I had the good fortune, last spring, to be invited by Eleonora to her enchanting country villa. I was immediately captivated by the courtyard, surrounded by ancient workspaces sleeping intact under a glistening veil of dust and cobwebs. I walked past orderly stalls without animals, a huge, now-silent winepress in the harvest room, large kitchens and laundry rooms, no longer in use, where washing was once done by hand with ashes, carriage houses and tool sheds, immense empty harvest storage rooms. From the large underground cellar, I descended a narrow spiral staircase to the black abyss of the icehouse. Climbing back up was like being reborn in an ancient, and future, dimension. Was I in a Roman farmhouse not yet covered by lava or in the prototype of the new, green and sustainable city?
On the piano nobile, the pavement with its intricate black and white geometries intensified, to my eyes, the vibrancy of the wallpapers and tapestries embellished with graceful plant motifs. From the windows, an array of iridescent green slopes beckoned me to the sun-filled terraces facing the crater of Mount Vesuvius. The giardino all’italiana is alive, boxwood hedges and centuries-old trees provide a perspective order to a magnificent citrus grove, which leads to the discovery of an Arcadian temple. Palms and cypresses sprout like fireworks, in pairs, from the oak thickets, guiding the way to the hazelnut grove stretching across the hillside. Time passes in rhythm with my footsteps, I listen to nature and no longer feel like pursuing the rest.
In the mid-eighteenth century, this is the way Orazio Mastrilli wanted it, building on older buildings; the name and property date back to the wedding of his niece Vincenza to Francesco Saverio De Clario, a patrician from Salerno. The exceptional preservation of the estate during the disasters of the last century is the result of the passion and exquisite taste of the Counts Filangieri di Candida Gonzaga, owners since 1920. Riccardo then married Eleonora de Clario di Finocchito; as director of the Archivio di Stato di Napoli e della Provincia (State Archives of Naples), he acquired, for the State, the papers of the most prominent families of Southern Italy, recovering the Bourbon Archives that had ended up in Germany after the exile of Francesco II, and tenaciously defended the most important treasure of the Neapolitan Archives, the documents of the Angevin Chancellery, until they were destroyed by the Nazis during the Four Days of Naples uprising.
Angerio, the son of Riccardo and father of my perfect hostess, was a professor of Agricultural Planning and Territorial Organization at the Faculty of Agriculture in Portici, a delegate to the EEC for urban development, and co-author of the Piano paesistico della penisola sorrentino-amalfitana. (Landscape Plan for the Sorrentine-Amalfitan Peninsula) His Inventario dei beni storico-artistici e naturali della Campania (Inventory of the Historical, Artistic and Natural Heritage of Campania), conserved at the University of Naples Federico II, can be consulted online thanks to a specific EU project.
I write to keep the beauty of this enchantment from ending.