Il "Palazzone", Villa Passerini, XVI Century,
Scuola Normale Superiore
The impressive and princely villa was owned by Silvio Passerini (1496-1529).
A follower of the Medici family, under their influence he began a brilliant
career, which, however, was to result in misfortune in the final years of
The plans for the villa were undertaken by the
painter, architect and
poet Giovan Battista Caporali (1476?-1560?), pupil of Perugino, a friend
of the great artists of the period and teacher of Galeazzo Alessi.
The interior decorator, perhaps in conjunction with Caporali
was Tommaso Bernabei, otherwise known as "Il Papacello" (+1559),
famous for being Signorelli's best scholar and for having worked in Rome
with Giulio Romano and later, in Perugia, at the Palazzo dei Priori.
A fresco decorating the interior of Villa Passerini,
with a view of "Il Palazzone" and Cortona
The villa is splendidly positioned halfway down the
at an equal distance from Cortona and S. Angelo a Metelliano. Viewing it
from the outside, the visitor will find it hard to believe that the villa
was constructed in the sixteenth century, as the style of the building,
particularly the tower with its double battlements, evokes the middle ages,
and the overall effect is that of a small fortress rather than of a villa.
Its belated style lends the villa a particular dignity and suggests solidity
and unity: dominating and austere, it is without embellishments.
The building covers an area of 856,280 square
metres, measuring 70 metres
in length and 27 in breadth. The height of the tower is 48 metres, the drawing
room is 15 by 7.20 metres, and the courtyard, with a portico and an elegant
renaissance well, measures 17 by 10 metres.
A spiral staircase leads to the grand stone doorway that bears the coat
of arms of the Passerini family (of which the upper section houses the insignia
of the Medici family) sculpted in its keystone.
The interior of the villa is similarly understated and
awesome, yet its
architecture is more developed. The ground floor was largely reserved for
the stables. The main living areas are on the top floor: the drawing room,
the Billiards room, the Cardinal's room and the chapel.
Of these the drawing room is the most
prestigious. The upper walls are
decorated with 16 2-metre squared frescoes by Papacello, depicting episodes
from Roman history and legend. On the lower walls are painted 16 stunning
trompe-l'oeil, remarkable for their verisimilitude, fugues of pillars and
background landscapes, and for their visual effect and warm tonalities.
The Cardinal's room is situated at the back, to the
east, and is decorated
with a trompe-l'oeil of pillars and rural scenes. The centre of the ceiling
depicts Apollo on his cart and four horses, surrounded by the signs of the
zodiac and the four seasons.
The furnishing of the Palazzone consists of numerous and noteworthy pieces
of furniture and artwork: paintings (originals and copies), settles, sixteenth
century wardrobes and chairs, mirrors, knick-knacks, clocks, fine beds and sofas, etruscan urns and all kinds of
Nor should one forget the beautiful inner courtyard with its renaissance
portico and central well. An Italian style garden with an open portico can
be found behind the building.
The chapel reveals the last work of L.
Signorelli, The Baptism of Jesus,
a fresco which the great artist was unable to complete, because he fell
from the scaffolding whilst painting. The work was completed by his apprentices.
The building was recently donated by
count Lorenzo Passerini and today belongs to the Scuola