In most museums, visitors speak in hushed tones and move cautiously to avoid disturbing other visitors or damaging the art. At Villa Reale’s gardens, you actually become part of the art. During the numerous events such as aperitivi (happy hours), time period costume parties and art exhibitions, you become part of the spectacle and are encouraged to enjoy the grounds in an open and relaxed manner just as royals, famous guests, and owners have done for centuries. In fact, the name Reale means Royal and refers to when Napoleon’s sister Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, as Princess of Piombino and Lucca, purchased the Villa and its gardens in 1806.
Upon entering the gates, a sense of calm from the chaotic nature of Italian streets washes over guests, giving them a feeling of serenity and allowing full immersion into the Villa Reale experience. Once inside, guests have full freedom to enjoy the gardens with family and friends or to take a solo stroll through the wooded paths, fountains, and manicured gardens throughout the grounds surrounding the 15th century Villa. Here, you don’t see the past through a glass wall or the lens of a textbook; it’s all around you, begging you to join in the festivities.
In fact, this historic Villa organizes events for the public including picnic style themed aperitivi (happy hours), historical reenactments, and art exhibitions complete with acrobats and children’s art contests. To be able to eat, drink, and relax in the gardens while listening to live music in the shadow of such a magnificent and historic estate is a truly unique experience. So inviting is the hospitality that visitors could be forgiven for forgetting that they are indeed in a living, breathing outdoor museum.
Throughout the grounds are priceless treasures such as the 1920’s era swimming pool where the British Royal Family and Salvador Dalí have cooled off in the Tuscan sun while visiting the area on vacation. Though you can’t swim yourself, you can easily picture the scene of Her Majesty watching over her children as they bask and play on a hot, late summer afternoon. Surrounding the main Villa is a network of ornate gardens, fountains, and grottoes including the Verzura Theater (Europe’s largest natural theater) where the stage, walls, and alcoves are formed from hedges, and the adjacent Lemon garden featuring an enormous fountain depicting the joining of the area’s two main rivers, the Serchio and the Arno. Behind the Villa, next to the 17th century Palazzina dell’Orologio (The Clock House) lies the Teatro d’Acqua, or Water Theater, whose flowing waters and alcoves to be explored face the rear of the Villa. From inside the Villa, on top of the North facing second floor balcony, guests can imagine what it must have been like to awake each morning with a view of this 17th century fountain, framed by the Clock tower and Lucchese hills towering over the property.