Following the Tripet-Skrypitzine family, other foreigners moved into the Californie area. In 1879, an English banker and member of the British parliament, Sir Julian Goldsmith commissioned a large palladien villa with four floors and eight marble pillars. Finished with a hipped roof, the building possessed, along with a string of rooms visited by the Duke of Vallombrosa and the Marquise of Mac-Mahon, twelve master bedrooms and nine staff bedrooms. Within a park of 3 hectares, the owner creates Italian style gardens, in hommage to his wife who was born in Florence, and which determined the name of the villa : Fiorentina.
In 1892, the property was purchased by Giorigi de Vitalo, a descendant from an old family of Venetian merchants who later contracted railway lines in the Balkan states. Already owners of a chateau close to Paris and a Baldini palace in Rome, the Vitalis had a reputation of receiving guests with style, and rumour had it that there was no place more hospitable than the South of France. An avid music lover, he often organised concerts at the villa or on his yacht, the old Katoomba, renamed Fiorentina II. Devoted, the Count and the Countess soon after built a private chapel, with a Belvedere bell, visible from all parts of Cannes, and connected it to the building via a path. At the East side of the villa, they also built a theatre and a private concert room which hosted many well known faces. The Italian also took the liberty of remodelling the park, where he built a water room, a Greek temple, along with a winter garden filled with tree ferns and vines, which led out from the dining room. Avid automobile fans, the Count had bought a collection of cars and attempted to drive them personally, despite the local press doubting his skill after several accidents.
Around 1910, the domain was acquired by a German, the Baron Carl von Weinberg, who perpetrated the villas tradition by organising large elegant receptions where notably the Prince Bernard de Saxe-Meiningen, the Baron Stick von Steenberg, the Princess Ghika, the Countess Diesbach of Bellroche of the Countess of Potocka. During the festivities, the Baron often received his guests dressed in a black velvet gown, a diamond embroidered bodice and rhinestone and emerald tiaras. The First World War puts and end to the parties. The villa Fiorentina was placed under receivership and sold in an auction in 1921. Once again, a high ranking buyer purchases the property, an American Abigail Pankhurst, who became the Princess Daria Karageorgevitch following her marriage with a member of the Royal Serbian household. Receptions and harp concerts continued. Known to be a little temperamental, the Princess brings in a dozen peacocks, re creates the gardens to a French and Italian style, removes the cloister from the roof and from the grey marble pillars. Inside the villa, she removes the top floor, transforming the slate roof as a roof top terrace. It is said that, every time she left home, even for a short time, the Princess gathered the domestic staff and shook each persons hand like she was leaving for an extended period.
Following the Second World War, the building was divided. In 1953, the furniture from the Fiorentina was sold by auction and the building was bought by financiers. They transformed the roof terrace back to a top floor, added balconies on the South side of the facade which were not the same style of the construction and divided the building into apartments. Only the chapel remains intact today, thanks to the painter Emmanuel Bellini who bought it to use as his workshop and thus preserving it from demolition or doubtful reversion.
Available for rent – Two bedroom apartment in the Parc Fiorentina
Available for rent in the residence, a two bedroom apartment, wonderfully furnished with quality materials. Offering a South West facing terrace (42 m²), fully air conditioned, parking.
See the listing here (Ref. CN44).