Stories

Valeria Gigliucci (Mario’s sister) regarding their grandfather, Count Giovanni Battista Gigliucci: “Count Gigliucci was an only son, orphan from the age of nineteen months, and brought up by his paternal grandmother and his uncle, Mgr. Gigliucci, who died soon after his elder brother. During this long minority the family property was managed and mismanaged by his tutor, a learned priest but incapable of such work, which needed instead very able hands, to repair the damage it had suffered, together with most other property all over Italy, during that colossal upheaval, the French Revolution, when Count Gigliucci’s grandfather, then head of the family, was taken hostage by the French and kept for a time in the fortress of Ancona. To enable the young proprietor to manage his own estates he, with his grandmother’s full consent, obtained a sovereign decree declaring him of age before he was twenty – and soon after his grandmother died, at past ninety. His only sister was in a convent, founded some centuries before by her family, of which she became subsequently Superior, remaining so until her death.”

Clara Novello (Mario’s mother) on her marriage to Count Giovanni Battista Gigliucci: “…on both sides relatives disliked our marriage. Seven nuns were among my newest relatives and naturally to these a theatrical artist could only be an imp of Satan! ‘Tridui’ (three days’ prayer) were offered by them to prevent our union – in vain! Little by little, however, these ladies grew actually quite fond of me, and my family forgave us.”

Nerina Gigliucci (Mario’s daughter) recounts her time in the Villa Romana and Villa Rossa: “Just before my eighth birthday, I was prescribed a regimen of country air; thus our parents left Via Cherubini and rented the Villa Romana, outside the Porta Romana along Via Senese, and there we remained for five years until the house in Piazza Savonarola was ready. Five years … an incalculably short time for adults, but during childhood and adolescence, when every year seems to bring with it the importance of an entire epoch distinct from all those before and after – it was a long time indeed! I went to the Villa Romana a little girl and left a young woman, and I recall, notwithstanding the joy young people find in everything new, how I lamented leaving ‘the old house’ where it seemed to me I had passed ‘all my life!’

For our parents it must have been, I think, no small sacrifice to move so far outside the city center. Neither one was a great love of what one could call ‘the grand work’ even though they contentiously frequented it just enough to keep a place open in Florentine society for us children. They were, however, very sociable and gladly saw their friends and interesting people and places; they adored music, good concerts, the theater, and they kept close ties with our aunt and uncle, who were still on the opposite side far end of Florence. My father, who drew and painted quite well, had set up a studio in Piazza Donatello, which he had to abandon, just as he had to abandon, I believe, his visits to the studio of Barbarino, with whom he had studied, and the Circolo degli Artisti, that thriving friendly club where he was a member… That stay must have been, therefore, full of great sacrifices on the part of my parents. But the house was spacious and comfortable and the garden, without being extraordinary, had a pretty lawn behind the villa onto which the sitting room opened and from there one enjoyed a magnificent view of the city. At that time, no houses or buildings stood between the villa and the cupolone and the towers, expect on the far left at the end of the fields where stood the pink bell tower of our rustic little parish church, Sant’Ilario.”