PICS: This $9.8m Italian Villa was owned by Napoleon’s sister


New York – After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, his siblings were in a bind. Each-there were seven of them-had been elevated by their illustrious brother into the European nobility, and all of them, in their own way, suddenly found themselves personae non gratae in most of Europe.

Pauline, Napoleon’s younger sister who’d married the Italian prince Camillo Borghese, retreated to the Borghese Palace in Rome for a little while, and then, miserable, began to search for a more suitable location to while away her later years in relative obscurity.

U shaped

The house is shaped in a “U,” with living quarters on each side and entertaining spaces in the centre. (Source: Italy Sotheby’s International Realty)

She finally settled on an 18th century villa (formerly a hunting lodge) in Lucca, Italy, buying the house furnished. She lived there until her death in 1825.


The villa has been in the same family for more than a half-century. (Source: Italy Sotheby’s International Realty)

The villa then passed through numerous hands -always selling furnished-until it ended up in the hands of an Italian whose succession of wealthy American wives (the first died, as did the second) paid for major updates in the 1920s and ’30s.

By the ’60s, though, the widower’s money began to run low, “so he sold it to my in-laws,” says Clare Mahon Pardini, an American writer who married into the Italian Pardini family in the ’80s. 

Olympic pool

The swimming pool, which is almost as long as an Olympic pool. (Source: Italy Sotheby’s International Realty)

The elder Pardinis updated the villa and renovated its limonaia (a greenhouse for citrus plants), turning it into a guesthouse, and the rest of the family grew up on the property, living in different wings of the house.

But after the third generation moved out and the patriarch died, it was time, Pardini says, to sell. The family has put it on the market with Italy Sotheby’s International Realty for €8m.

Remnants of Pauline

Despite the home’s multiple owners, there are still remnants of the villa’s noble owner. “There are gilded Empire-style frescoes in the main salon,” Pardini says. She also points out a “P” and a “B” (Pauline’s monogram) in sterling silver on the doors to what was her bedroom. 

The main house, which has a horseshoe shape, is about 16 000 square feet, with 7 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms.


The original monogram of Pauline Borghese (née Bonaparte). (Source: Italy Sotheby’s International Realty)


The library. (Source: Italy Sotheby’s International Realty)

Living areas are in both wings, while the center has a grand salon, library, and dining room.

“The house is certainly built for entertainment,” Pardini says. “There are receiving rooms with tons of space, and then you can just withdraw to your own room while the party is still going and not hear anything. It’s an excellent house for fun.”


One of the property’s 13 bedrooms. (Source: Italy Sotheby’s International Realty)

The house’s exterior is adorned with marble statues and a grand double staircase, and its rear overlooks a 141-foot-long pool. The limonaia was renovated to have two private suites, along with maids’ rooms, and both buildings have their own formal Italian gardens, replete with fountains.

The grounds

The property, which is surrounded by a stone wall, sits on about 12 acres. Along with the two main residential buildings, the grounds contain a gatekeeper’s house, stables, and outbuildings-the property once contained a self-sustaining farm-including a glass greenhouse and, at the highest point in the property, a 19th century wrought-iron gazebo with a mosaic floor.


The house sits on about 12 acres of manicured grounds. (Source: Italy Sotheby’s International Realty)

The house also contains a support building, which once housed servants’ quarters and the kitchen, “ whichto avoid smells, fire hazards, and so forth,” Pardini says, “was separate from the main building.” (There are now two separate kitchens in the main villa.)

The location

The house, accessed through a towering gate, is a short drive from the historic district of Lucca, famous for its intact city ramparts and Guinigi Tower, a Romanesque-Gothic wonder with oak trees sprouting on the roof. “We’re about two seconds from town, but we’re in a totally private and secluded area,” Pardini says.

“You feel like you’re in the countryside, without the disadvantages of being in the countryside.”


The house was originally built as a hunting lodge. (Source: Italy Sotheby’s International Realty)


Marble statues adorn the exterior. (Source: Italy Sotheby’s International Realty)

Forte dei Marmi, the seaside resort town, is about an hour away. Florence is closer, about a 45-minute drive, while getting to Pisa takes about 20 minutes. “An hour’s drive takes you to culture, or to the beach, or to a ski mountain,” she says. There’s also an airport for private planes about 15 minutes from the house.

The villa, having had the same owners for more than half a century, could use some updates, Pardini says, but “I think it’s an excellent price for what it is,” she continues. “Obviously it needs some work, but if you put something into it, you’ll be paid a thousand times back.”

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