In the fall of 1959, the Villa Rossa opened its doors to a group of thirty students from Syracuse University. Since then, it has hosted thousands of students who have come to study in Florence. One of the first and foremost fundamental challenges every one of these students has had to face is that of creating a sense of place and belonging in the city. Ultimately, each student forges a uniquely personal amalgamation of people, places, and things that gives meaning and substance to the experience of being in Florence. One of the places, however, that figures largely in the common experience of all the students is the Villa Rossa itself, which day in and day out serves as a unifying point of reference.
As is often the case with things that become so familiar, it is easy to see only the immediate manifestations of the present and overlook the signs that give witness to the past. One of the most rewarding aspects of living in Florence is learning how to open one’s eyes to history. Thus was born the idea to create an archive to bring to light the history of the Villa Rossa, Syracuse University’s home away from home, and the home of the family of Count Mario Gigliucci, who designed and built the house.
At the direction of Dr. Sasha Perugini, Director of Syracuse University in Florence since 2011, this archive was created to serve as a tribute to the Gigliucci family and to their beautiful Villa Rossa, which today provides the foundation for welcoming hundreds of students to Florence each year. Through the The Villa Rossa Archive, Dr. Perugini wishes to present a treasure of historical documents and photos that narrate the history of the Gigliucci family and their beloved Villa, thereby bringing to life the fascinating story behind Syracuse University’s study abroad program in Florence, Italy.
Many people have contributed to this small archive through the years and we trust that the work of conservation, celebration, and appreciation will continue. Special thanks go to Betsy Purvis, whose booklet The House of Gigliucci in Florence at Villa Romana and Villa Rossa (1999) has been used here to beautifully narrate the history of the Gigliucci family and Syracuse University in Florence.