Citta di Castello, Umbria, Italy
Villa Ercolano – San Savino
As far as we can tell, construction on Villa Ercolano began in the late 1800’s and completed in 1920, as evidenced by the date written in wrought iron over the entry gate. The villa was originally an ancient ‘casa colonica’, a stone country house, and the building as we see it to day was constructed over the original dwelling.
It is called Villa Ercolano after the frescos that line the pergola around the swimming pool. These frescos are copies of the frescos discovered at Ercolano (Herculaneum), a city south of Naples that was buried by lava along with Pompeii in 79 AD.
The original owner of the modern day villa was a Roman nobleman named Signore Moki who owned all of the buildings and hundreds of hectares of land around the villa. Rumor has it that because he did not have an heir he attempted to buy the youngest son of one of his contadini, or tenant farmers. However, the mother reneged on the arrangement at the last moment so upon Signore Moki’s death the property was split in two and passed to his two nieces. The niece who inherited the villa was named Beccaloni and we have learned the history we have about the villa from her children who still own the agricultural land around us. After Signora Beccaloni’s death in 1987 the house was vandalized, with thieves carting off many of the family’s treasured possessions (including a painting of the original ‘casale’ painted by Sig’a. Beccaloni’s mother). Her children then sold the villa, and it landed in the hands of the film director Michael Radford (who directed Il Postino among other films) who married a teenaged bride in the renowned lemon garden out front. The newlyweds lived here only for a very short time before moving on, leaving Villa Ercolano to sit empty for more than a decade. Radford sold the house to an investor group who let it crumble; the roof caved in and it was inhabited by drug addicts and vagrants.
We purchased the property and immediately started the ongoing process of renovating it back to its former glory.
Villa Ercolano measures 1000 square meters over 4 floors and currently comprises the following rooms:
Ground Floor: Entry Hall, Office, Workshop, cantina Storage Room, cantina Utility Room, Garage, Limonaia (unrenovated).
Ground Floor: Apartment consisting of Living Room with fireplace, Bedroom, Kitchen, and Bathroom.
First Floor: Formal Living Room with fireplace, Kitchen with Sitting area, Dining Room, Family Room with fireplace, TV Room, Powder Room, Laundry Room, 2 Terraces, Balcony.
Second Floor: 6 Bedrooms, 2 Bathrooms, Dressing Room.
Third Floor: 4 Bedrooms, 2 Bathrooms, Sitting Room, Storage Room.
Tower with walkway on 4 sides.
History during World War 2
We have been told that Villa Ercolano was commandeered by the Germans during WWII for use as a radio transmission station because it sat at the highest point in the valley and from the tower it is possible to see from Citta’ di Castello to Umbertide. The Becchalonis have told us that as children they were forced to live in the basement cantina while the Germans inhabited their home. One night after the allies had been shelling the Villa for several days, the family awoke to eerie quiet. When they walked outside through the garage door they were met by a flank of British infantrymen lying on the ground opposite with their rifles pointed at the family who quickly identified themselves as contadini. It seems that the Germans had fled in the night. The Villa then because the British Army Hospital for the remainder of the war and we are told that a great many servicemen were operated on in the surgical operating room located in what is now our ground floor apartment. Those that lost their lives were temporarily buried under the pine trees to the rear of the house and at the end of the war were moved to the Assisi War cemetery. Indentations from the shelling are still visible in the wall surrounding the property.
We sold this magnificent property to a Texan Banker and his wife in 2007.
We miss the Villa on a daily basis but moved on to another renovation of the historic limonaia in the garden of the Palazzo Capponi in the center of Florence Italy and a Tuscan olive oil farm.
Bruce Fernie, Katherine Walsh and daughters Bowen and Avery.
Before, during and after the renovation.