Caprarola’s Eccentric Beauties

April 22, 2014 / Places
Caprarola, Lazio

Perched on a hillside with views extending to Rome 50 kilometres away, the magnificent Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola was the original “Pentagon” and home to the powerful Farnese family in Renaissance times.

Justin Bradshaw sketch of pentagonal Palazzo Farnese

In the early 1900s the palazzo was home to American expat, Florence Baldwin, who lived there with her daughters and her Italian lover, Don Agostino Chigi.

Guests at this magnificent country home included Bernard Berenson and Gabriele D’Annunzio who used the palazzo and its magnificent gardens as the setting for his novel “The Virgins of the Rocks”.

caprarola fountain
sala mappamondo
Maps room Palazzo Farnese, photo Gianfranco Pignatale

Eldest daughter Gladys Deacon, one of the most talked about beauties of the 1920s and 30s, eventually married the 9th Duke of Marlborough and went to live in Blenheim Castle.


A special evening dedicated to “The Great Beauties of Caprarola” is planned for this Friday, April 25th, when Palazzo Farnese will be open after hours and Hugo Vickers, author of numerous biographies on English aristocracy, will show vintage photos of the Palazzo when eccentric, beautiful expats called it home.

caprarola stairs
caprar casina piaceri


Mary Jane Cryan

by Mary Jane Cryan

Mary Jane is a historian, cruise lecturer, author and publisher of books on Italian history and central Italy has been residing in Italy for half a century.

See her award winning website and weekly blog posts on 50YearsInItaly for more about central Italy and to order books directly from the author.

13 Responses to “Caprarola’s Eccentric Beauties”

  1. Mary Jane, There has to be more to this story… Your article was a tease, an antipasto. Please share more…

    • Mary Jane Cryan

      Tom, there is a lot more, the illustrated conference on Fri. 25th in the Palazzo Farnese will be a revelation, very few people know about this, one of the many stories and secrets of Etruria/Tuscia. Many others are contained in my latest book in Italian.

      • Charity

        Is your book ONLY in Italian?? Now that you have titillated us all?? My family went there several times while we were living in Italy and one of the many outstanding things we saw and learned there was of the extensive and unique gardens.It is truly a fantastic location.

  2. Forgive me correcting you Mary Jane but it’s Blenheim Palace, not castle :D

  3. edward bertozzi

    I visited the Palazzo Farnese about 10 years ago and was awestruck by the beautiful interiors. I was unable to find, at that time, a book, in english or italian, with good quality color photos of the interior. Is there such a book? Thanks very much

    • Mary Jane Cryan

      Edward, the Sovrintendenza makes it very difficult to photograph inside the Palazzo. The photos for the book (some you see here ) had to have special permission for us to publish them. I will check if there are any books -besides mine- available now.

  4. Patrizia

    I know this is off-topic but the last comments on Bologna in Italian Notebook are dated from 2011 and I need help with a current problem regarding the city where I was born. We moved from Bologna to America when I was 9 1/2. Recently I was given a lot of correspondence dating from the time when my family lived in Bologna. I’ve tried locating our last address on Google Earth but haven’t had any success. This is exactly how it’s written on the letters I have which date back to the 60′s: Via Porrettana 2/4 (near the top of the 4 there’s a little circle that looks like a temperature degree symbol) , Croce di Casalecchio di Reno, Bologna. Via Porrettana still exists. I found it on Google Earth but the apartment building we lived in must’ve been razed because the precise address did not come up on Google Earth. I think the little circle near the number 4 indicates an abbreviation for “quarto piano” or “4th floor”. Can anyone help me figure this out? Thank you!

    • Mary Jane Cryan

      The 2/4 means building’s number and apartment number. I will send your question to my daughter who lived in Bologna for 5 years (for University) . Sometimes they change street names, what year did you move away ? Rarely are buildings razed .

    • Paola Nanni-tate

      The little circle means it is the fourth building of the group. I am from Bologna too and often go to Via Porrettana. Would you like me to look the addres up? Do not rely only on google. Many times the Google Italy doen’t show certain corners. you can send me an email if you wish to know mor.
      I love my Bologna. Where do you live?


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