“Dei Medici” Villas
The de’Medici family has been one of the most influent families in the history of Florence and Tuscany in general. Become rich with their banks business and during the years they increase their economic and politic power; they ruled Florence for decades (until 1738, when Lorena family took over).
Belong to de’ Medici family, two popes and two French queens.
One of the main aspects of the family was their capacity to sustain artists, who created and expanded the Renaissance all over the world: below the family protection many influent Italian artists had worked and grew up: Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and many others.
The Medici used to live in Florence, but they loved to build residence outside the city as well, in the countryside, for other scopes. Sometimes they built magnificent palaces surrounded by beautiful gardens, where the components of the dynasty were looking for some relax during the warmest months of the year; other were more similar to castles or defending fortress, or had administrable functions for the surrounding lands spread over the Tuscany.
Often was just a simply way to show their wealth.
Many of these villas maintained their integrity over the years, even if emptied of their treasures contained inside. Few of them are accessible for the visitors paying a ticket, such as a museum.
Others are opened just for special events (weddings, party, anniversaries, and conventions).
Even if many - as already mentioned – has not their art masterpieces preserved inside anymore, they deserve to be visited anyway, for their architecture and framework, often impressive, and for their gorgeous Italian renaissance gardens. In whole we count 17 De Medici villas (painted by Utens, Flemish artis, in some picture), and other residences, considered more or less official, such as houses in the countryside and hunting lodges.
Within the oldest there are Villa di Cafaggiolo e del Trebbio. Instead of villas we could classify them as castles for their fortified aspect, with towers, lift bridges and moats. In fact one of their function was even to control the surrounding territory. Both belong to dei Medici family since 1300 and they got adorned afterward with Michelozzo’s artworks.
They are situated in the Mugello, the area from which the family hailing from.
The Mugello is an area at north of Florence, close to the Apennine mountains (the “gate” for Emilia Romagna region), nowadays famous for its World Motor Racing Circuit (listed among MOTOGP world championship calendar) and for its lake, Lago di Bilancino.
The Villa di Careggi, which has been the place of birth and death of Lorenzo Il Magnifico, was frequented by artists and literates. It’s located in Florence, in the area named in the same away, Careggi. Of finest prestige the park, designed originally as Italian renaissance garden, and enriched with rare plants by an English man who became the owner back in 1848. Now the Villa is part of the Florentine hospital.
The Villa di Poggio a Caiano was built by Giuliano di Sangallo for Lorenzo Il Magnifico. Quite impressive the double external staircase (even if refurbished). Inside the palace, fine frescoes of Pontormo, Alessio Allori and Andrea del Sarto within Salone Leone X, salon named after the pope belonging to de’Medici family. In this villa many episodes characteristic of de’Medici family took place, like the double death of Francesco I and Bianca Cappello, probably due to poisoning.
The building is located on the top of Poggio a Caiano, small town few km away from Prato, on the direction of Pistoia.
Close to Florece, two are the most famous de’Medici villas: Villa La Petraia and Villa di Castello, close each other, even if dated back to different periods
Villa La Petraia: in 1575 was bought by Ferdinando I de’ Medici and expanded even with the help of Bernardo Buontalenti (the same of the cave and of the fountain…). Spectacular is the garden rich of sculptures and the fountain with the statue of Giambologna (today stored in a different location). It’s few km from Florence, in Sesto Fiorentino. The entrance is free of charge.
Villa di Castello: it was the summer residence of Lorenzo Il Magnifico, few km outside Florence (today the area is Sesto Fiorentino). Apparently the Primavera of Botticelli was commissioned for decorating this villa.
Even here as well as the other villas, still stand the finest garden and the cave, a typical furniture item for Italian garden, present in Palazzo Pitti / Giardino di Boboli too. It is not a case that the design of this garden was a “first designing attempt” to acquire inspiration and knowledge for then drawing the Giardino di Boboli final plan. Today is the headquarter of the prestigious Accademia della Crusca (an institution of experts and passionate of the Italian language). Free entrance for the garden only.
Instead out of Florence, other three villas deserve your attention:
The Villa di Cerreto Guidi, dated back to 1555 and commissioned by Cosimo I. It is situated likely in the same area originally occupied by the castle Guidi: titled family that gave the name to the area (locality between Florence, Pisa, not far away from Empoli). Nowadays the villa is a museum, with a lot of furniture, tapestries and several items recovered from different collections, merged together to give an insight about the atmosphere of the villa in its golden era. Inside there is even the Hunting and Territory Museum. Awesome even the external space, with two staircases ascribed to Buontalenti.
The Villa di Artimino, even called as “of 100 chimneys” (why?? just have a look at the roof…), was situated in the middle of a huge hunting private territory rich of white tailed deer, fallow deer, wild boars, hares, etc… It was wanted for this reason by Ferdinando I de’ Medici and Bernardo Buontalenti and was built in just 4 years: from 1596 to 1600. It was surrounded by a “Barco Reale” a huge shooting ground available just for the use of the grand duke. It is on a dominant position, over a panoramic hill, just in front of the small town of Arimino, in the Carmignano district (Prato).
It was decorated with important frescoes (Caravaggio and Tiziano), today moved in different museums. However still remain the frescoes of Passignano and Bernardino Poccetti.
The Villa of Pratolino, known as Villa Demidoff after that a Russian family bought it in the 1872, is located in Vaglia, few km from Florence. Initially belonged to Francesco I de’ Medici. Today still remain the huge park, paradise for families with child and lovers of nature. Spectacular the statue of Apennine of Gianbologna, but even the secular trees dispersed across the park.