Villa San Michele e Villa Conti (Foto Enrico Lattanzi)Villa San Michele, located between the port and the upper town, was the residence of the Conti family, who were aristocratic landowners originally from the town of Fiastra. The villa is a complex of buildings and service facilities within the grounds of a large park that contains valuable tree species. It began in the second half of the 19th century as a farmhouse for managing the vast landholdings. At the turn of the new century it became a holiday and social residence designed and built in the gaudy eclectic style that provided the setting for the fashions of the Belle Epoque. As well as figures from the upper Roman aristocracy, politicians and artists also stayed there, including the famous soprano Francisca Solari, with whom the last count, Pier Alberto, spent his life. The project for the entire design of the park and buildings was assigned to the Bolognese architect, Paolo Sironi, who was already well-regarded in the Emilian capital for having created stylish residential buildings for the city’s bourgeoisie. Aside from carrying out decorative work on the existing buildings, ranging from Neo-Rococo on the main house to the ‘Nordic’ style of the garage, the architect also designed his most significant work: the Conti Villa. This is the most important piece of architecture in the entire complex, and is considered by recent historians as the most noteworthy example of Art Nouveau in the Marches. Villa San Michele was started in 1907, in preparation for the wedding of the last count, Pier Alberto, and completed in 1910. The building’s facades are embellished with fine artificial stone decorations that vary in shade from grey to white and recapture the typical themes of the new style. The main entrance, shaped like an inverted heart, and the polygonal bow windows on the main floor and the corner tower are particularly interesting. The building remained unscathed during the bombardments of the last world war, thanks to its isolated position in the park, whereas the main villa and other buildings were destroyed and later rebuilt in contemporary architectural styles.