4 February 2023 - 26 February 2023: Saturdays and Sundays
1 March 2023 - 5 November 2023: open everyday (extraordinary closure from 1 May to 23 June 2023 and 17 September 2023)
6 November 2023 - 17 December 2023: Saturdays, Sundays and holidays
18 December 2023 - 3 February 2024: closed due to restoration
Parco open from 10 to 18 (last entrance 16:30)
Villa and Clock House open from 10:30 to 17:30 (last entrance 30 minutes before closing time)
We advise to check the opening hours on the website
Dogs on leash are welcome in the park.
|Park + Villa + Clock House
Reduced: Children between 10 and 17, groups > 10 people, people over 65, ICOM Members
At the reception you will receive a map of the gardens on which there are itineraries to follow. Moreover, at each attraction or building, there are descriptive panels with the historical and architectural information in four languages.
BESIDES, it is possible to download for free on your smartphone the official application "Villa Reale": you will find the audio guide for the interiors and you will be able to discover the park through video itineraries narrated by four native tour guides.
A visit to the Gardens of Villa Reale will surprise and delight you. A chance to immerse yourself in an ancient past with roots stretching back to the Medieval age. The extraordinary history of the Villa Reale estate has unfolded across the centuries with a series of transformations, witnessed by illustrious figures and royal dynasties. The first nucleus was formed from a fortress, where the Duke of Tuscia lived during the early Medieval age. The property subsequently passed to the Avvocati family and then to the Buonvisi, a Lucchese family of merchants and bankers who transformed the fortress into a magnificent building. After their downfall, the Buonvisi sold the majority of the family properties, including the Villa in Marlia.
The historic residence was bought by Olivieri and Lelio Orsetti in 1651, who carried out modifications to the Villa and recreated the Park in a baroque style with the creation of courtyards, avenues and spectacular gardens, including the Green Theatre and the Lemon Garden. During the 18th century, the two noblemen also constructed the elegant Palazzina dell’Orologio, providing spaces for farming and stables.
It was around this time, in 1806, that Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister and Princess of Lucca, bought the property. From this point on, the Villa took the name “Reale” (Royal) from Elisa’s title as Queen of Etruria. The Princess had a strong bond with the residence in Marlia, proceeding with major works which transformed the structure of the building and the gardens. Shortly after the purchase, the Princess incorporated the Villa del Vescovo into the estate, and modernised the façade of the ancient Orsetti Palazzo in a neoclassical style. The Park was also partially redesigned in line with the 18th century fashion for English gardens. The most significant change was the elongation of perspective in the space in front of the Villa. This is characterised by a slight incline, in order to highlight a sense of movement, as per the romantic taste. The Park of Villa Reale was also adorned with statues and vases created with precious white marble from the Eugeniana Academy of Carrara.
Elisa had to leave the kingdom in February 1814, after the fall of Napoleon. The Princedom of Lucca was transformed into the Duchy and assigned to Carlo Ludovico of Bourbon. Villa Reale then became the summer residence of the new court, who delighted in organising splendid dances, often hosting distinguished individuals, noblemen and royalty. In 1847, Carlo Ludovico of Bourbon abdicated in favour of Leopold II of Lorena, bringing an end to Lucca’s political autonomy, when it was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Lucca lost its position as the capital, and Villa Reale ceased to function as the official seat of the court.
In the second half of the 1800s, the historic residence passed into the hands of the King of Italy, becoming the property of Vittorio Emanuele II. He decided to transfer it to Penelope Carolina, the widow of Carlo of Bourbon, Prince of Capua. The Princess, together with her two children, spent several years in the Villa. When she died in 1882, the estate was passed to the two children, Vittoria Augusta and Francesco Carlo. Francesco’s mental illness earned him the name “The Mad Prince”. When his sister Vittoria died, the prince was aided by a guardian who dealt with the management of the family property. The Villa Reale estate was put up for sale at auction, and many trees within the Park were cut down for timber.
At the beginning of the 1900s, the Count and Countess Pecci-Blunt fell in love with the Villa and bought the estate in 1923. The next year they commissioned the famous French architect Jacques Greber for the restoration of the Park and gardens, with the aim of uniting tradition and innovation. Woodland, streams, a lake, and other bucolic features were created to complete and enrich the existing romantic picture created by the classic Italian gardens. At the turn of the century, the historic residence hosted important guests such as the violinist and composer Paganini, and the American artist John Singer Sargent.
Almost a century later, in 2015, a young Swiss couple bought the by then neglected estate, having fallen hopelessly in love with it. A mere two months later, a terrible storm hit the estate and uprooted many centuries-old trees, complicating the ongoing renovation of the park. Despite the numerous difficulties, the owners decided to accept the challenge of bringing the Villa Reale back to its former glory, initiating significant restoration works.
Line 59 starts from Lucca (Piazzale Verdi and the Railway Station) and stops in the square in front of the reception of Villa Reale.