The history of the Tenuta Bonaparte, or Bonaparte Estate, begins following the annexation of the Marche region to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy by the imperial decree at Saint Cloud on April 2, 1808. In those years, upon application of the law for the suppression of religious orders and following confiscation of their goods, about one hundred estates in the area of Civitanova were appropriated to the Royal Lands, first as royal appanage, and later as the personal possessions of viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais and his descendents.
After the fall of the Napoleonic empire, the 1814 Congress of Vienna did not restore these properties to the Papal States; rather, they remained in the hands of the Bonaparte family members until they became the private property of Emperor Napoleon III: in the 1855 Civitanova Catasto Gregoriano, or land survey, item #45 specifies: “Bonaparte Luigi Napoleone III – Imperatore dei Francesi in Parigi.” The property was estimated at some 10,500 tavole, or about 1,050 hectares, one quarter of the total arable land of the commune.
The estate was initially administered by a veteran of the Napoleonic wars, an ex-colonel of the dragoons, then by ingegnere Paul Hallaire, general superintendent of the “domaines privés de l’Empereur Napoléon III” in Civitanova. Hallaire succeeded in reviving the estate by introducing French agricultural methods and management systems; the introduction of French varieties among the grapes cultivated on the property is probably one of his legacies.
Among the activities of this period, besides the extension of social assistance and works of charity, an imposing villa was built on a pleasant hill on the estate, the Villa Eugenia, named after Empiress Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III. She inherited it upon the death of her husband, and it remained in her hands until 1920, when she died at the venerable age of 94.
The most important period of the Bonaparte Administration, from an agricultural point of view, was 1883 to 1918, under Celso Tebaldi. He was without a doubt a pioneering figure in the development of modern agriculture, one of the firsts to demonstrate the need for rational and intensive systems; the examples he provided of innovative agricultural management won him a reputation as an innovator and the property as a model farming estate.
The estate’s 1,200 hectares were divided up into 110 colonie, organised in three fattorie, or main farms, each independently managed, located in the areas of Piane di Chienti, Asola-Poggio Imperiale, and Fontespina. A fattore, or local superintendent, was responsible for each fattoria; he worked with his farm’s capodopera, or crew boss, and reported directly to the estate administrator. Each podere or colonia was given a name, some reflecting old toponyms, such as San Silvestro, Fossacieca, Boccadigabbia, or San Leonardo, others newly made-up names, such as Benprovvisto, Pratolina, and Balsamina, while still others recalled figures of the Napoleonic period, such as Murat, Guzman, Maria Walenska, and so forth.
Management of the estate continued, through various vicissitudes, until the Second World War. Then, new laws, new labour systems, and the depopulation of the countryside ineluctably led to the decline of the Amministrazione Bonaparte and later to its break-up and the gradual selling-off of the individual podere properties. Boccadigabbia, once part of the Fontespina fattoria, was purchased in 1956 by the Alessandri family directly from His Imperial Highness Prince Luigi Napoleone Bonaparte, last Pretender to the Imperial Crown.