It’s a beautiful April afternoon, and Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta has just pulled into the driveway of Villa Firenze in a gleaming yellow 2006 Maserati. Noticing the small crowd gathered in his front entryway, he smiles and beckons with his hand, “Isn’t this a beautiful machine?” he asks, with the mischief and sophistication of an Italian James Bond, “Who wants to go for a ride?” Minutes later, the Ambassador and the Maserati deliver one delighted journalist back to the residence. “What a special car,” he beams.
Ambassador Castellaneta and his wife, Lila, arrived in Washington last fall, but clearly the couple is already “a casa” in the iconic diplomatic residence, Villa Firenze. Purchased from Polly Guggenheim. In 1976, the Tudor manor has become an enduring symbol of Italy in Washington.
Equally as enchanting as the main house are Villa Firenze’s formal gardens, which encompass over 17 acres of lawns and woodlands in the heart of Cleveland Park. “It’s fantastic!” raves Lila, striking in a white Yves Saint Laurent suit as she seats herself on the terrace overlooking the rolling south lawn. “Where we live is a paradise … we’re in the center of a city, but we have the most beautiful garden, and so many trees that you can’t see anyone else, so it’s perfect.