Europe north of the Alps knew virtually nothing of fine living until Charles VIII of France and his army invaded Italy in the late 15th century. There, in the palaces and villas of Tuscany, the French discovered luxury on a scale beyond anything imagined in the medieval stone castles of the Loire Valley. Even today these villas remain among the wonders of the civilised world, with their architecture conceived by such renowned masters as Sangallo, Buontalenti, and Peruzzi, their interiors radiant with trompe-l'oeil frescoes attributed to the likes of Pontormo, Allori, and Il Volterrano, and their lush garden settings replete with fountains, grottoes, statuary, and breathtaking vistas.
Lavishly illustrated with more than 300 colour photographs, Villas of Tuscany brings together 40 superb examples ranging in date from the Middle Ages to the late 19th century. Each is captured with all its aristocratic trappings: towers, peach-color stucco walls, and red-tiled roofs; dovecotes, courtyards, and loggias; nobly proportioned salons with sumptuous furnishings; and panoramic views over the Tuscan landscape, a sun-drenched world of rolling hills, olive groves, vineyards, and tall cypresses. The text, by Florentine scholar Carlo Cresti, is richly informative.