“In 1919, the villa was donated to the Italian State and has been home to the National Museum since 1984. Since 2013, it has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list. “
The Medici Villas are rural architectural complexes that came into the possession of the Medici family between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Apart from being places of relaxation and leisure, they also served as summer bases for the territories administered by the Medici and as centres of commercial and agricultural activities in the areas they were located in.
Villa LA PIETRAIA, which will be our focus in this edition, located in the hilly area of Castello, sits in a splendid panoramic position dominating the city of Florence and is considered, deservedly, to be one of the most beautiful of the Medici villas.
It originally belonged to the Brunelleschi family; during the fifteenth century, it passed first into the hands of the Strozzi family and then the Salutati. Cosimo I de’ Medici purchased it in 1544 and gifted it to his son Ferdinand. Initially, it was an ancient fortified building – the huge tower still standing today is part of the original nucleus of the complex. Ferdinand, who subsequently became a Cardinal, commissioned the enlargement and conversion to villa at the end of the sixteenth century.
Initially, he constructed a series of terraces in the surrounding land from which a beautiful garden could be created, adding a new extension on the north side and raising the tower. The garden, a veritable masterpiece, had an orchard of rare dwarf plant on its first terrace, flowerbeds on the second terrace with “simple”, medicinal plants, hence the name the “Giardino dei Semplici“, while the third, and largest, terrace featured trees and covered walkways; citrus trees in enormous terracotta pots were everywhere. The creation of an inner courtyard also contributed to defining the new appearance of the country seat which, after further modifications, came into the possession of Lorenzo de’ Medici.
Among the statues that enhance the majesty of the villa, the most outstanding is Giambologna’s Venus. In the first half of the seventeenth century, ” Il Volterrano” [Baldassare Franceschini] was commissioned with painting a series of frescoes in the central courtyard, which were to extol the virtues of the dynasty and the accomplishments of the Knights of St Stephen. In the early eighteenth century, the villa passed into the hands of the Lorraine family, who refurbished the interiors and renovated the romantic English-style garden and the wide carriage drive, still in existence today.
In the following century, with the succession of the House of Savoy, Villa La Pietraia, became the residence of King Victor Emanuel II and his wife Rosa Vercellana; they had many ceilings decorated in white and gold and on the occasion of their son’s wedding, the impressive glass and steel roof over the central courtyard was constructed, creating an enormous banqueting hall.
In 1919, the villa was donated to the Italian State and has been home to the National Museum since 1984. Since 2013, it has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list.