The Sleeping Beauty No-one Wants to Awaken

Villa Fiori, that elegant sleeping beauty of a palazzo at Bagni di Lucca Ponte, has been put at auction several times in the past few years. In 2011 the reserve price for the property at its first sale was euro 2,250,000.  No buyer could be found. Villa Fiori was again put at auction in 2013, again without success. In November 2015 it was decided to put Villa Fiori at auction for the third time. This time the reserve price was halved to Euros 1,050,000 but by the close of the bidding last April again no buyers could be found.

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The fourth time the Bagni di Lucca comune tried to find a buyer was last month. The price was again lowered, this time to below a million euros. The building still remains unsold.

What does one get if one buys villa Fiori?

The cellar is over 400 square metres. The first and second floor adds another 1,200 square meters. Then there’s the delightful tower terrazza which is 400 square metres. So there’s plenty of space for a growing family – although it’s probable that conversion to a hotel or time-share flats could be more likely options.

The current aspect of Villa Fiori is the result of architect Paolinelli’s remodelling. He transformed a nineteenth century gothicky villa into its present aspect between 1916 and 1917. The house is an example of the eclectic taste prevalent in early twentieth century buildings. The presence of gothick towers in the garden are somewhat at odds with the villa’s neo-classical style but it must be remembered that they belong to its earlier ‘look’.

There are, in my view three reasons why the villa has still not been sold.

  1. The current economic climate in Italy means that buying a property (except in the centre of art cities like Florence or commercial hubs like Milan) is generally not a good investment – house prices are still falling – often up to 30% and more since 2008’s crash.
  2. The building has been empty for some time (it was formerly used by the health services) and, consequently, the usual damp and perhaps some rot has set in, I would estimate that essential restoration would add another half a million euros to the reduced price.
  3. Only part of the original gardens is included: just 8,470 square metres of the original area which is at least three times as much. There’s an ugly car park to one side of the villa and the most picturesque part of the garden by the banks of the river is now a public park used for such events as the extempore art exhibition.

All said, however, the villa must be sold. The comune can’t afford to keep it and any monies from the sale will go into paying off its considerable debts. The longer Villa Fiori stays shut up and neglected the higher the restoration costs will be for any prospective buyer.

The incredible thing is that, in another part of the world, London, most of the housing stock now rarely sell for less that half a million pounds. At the top end, if one goes to Mayfair for example, a six-bedroomed house would set one back 50,000,000 pounds and the surface area would be a just a fraction of the villa Fiori’s…

I realize that it’s location, location, location when buying a house. The location of the Villa Fiori, however, and the views one gets from it of the verdant Lima Valley, the wonderful parties one could hold in it and the dinner evenings one could take in the picturesque loggia would more than compensate for the boring street views of London’s exclusive properties, where a high crime rate, traffic pollution and the noise would also be included in a price well over fifty times the amount it would cost to buy the villa Fiori.

11 thoughts on “The Sleeping Beauty No-one Wants to Awaken

  1. It would be delightful to see some life in to the Villa before it is too late and it crumbles, it would be very sad if it was no longer there.

    • Unfortunately as its council property it has to be sold according to government procedures rather than going to an international estate agent. The fourth auction took place today and the mayor told me about the sale procedure restrictions

  2. A very rich prince will brave the tall trees, brambles and thorns and save ‘Villa Fiori’ from the ‘evil fairy’ and the sleeping princess with one kiss will live again.
    I am waiting for a poor prince and a little house in Italy.

  3. One day a very rich prince will brave the tall trees, brambles and thorns and save the sleeping princess from the evil fairy!
    I wish only for a small house of my dreams…

  4. Your estimate of €500,00 for restoration seems overly optimistic. Three or four times that to do it well. And then there is maintenance, staff, a full time gardener, cleaners etc..

    None of the existing hotels in Bagni Di Lucca seem to be flourishing. Another, however luxurious, would be superfluous.

    A riverside location is nice, but here you have a noisy weir in a steep sided valley which only catches the sun when it is high in the sky. You may have noticed a fine villa on the other side of the river on the way to Fornoli, on the market for €1m for over a year. Same problems. And these are far from the only buildings in the area lacking a future.

    An answer? maybe language schools, summer schools for colleges and universities etc.. Here in Hastings – a far from glamorous town despite Mr Foyle’s best efforts – we have endless coach loads of students from all over Europe visiting language schools in the mornings and the town and its surroundings in the afternoons all summer and through the winter too.

    But the sale procedures you mention don’t seem to lend themselves to marketing initiatives and there seems no way to push a solution.

    Ruins have their charm but they provide little in the way of employment or prosperity for the area.

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