The Villa of the Fashionista: Villa Sant’Isidoro in Aspra

I have spent eleven years being irritated by an 18th century villa near my house, because it blocks the middle of what could be a perfect road running right behind Casa Nostra into the nearest town.


Despite its fancy gates, Villa Sant’Isidoro looked like a derelict building from the outside. I assumed it would fall down all by itself soon, and then my traffic jam problems would be solved.


That was before I knew it was inhabited by a very old lady called Maria Teresa de Cordova, the last member of a noble family, whose ancestor had been the Viceroy of Sicily, second in command to the king himself.

It was also before I knew that its rooms all looked like this.


And before I saw two of the 18th century oil paintings she was taking great care of, by Sicilian masters Pietro Novelli and Jusepe de Ribeira, who painted in the style of Caravaggio. They have visited a few art galleries since they were “discovered”.

The painting in this poster belongs to the villa. It was lent to an art gallery in Cefalù for a special exhibition.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not forgiving her because she was old, or posh. I just suddenly got a soft spot for her when I found out she’d owned a collection of Baroque torture instruments. I’ll be doing a blog post specially dedicated to those, so WATCH THIS SPACE!

To be fair, they were inherited from her Spanish ancestors. She had also been a raven-haired beauty with a to-die-for collection of designer dresses.


By the time I found out Maria Teresa had been a trendsetting fashionista, I was wishing I’d had the chance to meet her. She was a debutante in 1953, and her Christian Dior ballgown is displayed in the house along with photos of her wearing it on her big day. Debutantes are sent out into the world to find a husband, yet she never married.

I wonder if she had a sad heartbreak and never fell in love again.


She lived out her last years among five centuries of family history and treasures. Her family were of Spanish origin and they were among the leaders of the military offensive to expel the Moors from Spain. They also persuaded Isabel and Ferdinand to send Columbus across the Atlantic to discover America. These two acts made them one of Spain’s most influential families.


When she passed away in 2011, she left the house and its vast grounds to family friends, who founded a trust to preserve it. They have worked for the last three years to restore it to a suitable condition to open it to the public, which they did just four months ago.


Their dedication to restoring the villa, and their passion for its history, is contagious. But they need 5 million Euros urgently to restore the building.


They’re not kidding about this, by the way. The place badly needs some serious work. I’ve had a jolly good look at the place structurally, and I can personally vouch for the fact that the vibrations of two Sicilians arguing at a normal Sicilian level of decibels might be enough to reduce the place to rubble. I think they urgently need a bit of crowdfunding to save this Sicilian treasure.


A collection of vintage cameras and photography paraphernalia was found in the attic, along with a set of paints for retouching photos in colour – the Victorian equivalent of Photoshop.


There’s also a hurdy gurdy in full working order, equipped with a fabulous collection of operatic music rolls, though sadly minus both organ grinder and monkey. (I am considering offering my services, as I do still need a full-time job.)


There’s a vast collection of smoking paraphernalia, including not only Meerschaum pipes and tobacco pouches from across the world, but two ingenious cigar stands, one of which has a rotating mechanism operated by a little knob on the top.


Villa Sant’Isidoro is a treasure-trove of Sicilian history and art, of intimate family memories mixed with political events that changed the course of history. This is by no means the last post I will write about it!

I once dreamed about it falling down; now, it’s become one of my favourite places in the whole world.


All the photos in this post are By Karen La Rosa of La Rosa Works. La Rosa Works organises unique and exceptional tours of Sicily, and I accompanied one of the groups to a banquet with live music in Villa Sant’Isidoro.


Villa Sant’Isidoro, Aspra


The villa is open seven days a week, from 10am till 1pm and from 4pm till 7pm in summer (May – September) and from 10am till 1pm and from 3pm till 6pm in winter (October to April).

Please double check with the villa before travelling, as Italians routinely change their museum opening hours based on important football matches and family birthday parties and sometimes when they’re tired.


It’s round the back of my house.

Ha ha!!! OK, seriously, it’s Viale Sant’Isidoro 39, Bagheria, 90011, Sicily.

I recommend using the information and Map on Google by searching

‘Villa Sant’Isidoro de Cordova’


20 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen says:

    Bees knees is putting it mildly – what a spectacular day. Thank you, Veronica for enlivening the moments with your knowledge and great sense of humor. I’m glad we had the first day the week prior to take the photos and I am flattered they allowed me that privilege. I hope it helps. I know two people, family members, who visited this villa often as children. I promised them photos and now I can forward this. Beautifully done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you too Karen, for bringing us all together and giving us such a wonderful day!


  2. Oh, wowsers. I love buildings like that. Does it have a majestic staircase? They bring out the Scarlet O’Hara in me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh you’d LOVE this one! It has a majestic double staircase that goes up the OUTSIDE of the building and brings you regally into the middle of the courtyard where your carriage awaits to take you to the ball!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mrs Playmo and I are feverishly stuffing our ballgowns and Doc Martens into our travel bags.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. turinmamma says:

    I can see why your feelings about it have changed. As you say, this building is a microcosm of Sicilian art, history and politics worth preserving. Looking forward to finding out more about these Baroque-era torture devices…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the thing that makes everyone who visits te place fall in love is the fact that you don’t just see magnificent art and antiques, but all the little details of private lives lived out day by day among them. It’s the juxtaposition of the magnificent and the heart-rendingly personal.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Giuseppe says:

    The staff of Villa Sant’Isidoro De Cordova thanks you for your wonderful article and for the wonderful day spent together …. 🙂


    1. Thank YOU for making our visit so wonderful!! Your warm welcome was overwhelming to your first group of American visitors and they will never forget the wonderful experience!


  5. Malla Duncan says:

    This has given me the shivers. The kind of shivers that I get when I sense a story taking hold, the imagination stimulated enough to sniff out new tales.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes – I would LOVE to know all the stories that went on in there over the centuries!


  6. If only those walls could talk! What a beautiful place. I’m glad it didn’t fall down!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Emily Woods says:

    I was lucky enough to be there for that incredible afternoon at Villa Sant’Isidoro. I think that Maria Teresa would be tickled pink if she saw how graciously we were hosted, and feted and serenaded to- all in the midst of this beautiful property. Thanks to you Veronica, and to Karen and to the whole staff at Villa Sant’Isidoro for such a magical day. I hope to return again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad you loved it there as I did …and hope we really will see you here again soon! 😀


  8. onomatopoeicbliss says:

    Actually . . . I was just thinking what it would be like to do the Wild Thing in that room with all the lights 😎

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! I’ll try it next time I’m there and let you know!!! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Marie Giacalone says:

    Beautiful- thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. onomatopoeicbliss says:

    Ima thinking ‘Roni is preggers😤 what else would keep her from typing??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha haaa! Not preggers, but another major piece of news…. I am madly busy but I will write about it as soon as I have a little time in the new year!


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