In Ancaiano, Tuscany, just a few kilometres to the west of Siena, and at the heart of a vast forest of oaks, hides a secret, sumptuous and mysterious residence. Built on the site of an ancient Etruscan encampment, Villa Chigi is simultaneously a piece of history, a Catholic sanctuary and a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. Its immense gardens, furthermore, are considered a seminal example of Italian landscaping by specialists, and the numerous sculptures scattered throughout them are the work of some of the greatest artists of the 17th century.
In 1651, Fabio Chigi, Cardinal of Rome, and future Pope Alexander VII, acquired a small barn at this site and began work enlarging it. The work was Interrupted in 1656 after the Cardinal was elected to the Holy See, but was then continued again in 1676 by Flavio Chigi, his nephew, who employed the services of the famous architect Carlo Fontana and completed the construction of this Baroque, three storey villa and its immense estate.
Villa Chigi’s gardens are organised around a large, central avenue approximately 300 metres in length and bordered by giant cypresses, magnificent natural sculptures and a wide variety of fruit trees. The gardens extend up onto a hillside via a “Scala-Santa”, a flight of Holy-Steps, which lead to a monastery that was still in use until the end of the 19th century and from where you can look out over the entire estate.