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Elena Corsini

text Domenico Savini photo Meigan Arnone

January 20, 2023

Elena Corsini among passions and curious anecdotes related to her illustrious family

Our interview with the passionate interior designer who belongs to one of the most important Florentine families

Among the most illustrious of Florentine dynasties, for more than eight centuries the Corsinis have been linked with the history of the city and, like few other families, that of Tuscany and Italy too. They have been merchants and bankers since the Middle Ages, their prestige extending throughout Europe. One of the most prominent family members is St Andrea Corsini, a 14th-century bishop of Fiesole. Over time, the noble Florentine family grew in wealth and economic power, and acquired incalculable property assets. They built two magnificent palaces in Florence as well as the sumptuous one in Rome’s Via della Lungara; all embellished with fabulous art collections.

Elena Corsini

The family’s fortunes reached their peak in the 18th century with the elevation of Cardinal Lorenzo Corsini to the papacy under the name of Clement XII in 1730. The Trevi Fountain, the Palazzo della Consulta in Piazza del Quirinale and the facade of San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome are all adorned with the Corsini coat of arms, irrefutable evidence of the family’s power and prestige in the period. The family was granted the status of Prince by the Pope. Today we meet a young woman who represents the latest generation. Elena, the daughter of Duccio and Clotilde Corsini, is a passionate interior designer who, whenever she can, goes to help her father - one of the most respected vignerons of Chianti Classico - among the vines, tractors, barrels and wine labels.

Elena Corsini

Of all the prominent members of your family, who are you most fond of?

My great-grandmother, also called Elena, who lived in Florence during the Second World War. She managed to hide our art collection to prevent it being stolen by the Nazis or destroyed by the bombing. She actually organised a bold and adventure-packed journey from Florence to Le Corti di San Casciano in Val di Pesa, 30 km from the city, and hid the artworks there; it’s the place where I was born and where I still live with my family.

Once Donna Elena had hidden all the art in the cellar, she took out the painting of St Andrea Corsini and placed it in front of the secret hiding place, as if to say “I’ve done my bit, now it’s up to you”. When the war was over, the person who went to collect the paintings found the portrait of the saint with a bullet hole through the head; perhaps a passing soldier shot at it and moved on, never imagining that a vast treasure lay behind the door. Today visitors to the Quadreria at Palazzo Corsini in Florence can see the portrait of St Andrea still damaged; our family decided not to restore it, in memory of my brave great-grandmother.

An itinerary in Florence to places associated with the Corsini family?

You could spend a whole weekend in Florence seeing only Corsini things! From Santa Maria Novella station, it’s a 5 minute walk to the monumental garden of Palazzo Corsini al Prato; then you can visit Palazzo Corsini on the bank of the river, with the Quadreria, home to the paintings we talked about before. Crossing the Arno you come to the Church of  Santa Maria del Carmine, where the relics of our St Andrea are kept. After that, if you feel like a trip out of town to the Chianti Classico, I recommend Villa Le Corti in San Casciano to taste our wine, visit the ancient cellars and eat Tuscan food in our restaurant.

Palazzo Corsini on the LungarnoVilla Le Corti, where Elena grew up

Which of the wines your father makes at Villa Le Corti is your favourite?

Fico, but it wasn’t developed by my father. It was an experiment by my brother, who sadly died in 2016. During a visit to Argentina, Filippo had seen biodynamic wine being made, with techniques used by producers before the advent of the chemical industry, so without sulphites. My father gave him eight rows of the best vines, and now this wine is his legacy. Since he left us, my mother, my father, my sister Selvaggia and I have continued his work, increasing production each year. It’s our favourite wine, and I think it’s the favourite of the whole family and everyone who works at the Corti.

Fico’s vineyard before the grape harvest

A dream for your family’s future?

To find a way to make our historical heritage contemporary and convey it to others. I’m still very young, so I’m living and experimenting to find it.

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