Posted October 10, 2013. Filed in Italian Country Houses
Palazzo Parisi overlooking the hamlet of Oliveto. Photo via CT Travel.
Today we venture beyond the Tuscan border to Oliveto in the Sabine Hills, north-east of Rome in the Lazio province, to visit Villa Parisi, the childhood home of landscape designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd. Her father, Piero Parisi, purchased the castle sight-unseen in the early 1940’s. It wasn’t until after returning from the war that he first laid his eyes on it – discovering that he not only owned a forty-room castle but also two churches and 10,000 olive trees.
Photo courtesy of Palazzo Parisi.
Signore Parisi was more focused on restoring the palazzo’s decorative frescoes than upgrading the plumbing or adding electricity, so it was for many years the Parisi family lived without modern comforts and conveniences. It wasn’t until after Arabella become the wife of a British MP and inherited the palazzo that modern bathrooms, hot running water, electricity and a modern kitchen were provided for.
In a photo taken in the 1980’s by James Mortimer the salotto (sitting room) features walls and a vaulted ceiling painted with frescoes depicting pastoral views of the Sabine Hills with birds flying overhead.
In a recent photograph of the salotto is a decidedly more English arrangement of comfortable upholstered furniture for a grouped conversation area. Photo courtesy Dear Designer’s blog.
Another current view of the salotto and its rustic Old World grandeur. Photo courtesy of Dear Designer’s blog.
The frescoes in the dining room lend the feel of an orangery, with a rural landscape set beyond faux columns. A trellis entwined with morning glory frames the room at cornice height. At one end a cupboard is painted into the scenery. Photo by James Mortimer.
A current view of the dining room reveals new furniture, a pendant chandelier, curtains, and a simple woven rug. The dining table in particular seems too decorative and new for the faded grandeur of this romantically rustic country house. Photo via CV Travel.
In a photo taken in the 1980’s by James Mortimer boxes tied with ribbons containing archival papers on the history of the palazzo are piled on the billiard table. Spears, trumpets and standards are painted above the doors and mantelpiece. On the walls are heads of game shot by Arabella Lennox-Boyd – for food she insisted – when on a safari in Africa.
A contemporary view of the billiard room aglow in soft lighting reveals little has changed. The archival boxes still remain on the billiard table. Photo via CV Travel.
Before the kitchen was updated with modern conveniences it had charcoal ovens and a brick bread oven in the fireplace. Photo by James Mortimer.
An expansive terrace affording views of the Sabine Hills is furnished with ancient curly-cane furniture in a photo taken by James Mortimer in the 1980’s.
Today the terrace remains furnished with much of the same furniture. Photo via CT Travel.
The bed in the master bedroom was made in Naples in the 19th-century and compliments the collection of Empire furniture. Bird and tromp l’oeil moldings decorate the edges of the domed ceiling. Photo by James Mortimer.
Today the Empire Bedroom remains virtually unchanged, down to the green carpet. Photo courtesy of CT Travel.
A guest room as it appears today. Photo courtesy of Palazzo Parisi website.
The path to the family chapel, dedicated to Santa Maria, is barren in a photo taken by James Mortimer in the 1980’s. On the right are the cook and housemaids, c. 1986.
Since the 1980’s Arabella Lennox Boyd created a rose walk toward the family chapel. Photo courtesy of CT Travel.
Today you can experience the romance and charm of a Renaissance palazzo for yourself. From the end of May through the end of October Palazzo Parisi is available for holiday hire.
In the next post we will return to Tuscany proper and visit Elsa Peretti’s highly atmospheric medieval residence decorated by Renzo Mongiardino many moons ago.
Content based on article written by Min Hogg for The World of Interiors; March, 1986, with photos by James Mortimer.