The most recognizable and emblematic element of the Montale area is without doubt the impressive Villa Smilea that rises with its crenellated towers on the Via Garibaldi. The current appearance of the Villa is a fifteenth century construction inspired, maybe, by Michelozzo (this makes it comparable to the Medici Villa of Cafaggiolo), but the name betrays its ancient origins: it seems that “Smilea” derives from the Latin phrase “Sex Milia” (Six Miles), the distance between the building and the center of the city. At first it was a fortress, then it became a noble residence and today it is a multipurpose cultural center: Villa Smilea is the ideal representative of change.
From the fourteenth century the villa belonged to the Panciatichi family, but already in the sixteenth century the property passed to the rival Cancellieri family. At that time, the Cancellieri formed an alliance with the Republic of Florence, who retained control of the territory. When the relation between Florence and the Cancellieri started to deteriorate, the Villa was confiscated and purchased in 1612 by the Florentine Marquis Francesco di Piero Covoni. His family had it transformed into a farm and expanded it with a second building. In 2003, after several changes of property, the City of Montale bought the complex and immediately began working on the ambitious redevelopment of its architectural and functional spaces. The building has been reopened to full public accessibility. The inner courtyard, decorated by sculptures of Jorio Vivarelli (1922-2008) faces the new library, while the main floor rooms, decorated with fine neoclassical views, regularly hold exhibitions, meetings, concerts and conferences. Some of the rooms have been designed to accommodate a permanent exhibition of sculptures, mosaics and plaster figures of the Jorio Vivarelli collection. It is a worthy tribute of Montale to one of its most illustrious citizens.