Italian ambassador’s residence transferred to council at cost of €10.5m for public amenity

President Michael D Higgins and Italian president Sergio Mattarella formally inaugurate Parco Italia as ‘a legacy of beauty’ to the friendship between Italy and Ireland

The ownership of a little piece of Italy in Lucan, Dublin, has been formally transferred to South Dublin County Council, setting plans in motion for a new public space.

Lucan House, which is surrounded by scenic parkland, has been the official residence of Italian ambassadors for over 80 years. The 12-hectare estate is due to become a public cultural amenity, known as Parco Italia, when the current ambassador Ruggero Corrias is due to depart in June.

Located about a 35-minute drive from the Italian embassy on Northumberland Road, the Italian government decided to sell it to South Dublin County Council to move the residence closer to the city centre.

That acquisition came at a cost of over €10.5m, according to the council’s chief executive Colm Ward.


Parco Italia was jointly inaugurated on Monday afternoon by President Michael D Higgins and Italian president Sergio Mattarella. The 82-year-old, who was accompanied by his daughter and first lady Laura Mattarella, walked the estate before the ceremony.

Before a commemorative plaque was unveiled by his son Diego, Italian ambassador to Ireland Ruggero Corrias described Parco Italia as a “legacy of beauty” to the friendship between Italy and Ireland.

Lucan House, a Palladian villa, dates back to the 18th century when it was modelled on Venetian villas observed abroad by its then owner Agmondisham Vesey jnr.

Before that the house, which was then known as Lucan Manor, was acquired in 1566 by the Sarsfield family which later intermarried with the Veseys. It was rented by the Italian government before its purchase in 1954.

Alongside grand rooms, a library and a music room, one focal point of the residence is the oval-shaped diningroom within which is thought to have inspired James Hoban’s design for the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. It is thought Mr Hoban visited Lucan House while studying architecture in Dublin.

Located in Lucan village, the river Liffey flows through the picturesque estate and is expected to attract visitors in droves once it opens to the public.

The land hosts a permanent exhibition called Grazing in Lucan which features eight bronze buffaloes and a fibreglass horse created by the Italian artist Davide Rivalta.

Alan Edge, mayor of South Dublin County Council, said once the estate is transferred in June a master plan in terms of how it is used will be devised.

“Certainly there will be [public] access, as there has been in the past. How that’s managed remains to be seen, and obviously there will be experts looking at how best to do that,” he said. The council plans to examine similar estates and how they are managed in order to inform plans going forward.

Mr Edge added that alongside tourism and culture biodiversity would be a prominent aspect due to the estate’s scale. He said the public can expect a cultural fusion and “that sense of a little bit of Italy in Lucan”.

“It’s an incredibly proud day for the county, it’s a really historic day, and I think it’s the start of a new chapter. Obviously it’s at the heart of Lucan but it’s also been at the heart of the Italian community here in Ireland,” he said, adding that Parco Italia would continue to reflect a “shared heritage”.

Jack White

Jack White

Jack White is a reporter for The Irish Times