“Villa Marlia” is the Royal Villa on the outskirts of Lucca. Located in Capannori, surrounded by a centuries-old park and protected by walls it can easily be called one of the most impressive historical residences in Italy. Elisa Bonaparte, the emperor’s sister, fell in love with this villa. The site was restored to its former glory thanks to extensive restoration works. Since 2014 Henric Groenberg and his wife Marina Groenberg have been restoring this historic complex of buildings and parks. The park is open to the public and tourists, various events and excursions as well as charity concerts are being held there.
A tour around the villa
This extraordinary architectural and landscape complex consists of 3 villas, 2 neoclassical twin palaces, 16 hectares of parkland, 2 chapels, former stables, sawmills and service buildings and even a secret underground tunnel.
Before becoming property of Henric and Marina Groenberg it was, at one point, the home of Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister, who made the residence and park a place on a par with Parisian residences of the time. Villa Reale can be considered one of the most complete representations of the Empire style that prevailed during Napoleon’s years
Stepping through the gates of the park of Villa Reale is like embarking on a journey back in time. At every step, one encounters impressive views and traces of the past, rooted as far back as medieval times. The Villa Reale estate is also extraordinary for another reason. In its vast size, it succeeds in uniting many architectural, artistic and landscape elements, peculiar to each era.
Elisa and Villa Reale di Marlia
The princess’s connection with the residence of Marlia was particularly passionate, in fact she was responsible for the important interventions that transformed the structure of the palace and the gardens, modelled on the Malmaison – Napoleon and Josephine’s private residence near Paris. An emancipated woman and lover of the arts, she promoted a lively cultural life.
Shortly after her purchase of the villa in 1806, Elisa Bonaparte integrated the neighbouring Villa del Vescovo (still included in the Villa Reale complex). She modernised the facades of the old palace in the neoclassical style as well as the interior decorations.
She had the Park redesigned in accordance with the romantic style and fashion of the English Gardens: a rare case in Italy. Elisa Bonaparte and her taste can be felt throughout the whole area. It was she who embellished the Villa Reale Park with the camellias that decorate two large alleys.
In 2014, the estate became property of its current owners, Henric and Marina Groenberg. Just two months after their investment, a terrible windstorm knocked down many centuries-old trees. Ironically, the gaps gave the villa a new scenery and an impressive backdrop.
Thus began the restoration work: 15 open building sites covering a total area of approximately 6,000 square meters for the buildings and 16 hectares for the park, involving more than 35 restorers.
The Villa and the park were opened to the public in March 2020. The park is the subject of constant efforts to ensure and improve the wellbeing of the greenery.
Henric Groenberg’s wife, Marina Groenberg describes the project as follows: “This is an incredible project that my husband and I are pursuing wholeheartedly and that my husband spends a lot of energy and time on developing. It is our dream project, so we take our time and enjoy the process. We enjoy every new statue restored, every tree saved, every permit obtained from the Italian authorities, every picnic and performance, every positive feedback in the guestbook and the wonderful people who help us with all of these.”