family’s legacy.
Only the poorest farmers lived in houses made of exposed stone, while their somewhat better off fellow farmers, as well as affluent landowners such as the Sermollis, could afford to plaster over the stone.
In the 1970s the villa was sold to a group of Swiss artists, who used the building as a vacation home, gallery and concert space for nearly four decades. Since the spring of 2011, the villa has been a bed and breakfast that enables ist guests to have the unusual experience of staying in a magnificently preserved home of former Tuscan nobles.
Further information about the villa The utility rooms for the domestic servants were located on the lower ground floor, which accommodated the large kitchen (still preserved in its original state) with ist large fireplace, storage cellar, laundry and so forth. The cliff-side basement is made of natural rock, since Villa Sermolli, like the entire village, was built on a cliff.
The ground floor was the entry and parlor area, and also contained the villa’s chapel (now the reception area). The Conte rooms (202 and 203) were the count’s offices. The rooms on the second floor, which are adorned with the villa’s original frescoes, comprised the family’s parlor and bedrooms. Rooms 304 and 305 were the countess and count’s bedrooms respectively.
Virtually invisible in a corner to the right of the door to room 304, a narrow door to a small cubicle is embedded in the wall. During wartime, a soldier was posted in this cubicle to guard the road between Florence and Lucca. Room 303 next door was the billiard room.
A few words should also be said about Buggiano Castello’s flora, which is unique to this village and is extremely unusual for Tuscany.
A microclimate that is ideal for orange and lemon orchards evolved in the north thanks to the mild ocean climate of the coastal region, and the protection against the chilly spring and fall winds afforded by the Apennines. Winter temperatures seldom go below 0 °C, while on the plain the low is – 7 °C. The gardens of Buggiano and particularly those of the villa are so famous that Buggiano Castello is known as “the village of citrus fruits” and attracts garden enthusiasts from throughout Italy who come to admire these natural wonders.