Home Tour: Villa Lo Strozzino, A Historic 15th-century Property of Fagioli Sisters in Florence
Set in the heart of the Boschetto Gardens within the historic Villa Strozzi’s historic park, Villa Lo Strozzino was built in the 15th century as a gift to one of the sons of the eponymous Strozzi, one of Florence’s noble families, on the occasion of his marriage. According to the archives stored at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, the villa was designed by Il Cronaca (the renowned Florentine architect Simone del Pollaiolo), with the later addition of exquisite arches attributed to the celebrated stage designer Buontalenti who was a favoured architect of the Medici in the 16th century.
Today, this elegant ancient manse is home to sisters Ginevra and Ludovica Fagioli, the identical twins behind the semi-couture loungewear label Caftanii. The sisters have infused the beauty of their childhood home into their apparel, adding nuances to linen caftans, flounced skirts, silk dresses, and embroidered tops.
AN EXQUISITE EDUCATION
The Fagiolis moved into the villa when the twins were just two years old, and the girls lived like princesses in a castle, in rooms decorated like a scene from a fairy tale. While they were growing up, the twins were exposed to a more sober aesthetic that featured 19th-century boat beds and French furniture.
“Our upbringing shaped our taste,” they say. “We grew up with the idea of creating a brand that speaks the universal language of Italian beauty and quality. We drew on memories of how our mother dressed.” A great beauty, their mother was one of Yves Saint Laurent’s muses. Ginevra adds, “We remember how our mother would buy rolls of crepe paper which we fashioned into dresses for our dolls, using adhesive tape and pins.”
Despite the passage of time, Villa Lo Strozzino seems untouched as the original elements are still there: stone fireplaces, age-old trees, and furnishings from the 15th and 17th centuries carefully collected and curated by Tiziano and Mariangela Fagioli, the twins’ parents.
Ginevra and Ludovica’s aesthetic—the one that has defined their work in the present day—evolved while they were growing up in the villa, blurring the line between desire and reality in their designs. Their couture collection was inspired by the colours and forms of the Florentine Renaissance. Caftanii echoes the colours found throughout the house: the ochre of many brocades, the silky greens of the sofas, the blues of the tapestries, the heavenly cloud of porcelain, warm and sandy reds that emerge from fabrics andcarpets, as well as the terracotta and eggshell of marble statues and limestone busts. It exudes a timeless style that defies trends; while their clothes are easy to wear and sport modern silhouettes, they also play up classic elegance and a truly ladylike gentility.
The villa gallery houses a beautiful art collection: the work of Tuscan artists from the 17th century. These include the work of Francesco Furini and Giovanni Camillo Ciabilli, along with two pieces attributed to Alessandro Allori of the Mannerist Florentine School, and a prime example of the work of Luigi Baccio del Bianco, said to be Mariangeli Fagioli’s favourite painting, which depicts a game that was popular among Florence’s medieval nobles.
The original elements are still there: stone fireplaces, age-old trees, and furnishings from the 15th and 17th centuries carefully collected and curated by Tiziano and Mariangela Fagioli, the twins’ parents
“Florence is everything [to us,]” the twins say when asked about what inspires and informs their work. “It teaches you about beauty; [if you grew up here,] you developed an innate visual sensibility. Florentines are not easily surprised when they travel, as we believe that we are unconsciously accustomed to not taking beauty for granted. Living here has driven us to work with Tuscan artisans, using only skilled labour to help ensure the quality and uniqueness that lies at the heart of Caftanii. We also have a respect for nature and prefer to use only natural materials—silk, cotton, and linen—processed without dyes, as well as wool with zero carbon footprint.”
LIVING WITH ART
The villa’s softly pink terra cotta façade overlooks an entire side of the garden. Built from stone, it is spread over two floors connected by a spiral staircase.
“In reality, the house was like a palace, served by a huge central staircase with shallow steps,” the sisters say. “This enabled ladies dressed in long gowns to ascend or descend easily and gracefully.” This detail can still be seen in the sisters’ designs, as they prefer skirts with floor-length hems with very little in the way of bare skin but with a great deal of charm. “It’s our way of freeing women: educating them to dress without frills, or obsessive trends.”
On the ground floor, a corridor decorated with tapestries, statues, and cherubic putti leads to a vast hall characterised by a large 15th-century fireplace, surrounded by Spanish sofas in green velvet. On the mantelpiece, a papal coat of arms in travertine is flanked by a polychrome wooden statue of a bishop that dates from the 16th century, the work of an unknown sculptor from Piacenza. On the right, a massive painting of Saint Catherine of Alexandria occupies the wall.
The original terra cotta floor has been preserved and remains unchanged, as any attempts at replacement or restoration are prohibited by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. The space is, nevertheless, enhanced by a 17th-century Malayer carpet from Persia, along with a painting of dancing girls with a harpsichord from the same period done by an anonymous artist from Pistoia.
According to the twins, “We used to go [with our parents] to auctions, flea markets, and antique dealers when we were young, and [although] we would have preferred to [do the usual things children do like] have fun at the rides in amusement parks, all in all, [it was a very educational upbringing]. Living in this house [has accustomed] the eye to art, although [we do] prefer some pieces over others!”
Among the large windows, above the 16th-century Umbrian sideboard, there is a 17th-century polychrome Ecce Homo. The twins recall how, during their childhood, they would invite their friends over for snacks or parties, and the Catholics among them would make the sign of the cross before the imposing figure of Christ suffering with His crown of thorns. “We actually asked our parents to move it as it was quite intimidating,” the sisters recall. Today, the figure of Christ remains in ‘His place,’ accompanied by an image of Saint Rita of Cascia in an octagonal frame.
The sense of beauty that can be felt throughout the villa is emphasised by the Fagiolis’ massive collection of artworks, rare antiques, and various decorative items. In the salon, for instance, there is an impressive 17th-century French tapestry, as well as a sofa with cushions made from silver filaments taken from an 18th-century English knight’s mantle.
Indeed, there is no room for the mundane at Villa Lo Strozzino. In the dining room, a beautiful wooden table crafted in Lucca during the 19th century is surrounded by Directoire-style chairs upholstered in hand-woven French fabrics. Behind stands an ornate Baroque gilded mirror. Alabaster vases and a collection of painted porcelain—once the property of Russia’s ill-fated Romanovs—decorate a Breccia Medicea marble console.
The kitchen is probably the only modern area in the house. However, while it is quite contemporary, it has its own hint of history in the ancient vaulted ceilings dating back to the 15th century. Costes chairs designed by Philippe Starck for Driade are arranged around a modern marble dining table. A three-wheeled trolley by Marcel Breuer stands in one corner, a jewel of design originally presented at the Salon des Artistes Dècorateurs in Paris in 1930.
Ginevra and Ludovica Fagioli certainly have a strong emotional connection to Villa Lo Strozzino. While they do love to travel, discover new things, and assimilate new ideas, they always come back home, to strategize and develop new and exciting creations. Having grown up and currently living in such a nostalgic, dream-like world, how could anyone blame them?
- Photography Monica Spezia / Living Inside
- Words Ramona Alberghetti and Marga Manlapig
- Production Benedetta Rossi