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In August 1818, Shelley and Claire Clairmont left Bagni di Lucca and traveled to Venice; they hoped to be able to convince Byron to give Claire some sort of regular access to her daughter Allegra. Byron would not see Claire, but agreed to permit Allegra to spend some time with her mother at his villa just outside of Este, a tiny town southwest of Venice. Shelley, Claire, Allegra, and the Swiss nurse Elise traveled to I Capuccini, named for the Capuchin monastery which once stood there. Shelley sent a message to Mary at Casa Bertini, demanding that she and the children leave at once for Este. Although five grueling days of travel in the heat of an Italian August was obviously not the best thing for small children (especially little Clara, who was suffering from a fever), Shelley was adamant. It was a tragic inflexibility on his part; the trip either significantly contributed to or caused his daughter's death.
Capuccini is situated just east of the town on route 10, behind a ruined castle. The place is constructed rather like a fortress, with only a single rather grim facade (the rear of the estate and the stables) visible from the highway. A short driveway permits only a very limited view of the front of the house.
The current owners were unavailable, so it seemed we would have to settle for this extremely restricted view of the property. Then we noticed a tiny public road at the side of the villa. Feeling like architectural paparazzi, we negotiated the path, then climbed over a railroad trestle in the rain (praying that the local express train wasn’t due at any time soon, and that the skull and crossbones images prominently stenciled on the electrical conduits we clung to weren't really serious).
The view was worth the effort: before us lay spread the impressive house and its lovely gardens.