The Siviero House Museum
Thanks to the active collaboration of the Amici dei Musei Association, the small but delightful house-museum in Casa Siviero has just reopened its doors at n°1/3 Lungarno Serristori (entrance through the garden gate), though unfortunately it can only be visited, for the moment at least, on Mondays (9.30am to 12.30pm) and Saturdays (3.30pm to 6.30pm); entrance is free. It contains the valuable collection of works of art put together during the lifetime of its former owner, a veritable James Bond of Art, who donated ieverything to the Region of Tuscany just before his death in 1983.
You may ask why he is called the James Bond of Art. He acquired this nickname - which he probably far preferred to the official title of Plenipotential Minister that he received from the Italian government in 1946 - for his scrupulous work in recuperating the art treasures plundered during the last World War, mainly by the Germans on the excuse of protecting them from harm, but also, and unfortunately, by many others, with the result that he travelled all over the world to trace them, at times using somewhat unorthodox but fully justified methods. Perhaps, though this is just an inference, he found his part as a James Bond really congenial especially if we remember that he was born at Guardistallo, near Volterra, in the Province of Pisa; I say this because, according to a friend of mine who used to spend his summer holidays there every year, the village's name is derived from "guarda stalla" (stable guard) and shows how careful its inhabitants were to protect their property from eventual raids by people living in the surrounding areas.
The entrance to the Siviero House
Let us therefore visit the ten rooms of this museum-house, where it would be wonderful to live; the first room , formerly the dining room , contains a large rectangular table in the centre, a huge 18th century sideboard, and another smaller one, against the walls which are hung with several paintings; there is also an impressive monumental fireplace with a grey stone "fronton" decorated with the same coat of arms that we can find in several other rooms in the house. Our exploration continues along a corridor that leads into three sitting rooms, each one of which contains priceless antiques that fully testify to the refined passion for collecting that we can find throughout the house. A corridor takes us into the sixth room, the guest room, which is characterized by an iron canopied bedstead and an outstanding drawing by Pietro Annigoni dedicated "to my old friend Rodolfo Siviero". Other "rarities" are displayed in the rooms that follow, one of which, really Spartan in size, was Siviero's bedroom while the study-library is much larger and more comfortable and stuffed with books; this is where our hero spent many an hour consulting mighty tomes, and working out his future strategies for what can be considered as his mission in life: the recovery of as many art works as he possibly could. An exhibition was held in the eighties in Palazzo Vecchio to display these works, described in detail in a beautiful book by Canini which also contains a presentation and a series of comments by Sandro Pertini, then President of the Republic, who moreover awarded the exhibition his patronage.
Canopied bed in the Siviero House
In spite of the wonderful qualities of the Siviero House Museum, perhaps one of its shortcomings is the lack of documentation on what he actually managed to carry out, on how hard he worked, and also on all the obstacles that his work and this activity encountered from the Italian authorities, who should really have been doing their best to help him and yet, at one time, were even planning to close his office. In spite of all these adversities however, Rodolfo Siviero managed to beat bureaucracy at its own game and we are deeply grateful to him for doing so.
Last of all we would like to include a story about Lungarno Serristori where the Museum stands: a noblewoman and member of the Serristori family, one of the queen's ladies at court - probably Queen Margherita - frequently went to Rome as part of her social position and always stayed at the same hotel where she was well known and highly respected; she arrived unexpectedly one day to find that her usual hotel was full and was therefore directed to another hotel nearby; when the porter taking down her name and address, heard the name Serristori, he remarked: "Ah, you have the same name as the Lungarno". To which the noblewoman, somewhat offended, replied dryly: "you fool, it is the Lungarno that is called after me!"
Siviero House, Lungarno Serristori n°1/3 - Entrance free - Hours: Mondays 9.30am-12.30pm and Saturdays 3.30-6.30pm. To book visits on other days: Associazione Amici dei Musei, tel. 055/293007.
Catch buses 13 or 23 or D to reach the Museum , getting off at the 2nd stop after Ponte alle Grazie; the bus stop for the return journey is right in front of the house.