Villa Orlando was built in 1869 as a hunting lodge by Pietro Kotzian, an Austrian fabric merchant from Livorno, and designed by the Florentine architect Gino Pachò.
The Villa is in the neo-Gothic style in vogue at the time. You can find a hint to the Central European origins of the Kotzian family in the severity of the use of grey slate for the roof, just tempered by the use of Romanesque or Classical elements.
The building has a quadrangular plan, with the internal spaces divided according to precise mathematical ratios of 4/3.
The insert of the tower, also quadrangular, in the South West corner, constitutes the characteristic theme of the project, a theme that was taken up, in later years, for the annexes of the Villa. It can be assumed that Pachò, inspired by the name of the village - Torre del Lago, in fact - wanted to recreate that tower which, although giving the name to the hamlet, had all but disappeared.
Salvatore Orlando purchased the Villa from the Kotzian family in 1896 and, in the following years, carried out a series of alterations. He was responsible for the construction of the Dining Room with neo-Renaissance wood panelling and the ceiling frescoed by Guglielmo Micheli, with grotesques and reproductions of some of the warships built by the Livorno family-owned shipyard.
Salvatore extended the garden to reach the public road and traced the driveway to the Villa, unchanged today, flanked by plane trees, palm trees and roses.
The boat house, with its own turret in white stone, gives access to the lake through a characteristic pointed arch and is surmounted by a large belvedere terrace.
At the entrance of the property, Salvatore built a monumental complex, also in white stone, a porter’s lodge facing what today is Viale Puccini: a neo-Gothic style small castle with a crenelated round tower only marginally shorter than the tower of the villa itself, connected by two moated ramparts to two lateral turrets.
A stone bridge, over the moat, led into the tree-lined driveway through a cross-vaulted hall.
From 1943 to 1944, Villa Orlando was commandeered as the headquarters of the Wehrmacht responsible for the management of the seized military seaplane base of Lake Massaciuccoli. An anti-aircraft gun was installed on the gatehouse tower.
Before retreating North in front of the advancing Allied Armies, the Germans placed some charges at the base of the two towers of the property with the intention of demolishing them. While the explosive caused only minor damages, later repaired, to the Villa, the porter's lodge was completely razed. In the following years the moat, was filled.
Villa Orlando retains the character of the private residence of the Orlando family, whose historic Archive is preserved in the library on the first floor. However for years it has also been home to high-profile cultural events, such as chamber music concerts, conferences, art exhibitions, book presentations and charity events. Villa Orlando co-operates with the Puccini Opera Festival since its inception, hosting concerts, conferences, award ceremonies and a memorable production of Benjamin Britten’s Opera The Turn of the Screw.
Villa Orlando has also been the set for many films and documentaries, including some on Puccini's life and, over the years, famous Italian directors such as Carmine Gallone, Dino Risi and Ricky Tognazzi and actors such as Fred Astaire, Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren have worked here.