Fascinating mystery about the Russian princess who owns the mansion.
One of the magnificent historic villas on Via San Leonardo in Florence, known as the Villa Selva e Guasto or Villa Dolgoroukoff, named after the mysterious Russian princess to whom it belonged in the early 1900s. Located in one of the most prestigious areas of Florence, a stone’s throw from Piazzale Michelangelo and only ten minutes from the city center, the villa was sold by the LIONARD Luxury Real Estate S.p.A. to a client who managed to purchase the entire property, a total of 2000 square meters of interior and 20000 square meters of exterior, after it had been divided into several apartments in the last century.
The architecture of the villa
Although the majestic facade, facing St. Leonard’s Street, has the architectural features typical of 17th-century villas, rich in Baroque decoration, its origin is older: in the early 15th century it is reported to be owned by the Galilei family (perhaps ancestors of Galileo Galilei?) who sold it in 1480 to Bernard of Simone Canigiani, a well-known figure in Florence at the time for holding government positions, as well as a close friend of the philosopher and humanist Marsilio Ficino. In 1562 the daughter of another Bernardo Canigiani brought it as dowry to the noble Rucellai family. Numerous changes of ownership would follow over the centuries until in the early 1900s it came to the Russian princess Dolgoroukoff and then in 1919 by inheritance to the Costa de Suarez family.
The scenic façade features a stone staircase with a double pincer ramp to the main floor, while at ground level, a gateway leads into the central courtyard around which the building is built.
In the center of the facade is a 19th-century stone shield with the Castrucci family coat of arms (among those to whom the villa belonged) with the motto “Maiora resurgunt.” The villa is surrounded by a park with Italianate gardens. A late 17th-century style chapel, separate from the body of the villa, is part of the property.
The mystery about the Russian princess who owns the mansion
All that is known about her is her last name, Dolgoroukoff, which could lead back to Ekaterina Michajlovna Dolgorukova (Dolgoroukoff and Dolgorukova are two versions of the same surname), the young Russian princess belonging to a fallen noble family with whom the Tsar Alexander II of Russia whose overwhelming love story was the subject of the film “Katya, queen without a crown.” played by a young Romy Schneider. After long years as a mistress and bearing him three children, the tsar married her in 1880, making her a morganatic wife. But not even a year later Alexander II will be killed in an assassination attempt, and Ekaterina will be forced to leave Russia and move with her children to France.