Casa Cuseni, situated in the area of Taormina, is a villa designed and built by the painter Robert Hawthorn Kitson in 1905. He had visited the area with his family as a young man with an artistic disposition and resolved to make his home here, far from the Victorian rigours and influence of industrial Yorkshire and his large successful family.
The house and gardens offer a harmonious mixture of art nouveau and Sicilian styles. Robert Kitson’s teacher and friend, Frank Brangwyn, designed the panelling, table, sideboard and chairs and painted a mural in the dining room.
When Robert Kitson died in 1948, his niece, Daphne Phelps, went out to Sicily to sell the house. She fell in love with the place, the country, the people and decided to stay on and have paying guests.
For the next 50 years Daphne managed and cared for Casa Cuseni, ably and affectionately assisted by Concetta and Peppino Cundari.
Daphne told the story of her life in Sicily in “A House in Sicily”, which was published by Virago in 1999. “A House in Sicily” has also been published in the USA, China, Turkey, Holland, Italy.
Alan Whicker said in his recent television program revisiting his wartime journey, that Casa Cuseni was “the one place that had not changed since the war. Taormina has grown up around the house but the extraordinary charm of the house and garden remains as potent as ever.”
Daphne died peacefully at Casa Cuseni on 30th November 2005 – She bequeathed Casa Cuseni to her nephews and nieces who opened the house and garden to tours by people from all over the world and appointed an architect to make plans for the restoration of the house and gardens.
Very sadly they were not able to complete their planned project and had to offer the house for sale.
Happily the Cundari/Spadaro family have found a way to take on Casa Cuseni for the future – to care for and manage the house and garden in the form of a museum and a tribute to its history and traditions.
CASA CUSENI Following careful restoration, Casa Cuseni with its traditional hospitality, the renewal of the historical garden and a new museum area can now be enjoyed.
Daphne M. Phelps She dedicated her life to the preservation of this “artistic jewel of the early twentieth century” (Vogue). Casa Cuseni by virtue of its great historical and artistic value, has been declared an Italian National Monument, and is also protected by the world’s greatest museum of art and design the Victoria and Albert Museum of London.
Robert Hawthorn Kitson An English watercolourist of grate talent, he gave hospitality to important representatives of the artistic and political world, creating an international meeting place of artists who contributed to make Taormina and Sicily famous all over the world.
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