AT NUMBER 257
Valtorta’s House is located in Viareggio, at number 257 of the long central street Via Antonio Fratti, a few meters from the intersection with Via Leonardo da Vinci.
Valtorta’s House is located in Viareggio, at number 257 of the long central street Via Antonio Fratti, a few meters from the intersection with Via Leonardo da Vinci.
The house is a classic example of Viareggio’s vernacular architecture with a small garden on the back and two floors of which the ground floor was used as a living room, dining room and kitchen while the second had the bedrooms. A beautiful marble staircase connects the two floors.
To Maria's soul, faithful and generous, Jesus offers Himself, as He says on October 27, 1943:
“Here, in your room, where your faith shines more than a lamp and your love gives off perfume more than incense, I have placed my cradle, my little cradle, which contains Me, large as in Heaven. […] Maria, make your house a Nazareth and a Bethany. It already is because I am there, and make it more so with a complete love for your Eucharistic Jesus. Illness is not an obstacle for the loving heart. There are numberless churches where I am alone. Come into them with your spirit. Make up for others’ lack of love.”
There now remains only the great peace of being here. It is as if the house were embracing me…and, along with the house, my dead loved ones, and I with them‑I rediscover “my” little Paradise, lost in April, and all of them return, as then. And all of them for me.
Jesus says to Maria, after the forced evacuation for the War:
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, through your constant presence make this dwelling a house in Nazareth. Heart of Jesus, Heart of Mary, and Heart of Joseph, give us your love and take ours. Save us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
“You shall say this to reconsecrate the house, and you shall have each and every room blessed. And remember—you and those who are with you—that where we are there must be nothing which can wound our holiness.”
Notebooks, 28 December 1944
Coming back from St Andrea di Compito:
And then the moment of departure…and the moment of arrival. To see my house…. I foresaw that my nerves would be shattered. I have always foreseen this. And I was not mistaken. Shattered to the point that, like a bitter river in a lake of honey, waves and waves of pain, of all the pain I have had in this house, of all the pain from being torn away from it, and of all the pain in that terrible exile, and also the memories of past days, the deaths of my mother and father…and so many, many other things…all fell upon my heart together, a heart which was already exhausted by excessively intense joy, and I wept and wept and wept for twenty-four hours without being able to restrain myself.
I call this the house of my love, and it is. Here I have loved God, knowing Him more and more, to the point of my current knowledge as his spokesman. Here I received his first caresses, which marked me, I believe, even organically. Here I learned to love the Mother as She should be loved. Here I became the little John.828 And now Jesus has consecrated it for me by calling it the “house of Nazareth.”
Toward the end of September Marta Diciotti Goes quickly to the house in Viareggio and in the garden she founds a blossoming geranium. She picks up a flower and brings it to the evacuated Maria in St Andrea di Compito, due to the extensive bombings in Viareggio, and so she writes:
The first flower to bring me joy after six months minus fifteen days in which the most beautiful flowers have left me indifferent. A poor, small, half-withered white geranium, another one of those my mother looked at, those that grew in the earth of my flowerbed, brought almost entirely by my father! A poor flower and so beautiful for me!
Notebooks, 27 September 1944
It is allowed to access the house to visit Maria’s room.
The visits are managed by Ms. Anna Matteoni.
To plan a tour in advance, simply contact her on the telephone number: 349 39 16 137.
ENTRANCE IS FREE
The Valtorta family bought the house in Via Fratti in 1924, and moved there from Florence. Not rich, but still wealthy, they furnished the house with period furniture, which they had brought with them during their frequent transfers, and with objects that were family memories and of the cities in which they had lived. Perhaps they put curtains, which have not been preserved, and redid the little upholstery.
The house, on two floors, was not large, but it was comfortable for the needs of that time.
Maria found it to her liking, just as she had desired it, and she remained attached to it throughout her life.
When Maria fell ill in 1934, the living room on the ground floor became her bedroom. The following year, a month before the death of her father, Marta Diciotti came to the house, at full service, and slept in the patient’s room, in a single bed without backrests (she was small in stature) placed longwise on the right wall. Behind the same wall, in the adjoining dining room, a bed was set up for Maria’s mother when age and ailments demanded constant assistance for her too. So the house was adapting to the new needs and some pieces turned out to be too many, such as the piano, which was sold.
Mrs. Iside died in 1943, eight years after her husband’s death.
The following year, in April, Maria and Marta had to leave the house due to the displacement imposed by the war and they moved with part of the furniture to Sant’Andrea di Còmpito. They returned in December and the house returned as it was before, not having suffered any damage.
The two women, left alone, could do without the upper floor, consisting of two bedrooms and a small room, with a landing gallery. In summer, as the people of Viareggio do, they rented the rooms to bathers, and the proceeds of a few months ended up becoming the only source of income for the entire year. Despite the economic restrictions, Maria and Martha lived with dignity in the house which was their only wealth.
Maria Valtorta passed away in her room on the morning of 12 October 1961.
In the years following the death of Maria Valtorta, a period of relative comfort began for Marta Diciotti, the author’s heiress, that permitted to gradually do renovation and upgrading works in the house, of which she was usufructuary.
She had the natural gas heating system installed, placing the boiler in the small kitchen, which had been refurbished in a good way, and placing radiators in every room on the ground floor and upper floor. She was therefore able to eliminate the old-fashioned cast iron stove which in the stairwell reduced the short passage between the door of Maria’s room and the door of the dining room.
She wanted to have a small bathroom built in the small courtyard (which the Viareggio call “vegetable garden”) located at the rear of the house, so that the exit door into the garden (from the stairwell) became the door to enter the bathroom. The house, which had only the toilet which was accessed from the landing halfway up the staircase between the two floors, thus acquired the double service, but saw the already tiny “garden” halved.
She brought in the television and equipped herself with appliances, placing the refrigerator in the dining room, which did not find space in the kitchen. Still in the dining room, she changed the chandelier with one of her own taste, in crystal drops, and upstairs she set up a room for herself, with the painted iron bed and the lacquered wardrobe.
She had great respect for Maria’s room, which she kept intact, with the bed always in order and protected by cellophane. At the head of the bed she hung the oil portrait painted in 1963 by Lorenzo Ferri in grateful memory for the mystical writer. Everything else in the room remained as it was when Maria died, with the addition of some ornament as a sign of devotion. But in the other rooms of the house Marta freely placed pictures and objects she had received as gifts or which she considered useful or pleasant.
Marta Diciotti had been with Maria Valtorta for twenty-six years and, after Maria’s death, she lived in the same house for another thirty-five years. Admitted to hospital on October 19, 1996 for a fractured femur, she never returned home, except a few times for short visits. After the rehabilitation hospitalisation in the Barbantini nursing home, in the locality of Bicchio, she would settle in the elderly residence on the upper floor of the same nursing home.
In the Valtorta house, which was left uninhabited, the breakdowns of brackish humidity, which Marta’s daily care, with the help of the heating system, had partly mitigated, were drastically increasing, especially on the ground floor.
In several places the plaster swelled and fell, the floor tiles were increasingly worn.
The General Curia of the Order of Servants of Mary, owner of the property by the will of Valtorta, was informed of the dilapidated state of the house.
Following an inspection by the General Treasurer, the General Council decided to sell the house by offering it to the Valtortiano Publishing Center, which accepted. The notarial deed of sale was signed in Rome on February 26, 1998. (Reflecting on the date of that day, after leaving the notary’s office, Emilio Pisani discovered that it was the fiftieth anniversary of February 26, 1948, when Pope Pius XII received in audience with three Servite Fathers who had to talk to him about the still unpublished work of Maria Valtorta).
Marta Diciotti died on February 5, 2001, at the age of ninety. Out of respect toward her, who had preserved the right of usufruct, the renovation and restoration works began after her death in the summer of 2001. The deterioration had progressed to the point that the wall behind Maria Valtorta’s bed, removed like all the other furniture, dripped water.
Marta could not bear to see the house completely empty, without doors or windows, with plastered walls and torn floors. This is how the ground floor looked after the first phase of restoration: like a house under construction (or demolition). In fact, the entire flooring had to be dismantled in order to be able to reconstruct it on cupels that isolated it from the sandy soil, typical of the city of Viareggio and cause of moisture. The walls would also have been plastered after a dehumidifying treatment.
Unfortunately it was not possible to reuse the old tiles on the ground floor, which was therefore repaved with tiles of the same material and with the same designs and colours, but new. The problem did not arise, however, for the rooms on the upper floor, where floors and plaster, not being corroded by humidity, did not need to be redone but only cleaned and repainted.
The floor of Maria Valtorta’s room suffered the same fate as the other rooms on the ground floor. However, with the recovered materials it was possible to build a platform to rest on a new floor and on which to place the bed. The platform was a partial reconstruction of the ancient floor, where light tiles alternated with dark tiles. To highlight its authenticity, the floor of the room was all redone with new light tiles.
The bed was placed on the platform together with the bedside table and the small table, on which the usual objects remained. Outside the platform, in front of the bed, the mirrored wardrobe in which Maria Valtorta had kept her autographed notebooks returned to its place.
Three pieces of furniture, on the other hand, were moved to other rooms. In the entrance, with the register of signatures, is now the desk that was previously inserted between the side of the wardrobe and the wall of the French door. In an upstairs room is the mirrored dressing table that was on the bed wall. Also upstairs, after being reupholstered as a sofa, is the small single bed on which Martha slept next to the bed of the sick Maria.
On the other hand, two wall cabinets (one in the room, on the wall of the bed; the other outside, in front of the door of the room) displayed Valtortian objects and memories.
More space was made in Maria Valtorta’s room so that visitors, who are mostly readers of her works and the memories of her life, could move around it admiring the essentials, in remembrance and meditation.
Leaving the room the visitor returns to the stairwell leading to the upper floor. The back wall, on which the landing that connects the two flights of the marble staircase rests, had a crescent-shaped non-opening window at the top, with yellow glass in a radial frame. That semicircle was doubled making it become a tondo, which in the frame and coloured glass repeated the design of the beautiful glass door on the ground floor, the one that still, restored, divides the entrance from the stairwell. In addition to giving more light, that rose window gives the environment a tone of sacredness. It was an arbitrary makeover, which perhaps Maria Valtorta would not have minded.
Also arbitrary, but above all for a practicality criterion, were the interventions made on the services: kitchen and bathrooms. Without so many scruples, both because they were environments already remodelled by Marta Diciotti in the past years, and because their efficiency serves those who have to take care of the house.
The small kitchen, which communicates with the dining room (where the original chandelier has returned, which Marta had kept by placing it on top of a wardrobe), has been modernised with elegance and efficiency. Freed from the bulky central heating system (replaced by a boiler in accordance with the law, placed outside), a sideboard with a raised part was found there, repainted in green, in the stairwell, where it restricted the passage to exit into the small courtyard. (the so-called “vegetable garden”).
The exit to the courtyard, which Marta had closed with the construction of the bathroom, was reopened by demolishing a portion of the bathroom, which became a toilet which can be accessed from the basement. On the other hand, it was possible to expand the toilet above, the one on the landing halfway down the stairs, which has become a bathroom.
In the three rooms on the upper floor, the cleaning of the ceilings, which are vaulted, reserved a surprise. After the whitewashing had been peeled off, decorations and figures appeared, typical of the Viareggio houses of the early twentieth century. No one, not even Marta Diciotti, had ever mentioned them. The most spontaneous supposition was that the severe Mrs. Isis, before settling with her husband and daughter in the newly purchased house, had ordered a house painter to cover up those frivolities. However, it cannot be excluded that the new tenants had found them already covered and never noticed the existence of those paintings in the subsequent repainting of the rooms.
It was uncertain what to do. Covering them again, when in Viareggio the owners of the period houses were bringing to light the authenticity of the styles, it seemed a shame. Recovering them, with an accurate restoration, involved another unexpected expense. Making an effort, it was decided on the second solution. Now the three rooms on the upper floor of the Valtorta house have ceilings decorated with delicate figures, landscapes and festoons, which also suggested the choice of colours for the walls and the lighting system.
The work in the Valtorta house had to undergo a correction. After thirteen years.
As time went by, it was noticed that the platform in Maria Valtorta’s room distorted the environment and was cause of stumbling for visitors. Therefore, after long reflection, it was decided to remove it and to restore the ancient floor.
The new work was carried out between the end of January and the beginning of February 2015. Once the room had been emptied, the new light floor ripped and the screed rebuilt, the floor was reassembled as it was originally with the light and dark tiles, using those removed from the platform and others similar, which had also been recovered in the previous restoration and were kept in a deposit. Since the available tiles still weren’t enough to cover the entire surface of the room, the missing parts in the floor were paved with dark tiles, taken from those recovered from the old floor of the adjacent room. Once the walls had been repainted, when the work was completed, the bed and other furniture returned to their place.
Visitors now find Maria Valtorta’s room without the platform and with the original floor. The dark parts of the floor, which attest to the renovation and restoration work, are in the less visible corners.
It’s possible to purchase the book in Italian via the Centro Editoriale Valtortiano.
It describes, with a photographs portfolio, the rooms of the house, including the changes it has undergone over the years, and also illustrates the work carried out to restore it from the brackish humidity..