the timeless beauties not far from Florence
One of the most famous cities in the world for the incredible amount of masterpieces of the culture that it preserves, and the origin of Italian history and language since ancient times, Florence has always made its inhabitants proud.
But just as Florence’s contribution to Italian national identity cannot be summed up with Dante and the artists from Giotto to Michelangelo, it is impossible to describe everything this city has to offer in only a few lines.
Founded by the Romans, Florence first began to affirm its political and territorial importance in the Middle Ages, before being “reborn” from an artistic point of view from the 15th century, an era in which the Medici family took control of the Florentine state and then the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The result was a break with the previous Gothic tradition, thanks to renowned artists such as Lorenzo Ghiberti and the Brunelleschi, who excelled in their work on what is still today the religious centre of the city – the Piazza del Duomo, with the magnificent Cathedral in white and green marble, dominated by Brunelleschi’s majestic Dome, flanked by the slender Bell tower by Giotto and the Baptistery.
From here, Via Calzaiuoli leads to Piazza della Signoria, home to the political power and civic life of the city and dominated by the bulk of Palazzo Vecchio, considered the best example in the world of 14th century civil architecture, and today used as the town hall and museum. Just a few steps from Palazzo Vecchio is the Palazzo degli Uffizi and Gallery, perhaps the most important museum in Italy, which holds, among others, Botticelli’s Spring and the Birth of Venus, the Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo, the Tondo Doni by Michelangelo, and the Madonna of Cardellino by Raffaello.
The stupendous Vasarian Corridor, commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici as a private pathway between Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti, his residence, runs along one of the other symbols of Florence, the Ponte Vecchio.
It leads across the river to the “Oltrarno” area, with Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens, also created by the Medici family, connected to the grand-ducal residence and adjacent to the military outpost of Forte di Belvedere.
The model of government and the humanistic lifestyle of the Medici family, originating from Mugello, became an example for all of Europe. They were involved in reorganising the territorial system, draining marshy areas and building innovative noble residences that integrate perfectly with the surrounding landscape.
In the Florentine area, in strategic points that could control the city of Florence, the fulcrum of political life and business, you can still admire the Villa di Poggio Imperiale, the favourite home of Isabella de’ Medici, who used it extensively for her cultural activities, furnishing the palace with numerous works of art.
Still in the city, but designed like country villas, are the Villa di Careggi, the Villa di Castello and Villa la Petraia, splendid examples of Renaissance country residences that harmoniously combine the characteristics of urban villas with farm functions. For the same purposes, the Villa di Fiesole, with a splendid view over the whole Florentine area and the sumptuous Pratolino gardens lies in Vaglia, just outside Florence and a few kilometres from Mugello.
Here, in the land of origin of the Medici, don’t miss the Villa di Cafaggiolo in Barberino di Mugello and the nearby Villa del Trebbio in San Piero a Sieve. Both are country residences, designed for holidays but also as a territorial defence.
Another Medici villa of the Florentine area is the Villa di Cerreto Guidi, commissioned by Cosimo I as a hunting lodge and built in a strategic point of control of the territory and the nearby Padule di Fucecchio.