The first recorded document of the Villa goes back to 1593 and is a plan of the grounds of the Villa and a drawing of the palace.
The building of the Villa was commissioned by the Buonvisi family at the end of the 15th century and built by Matteo Civitali (1436-1501).
Civitali was a famous renaissance architect formed at the school of Lorenzo de Medici in Florence. One of his more famous other buildings is the Palazzo Pretorio in Lucca.
Civitali’s work is inspired by the careful balance between “full and empty spaces”, one the hallmarks of Italian renaissance architecture.
In both the Villa Oliva and the Palazzo Pretorio this is evidenced by an unusually large and harmonious ‘Loggia’ covering two floors on the northern, the “private” front of the Palace.
The south façade is characterized by a front of windows symmetrically arranged around a grey stone balcony.
The Palace was residence of two Buonvisi Cardinals, Gerolamo and Francesco.
In 1661 Cardinal Gerolamo hosted a Sinod with the participation of Pope Alexander VII at the Villa; and Cardinal Francesco hosted another Sinod in 1700.
Also worth noting are the prestigious stables on the western side of the Villa.
A legend reports of a bet between a Buonvisi and the King of France Louis XIV.
The Buonvisi claimed that his stable was more beautiful than any of the rooms of Versailles.
The French Ambassador to the Republic of Lucca was sent by the king to visit the Buonvisi stable and verify that claim.
Before the visit Buonvisi had ordered the entire stable to be covered with French gold coins showing the effigy of Louis XIV.
The ambassador had to confirm the claim back to Paris and Buonvisi won his bet.