We decided to visit the Pitti Palace in Florence, with its wonderful Gardens of Boboli. I don’t know about you, but we are big fans of the majestic and mighty buildings, signs of glorious times, long gone. Anyway, we’ll take you with us to the wonderful palace and its beautiful gardens. And in addition, we leave you some curiosities about these! We’re sure you don’t know all of them! Ready?
Palazzo Pitti is a Renaissance building, located near Ponte Vecchio, in Florence, and was the urban residence of the Florentine merchant Luca Pitti. Originally its facade consisted of 7 imposing windows, on the first and second floors, and 3 large doors. Another feature of the facade is the technique used to build it: the ashlar. The ashlar is a masonry work also used in antiquity, consisting of stone blocks superimposed in staggered rows. In front of the palace is a square, the first built in front of a private building. The palace has been subject to several changes and renovations that have contributed to make it lavish.
Intricates and suptuos features
In 1560 the palace was enlarged and Bartolomeo Ammannati built the garden that was designed by Nicolò Tribolo, which we will talk about in detail later. In 1565 Vasari built the Vasari Corridor, (commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici) an elevated path that connects Palazzo Pitti with Palazzo Vecchio, passing through the Uffizzi and above Ponte Vecchio. It was conceived with the idea that the nobles could move freely, without running into any danger. Ammannati instead, created a monumental hall for the noble floor and on the terrace was placed the Fountain of Artichoke. The name of the fountain comes from the resemblance of the leaves of the artichoke plant, with the decorations of the fountain. In addition to these decorations the fountain features cherubs, fish and fantastic figures. A further element wanted by Cosimo I de’ Medici was the Chapel of the Relics, which contained decorated cabinets, reliquaries from the Grand Duke’s collection and liturgical and profane objects.
Luca Pitti and the rivalry with the Medici family
When it was built (in 1446), Palazzo Pitti was the largest and most lavish residence in Florence, and that was the goal of the owner, Luca Pitti. He, in fact, was a bitter rival of the Medici family, and wanted a more lavish residence than the one just made by Michelozzo for Cosimo the Elder. However, Pitti was not able to complete the work because het was enormously indebted.
There are no reliable sources, but it seems that Pitti had chosen the project that Brunelleschi had created for the palace of Cosimo the Elder, but that he had refused it because he thought it was too lavish. Cosimo, in fact, did not want to provoke the envy of the Florentine people. What, on the contrary, did not matter at all to Luca Pitti!
Moreover, it would seem that Pitti wanted the windows of his palace to be larger than the main door of Cosimo. In fact… what windows! And in general: what a grandeur! We are talking about 250 meters long!
An ironic consequence
The Pitti family has not been able, over the years, to repay the debts incurred by Luca Pitti and so, in 1550, Buonaccorso Pitti, Luca’s nephew, had to sell the palace to… Guess who? Eleonora di Toledo, no less than the wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici! What a small world! The palace then became the main residence of the Medici, without changing its name. Thanks to them have many elements been added (which we mentioned earlier) that have made it even more precious!
Made in Italy
Made in Italy was born at Palazzo Pitti! No, I’m not kidding! In fact, the Marquis Giovanni Battista Giorgini, at the beginning of the ’50s, realizes in the White Room of the Pitti Palace, the first fashion shows. For the first time, Italian fashion parades in front of an audience of foreign buyers and journalists. From that moment on, Florence became one of the capitals of style.
After that, the company “Pitti Immagine” was born, which operates in the fashion field and whose most important event is Pitti Uomo, men’s fashion shows organized in Florence every 6 months.
What to see at the Pitti Palace
Inside you can visit the Royal Apartments, the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, you can access the Vasari Corridor, see the Museum of Fashion and Costume and the Museum of Modern Art. You can also visit the Palatine Gallery, where each room has a specific name (generally that of a deity: Venus, Apollo…) and houses works of names such as Raphael, Titian, Canova. Of course you can also see the gardens attached to the palace: the Boboli Gardens.
The name “Boboli” of the gardens is due to the name of the Borgolo family, from which Luca Pitti had bought the land on which he wanted to build the palace and gardens. The garden is a historic park and is an example of an Italian garden, it was designed as the grand-ducal garden of the Pitti Palace and is connected to the Belvedere Fort. The fort was a military outpost for the safety of the sovereign and his family. It is the most famous garden in Italy and is a real open-air museum. At the beginning it had a late-Renaissance layout, but like the palace, the garden also benefited from the modifications and additions of many artists. In fact, it is full of paths, statues, ponds, fountains, water lilies and caves. Thanks to their beauty, the Boboli Gardens are considered UNESCO World Heritage from 2013. And they are huge: they have an extension of 45,000 square meters!
One of the most beautiful works of the garden is undoubtedly the Grotta Grande, also called Grotta del Buontalenti. It was started by Vasari, but decorated mainly by Bernardo Buontalenti. It is a union of painting, sculpture and architecture, very bizarre. In fact it looks like a real cave, with lots of stalactites and stalagmites, but the truth is that they are all artificial creations… the result is surprising! Outside there are also mosaics and the inevitable coat of arms of the Medici. The cave consists of three rooms: the first has as its theme chaos and stalactites and shells seem to turn into figures, once also presented water games. In the second room there are still frescoes, stalactites and shells. In the third room dominates the fountain of Venus and a fictitious sky, decorated with birds.
Over the centuries, Palazzo Pitti has been the residence for large and important Italian families. In fact, the Palace remained with the Medici family until the end of their Grand Duchy, and then from 1737 was the residence of the Habsburgs Lorraine, successors of the Medici in Florence. Moreover, after the Unification of Italy, it was the Royal Residence for the House of Savoy during the five years in which Florence was the capital of Italy (1865-70). In 1919, Vittorio Emanuele III gave it to the Italian State.
What to see at the Boboli’s Gardens
Given the attention to detail that the artists have contributed, every corner of the garden deserves a special attention. The Boboli Garden has been built and embellished with care and you can spend 3 hours to find works of art, statues, fountains and plants. In the Garden you can observe the Artichoke Fountain and the Neptune Fountain, the Amphitheatre surrounded by sculptures, the Viottolone and the Prato del Cavaliere. You can walk on the walkways to get to the island with the Fountain of the Ocean, pretend to have a coffee at the Kaffeehaus (the pavilion in roccocò style) and, of course, enter the Cave of Buontalenti.
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If you want to continue to admire the wonders of the city of Florence, also watch our video about Michelangelo’s David and Donatello’s David: an epic challenge that will leave you speechless!