Villa of Donato
Sant'Eframo Vecchio is a village in itself: a small Naples in miniature; a square with the Capuchin convent has been its beating heart since 1530. Villa di Donato is next door, it is an original eighteenth-century example of a hunting lodge, one of the few still existing in the urban area of Naples. The long and well-kept driveway, the stables on the lower floors and the overall cubic layout appear in the 1790 plan by Rizzi Zannoni.
The eighteenth-century Villa retains its charm intact thanks to the gardens, the well-preserved frescoes - with hunting scenes, rural life and clothes of the time among elegant grotesques - clearly shows the date of 1786.
The polite hospitality, the respect for the art of knowing how to receive and its refined nature as a container of arts and music confirm its atmosphere of a private "home", and are safeguarded by the hosts Patrizia and Gianfranco de Mennato.
Since 2016 it has hosted "Live in Villa di Donato", a review of music, theater and chamber music that has met with great success, event after event, placing itself as a Polo of Arts and Cultures: factory, laboratory always open to research and observatory on new creative energies of the city.
Villa di Donato won the 2018 Green Care Award for the best private green space open to the city and the 2019 Cultural Classic Award for cultural promotion in the social sphere.
It hosted: Adsi - Italian Historic Houses Association, Avos project, Christie's, FAI, FAI youth, Avelino Domenico Cimarosa Conservatory, Less Onlus, Naples Bar Association, Naples Order of Architects, Universiade, Salotto Talberg, Friends of the Museums of Naples, Caruso Prize, Veronesi Foundation, the days of Casa Corriere, Garden Naples and other cultural institutions.
History and characteristics
Villa di Donato is located in Naples in the sixteenth-century Piazza Sant'Eframo Vecchio near the Capuchin convent and the adjoining Catacombs, in that part of ancient Naples that lies behind the Albergo dei Poveri and the Real Botanical Garden.
The Villa is accessed through a wide avenue, surrounded by gardens that preserve the eighteenth-century layout, with pines, magnolias and centuries-old palms. Furthermore, the two centenary araucarias are monumental, which delimit the space of the main courtyard, defining the facade of the villa.
The entrance, which opens onto the courtyard, is adjacent to the coach house, in which some marbles found during the restoration of the garden have been inserted as traces of memory.
A double flight staircase, which is interrupted to allow access to the winter garden, leads to the main floor, where the large hall and the lounges preserve the atmosphere of the time intact.
The frescoes from the period of Ferdinand IV - well preserved and never restored - evoke scenes of hunting and rural life through shoots of flowers, flights of birds, garlands and grotesques. These also present more domestic references, portraying the ancient inhabitants of the house, of the pertinent rural funds and the artisans and designers who built the Villa. The mirrors and furnishings recall ancient plays of lights and candles.
The restoration work of the house involved the whole family, rediscovering the ancient atmosphere of a lived and loved home, welcoming and frequently open to friends.
Villa di Donato took on its current configuration as early as 1700, when the original structure located in the Bosco di Sant'Eframo was transformed into a "hunting lodge" by the Barons of Donato di Casteldonato.
The house, which remained uninhabited for about thirty years after the death of the Marquise Maria, has only recently recovered its original characteristic of a family residence.
The owners themselves faced the challenge of conserving the Villa, tracing the guidelines for the intervention in the family memories and documents. Their purpose was, in fact, to keep the identity of the house intact, aided - in this passionate "romantic" restoration - by the substantial unity of the architectural system which has not undergone significant changes over time.
The restoration work has made it possible to restore to the entire complex its character as a place for recreation, a serene break from worries, reconfirming the original destination, also testified by the inscription in the winter garden, which traces the names of the noble Ladies which, since the beginning of the eighteenth century, contributed to making this residence more and more pleasant.