Built in the second half of the sixteenth century by the Bettini family, Villa
Le Maschere was later acquired by the Florentine Gerini family, who began to enlarge
and restructure the house, and to reorganize the park with new avenues and an
Italian style garden. At the end of the seventeenth century the villa was remodeled
by Giovanni Battista Foggini, chief architect and sculptor to the court of the
Grand-duke of Tuscany Cosimo III de’ Medici. Foggini’s most famous works include
statues at the churches of the Carmine and Santissima Annunziata in Florence,
but he was also responsible for renovations at many Florentine palaces including
the grand staircase at Palazzo Medici-Riccardi.
By the 18th and 19th centuries Villa Le Maschere was considered one of the most beautiful Tuscan villas. Le Maschere was a favorite stop for popes (Pius IX in 1857), sovereigns (Carlo Emanuele IV King of Sardinia in 1801, King Carlo Felice in 1821), as well as many renowned noblemen and artists.
It was also the venue for some memorable theatrical parties, like the one for the wedding of the marquis Carlo Gerini with Isabella Magnani in 1832, which required a grand decorative restyling of the villa. The coats of arms of the noblewomen who lived in the villa, including Caterina de’ Medici, the wife of Ottavio Gerini, are displayed in the lobby.
At the start of the twentieth century the villa was fitted with bathrooms on every floor, some of them decorated with the famous majolica from the nearby Chini factory in Borgo San Lorenzo (still active). This majolica was also used to decorate the former house of the gardener, today transformed into the elegant Chini Pavilion. After 1963, when the villa was abandoned by the Gerini family, it fell into such disrepair that the roof collapsed and frescoes were lost or stolen, and the Italian Ministry for Cultural Property was compelled to declare the building “irrecuperable”.