Set on the hillside of Settignano, with extraordinary views of Florence and the surrounding Arno valley, the Villa Gamberaia is renowned for its splendid gardens, celebrated throughout the world by leading landscape architects and garden historians.
The Villa, begun in 1610 and completed ca. 1630 by the Florentine noble Zanobi Lapi in the Tuscan style, combines interesting architectural features of both an urban palazzo and suburban villa. In the eighteenth century the property passed into the hands of the marchesi Capponi, by which time the house and gardens had acquired the characteristic elements seen in the famous etching by Giuseppe Zocchi (1744): the cypress allée, nymphaeum, grotto garden, boschi, parterre, and lemon terrace. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Romanian Princess Jeanne Ghyka began the transformation of the old parterre de broderie into beautiful flower-bordered pools, enclosed at the southern end by an elegant cypress arcade, while the following owner, the American-born Mathilda Cass Ledyard, Baroness von Ketteler, introduced the wide box borders and topiary forms that still give the parterre its distinctive architectonic effect. After the Second World War, in which the house was badly damaged, the Villa was purchased from the Vatican by the Florentine industrialist Marcello Marchi. It is now the property of Luigi Zalum and his sons, who have continued the work of restoration and conservation.