A family-oriented city
Emblematic Medici sites in Florence: from Palazzo Medici Riccardi to Palazzo Pitti
Villas included: Boboli Gardens and the Villa di Poggio Imperiale
This itinerary includes a route of the places of worship closely related to the development of Medici power in Florence.
RECOMMENDED MODES OF TRANSPORT
PALAZZO MEDICI RICCARDI
In 1444, Cosimo the Elder entrusted Michelozzo with building the palace. The square-shaped palace has a central courtyard and houses the marvellous Magi Chapel with a fresco cycle by Benozzo Gozzoli. Other than artists, Neoplatonist intellectuals passed through the palace, most frequently Pico della Mirandola and Agnolo Poliziano.
CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE
The initial project for the cathedral by Arnolfo di Cambio was finished in 1367 in the Gothic Italian style. In 1436, Filippo Brunelleschi crowned the cathedral with a remarkable dome. Santa Maria del Fiore, with three naves, contains works by Paolo Uccello, Andrea del Castagno, Luca della Robbia, Donatello, Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari. Flanking the cathedral is Giotto’s bell tower. In front, the Baptistery of San Giovanni has an octagonal plan, a dome decorated with a wonderful mosaic and three bronze doors by Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti.
PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA
Construction began on piazza della Signoria around 1268. It’s overlooked by the imposing Loggia dei Lanzi, a veritable open-air museum of sculpture with striking works such as Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini and the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. The Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati, the equestrian statue of Cosimo I by Giambologna and the copies of Michelangelo’s David, Judith and Holofernes by Donatello and the Marzocco lions are amongst the works in the piazza.
Attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, the palace, with its 94-metre-high tower, was begun in 1299. The Medici chose it as their residence and subsequently made many decorative and architectural modifications. It took the name of Palazzo Vecchio in 1565 when Cosimo I moved definitively to Palazzo Pitti, the new ducal palace. Due to this move, in 1565, Vasari constructed a corridor linking Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, which passes through the Uffizi, above Ponte Vecchio and across the façade of Santa Felicità before reaching duke’s palace on the other side of the Arno.
THE UFFIZI GALLERY
Commissioned to Giorgio Vasari in 1560 by Cosimo I, this building conserves and exhibits one of the most important collections in the world, with works by Cimabue, Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo, Giorgione, Titian, Raphael, Velasquez, Goja, Caravaggio and Michelangelo.
Begun in 1440 by Luca Pitti, it was bought by Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo I, in 1550. The palace was enlarged from 1560 onwards with projects by Ammannati, including the addition of an imposing courtyard and the Boboli Gardens. Palazzo Pitti is today one of the most important museums in the city, with galleries like the Palatine Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, the Porcelain Museum and the Museum of Costume and Fashion.
COMPLEX OF SAN LORENZO
The church was consecrated as the cathedral in 393 and represents one of the first examples of Florentine Christianity. At the beginning of the 1400s, Giovanni di Bicci di Medici, forefather of the family, chose Filippo Brunelleschi as the architect of the complex, who was already occupied with the construction of the old sacristy, the Medici’s private chapel. His son Cosimo the Elder subsequently took over Giovanni’s patronage. With Cosimo, the church became a place of burial for the family. Even Pope Leo X, a member of the Medici, contributed, commissioning the New Sacristy to Michelangelo, where the tombs of brothers Lorenzo the Magnificent and Giuliano can be found. Clement VII, the other Medici Pope, commissioned the Laurentian Library to Michelangelo as well. The basilica is rich with artworks by Rosso Fiorentino, Desiderio da Settignano, Pollaiolo, Verrocchio, Filippo Lippi, Bronzino and Donatello.
BASILICA OF SAN MARCO
Another site of Medici patronage in Florence is the Basilica of San Marco. In 1437, Cosimo the Elder entrusted the restructuring of the Dominican complex to Michelozzo. Fra’ Angelico alongside his collaborators, most notably Benozzo Gozzoli, painted the frescoes in the convent. The church, with a single nave, was remodelled at the end of the 16th century by Giambologna with the addition of side chapels. In one of these chapels lies the graves of two of the most important humanists for the Medici: Pico della Mirandola and Poliziano. The jewel of the church is the Salviati Chapel, built at the end of the 16th century. The Dominican convent, home to Girolamo Savonarola, became the symbol of the cultural and artistic life of Florence.
PIAZZA SANTISSIMA ANNUNZIATA
The itinerary ends in piazza Santissima Annunziata, the piazza that takes its name from the church, which stands atop an ancient oratory dedicated to Mary. The importance of the sanctuary made it necessary to enlarge the building and the piazza in front of it. In 1419, as work on Ospedale degli Innocenti began, based on a project by Filippo Brunelleschi, the piazza started to undergo a restructuring. In 1516, Antonio da Sangallo the Elder and Baccio d’Agnolo designed the symmetrical portico to the hospital. In the first half of the 17th century, the equestrian monument of Ferdinand de’ Medici, son of Cosimo I, by Giambologna and del Tacca (1608) was placed in the middle of the piazza alongside two sea monster fountains, also by del Tacca. Considered to be a masterpiece of Florentine mannerism, it was moved to the piazza in 1643. The piazza, porticoed on three sides, is a gem of Renaissance architecture and boasts an excellent view of Brunelleschi’s dome on the other end of via dei Servi.