Lord Edward Richard Lambton’s 17th-century Roman Baroque Villa Cetinale in La Cerbaia, near Sienna, is set amidst one of the most spectacular sitings in Tuscany, with views spanning over miles of rolling hills. Designed by the architect Carlo Fontana, a pupil of Bernini, the villa was built in 1680 by Cardinal Flavio Chigi for Pope Alexander VII. Edith Wharton proclaimed in her 1904 study, Italian Villas and Their Gardens, that it was “one of the celebrated pleasure-houses of its day.”
During the 1970’s Villa Cetinale was a playground for the rich, famous and pleasure-seeking aristocratic set under the watch of Lord Antony Lambton, where he retreated in 1973 amidst a sex scandal while serving as the Tory M.P.’s defense minister. But that’s another story, better suited to the gossip columns. For the full, entertaining exposé read James Reginato’s article, The Luck of the Lambtons, written for Vanity Fair. Upon Lord Lambton’s death in 2006 his son, Lord Edward Richard Lambton, Earl of Durham – who goes by Ned – inherited the villa. Today he shares the villa with his third wife, model Marina Hanbury, and his family.
While the gardens had been beautifully brought back to life by his father, Lord Antony, his son Ned Lambton was faced with a five-year renovation of the villa. Upon its completion he called on longtime friend Camilla Guinness to decorate and bring back to life the villa’s rooms. The main salon, above, was completely refurbished. “My main aim was to alter the villa as little as possible. Barring [extensive] damage by dog pee to all the curtains and gilded table legs, and a shortage of bathrooms, it was pretty perfect the way it was. The real challenge was to make sure things weren’t over-restored and to try to keep the patina of walls and furniture” commented Guinness. The salon breathes with simply painted white walls, neutral upholstered furniture and a natural fiber rug, lending a relaxed atmosphere and allowing the patterns of the tiled floor and tracery of the arched-and-vaulted ceiling stand out. The red curtains add a dose of regal attitude.
Another view of the main salon showcases a gilt console table that had been in need of refurbishment due to soiling from Lord Antony Lambton’s dogs.
The all-white dining room is crisply classic, highlighting the famous bas-relief depicting Cardinal Chigi, who commissioned the villa, receiving Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici above a serving table.
Another view of the dining room reveals the articulation of the groin-vaulted ceiling and the near monastic quality of the decor befitting Italian country house style.
The light and airy garden dining room has retained the trellised frescoes depicting the surrounding landscape.
Lord Ned Lambton at the head of the garden dining room’s table entertaining family and friends.
The light and bright kitchen has brown-and-white checker-patterned tiles in true Italian country house fashion.
The villa boasts twelve bedrooms, nine of which are available to renters. Here are four of them:
GARDENS AND TERRACES
Today, owning and maintaining a property of this size and magnitude is becoming more rare and difficult due the sheer expense of it. If these images leave you green with envy don’t fret: Villa Cetinale is available for holiday rental. I imagine it’s a win-win situation for all; we can live like aristocrats, even if only for several days, while our illustrious hosts retain the spoils of privilege afforded them by an aristocratic past.
Our next stop will be La Vagnola in Cetona, the 18th-century Tuscan villa of Giancarlo Giammetti that he shared with his business and life partner Valentino Garavani, decorated by Renzo Mongiardino. Though heavily blogged about and posted to Pinterest I hope to contribute some less viewed photos of the villa. If for no other reason, I look forward to having all images of this very famous villa in one place for future reference.
Content for this post based on an article written by James Reginato for Vanity Fair, with photos by James Becker. Photographs by François Halard originate from Vogue, April ,2005. All other photos via Villa Cetinale’s website.