A walk outside Florence: the Medici Villas
There are two Medici villas, which are situated just outside Florence, are faschinating examples of aristocratic renaissance residences, although they have both been somewhat altered over the centuries. The gardens are very suggestive, full of rare plants, terraces, garden centers, pools, sculptures.
The Villa of Castello, was the country residence of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1519-1574). The villa also housed some of the great art treasures of Florence, including Sandro Botticelli’s Renaissance masterpieces The Birth of Venus and Primavera. The gardens of the Villa had a profound influence upon the design of the Italian Renaissance garden and the later French formal garden.
A fortified building had been standing on the site since at least 1427, and was purchased in 1477 by Lorenzo and Giovanni di Pierfrancesco de’Medici, who reconstructed the old building, adding a courtyard, a loggia, kitchens and stables.
The house was inherited by a famed mercenary soldier, Giovanni dalle Bande Nere and his wife, Maria Salviati, the parents of Cosimo, who was born in 1519, and lived in the house as a child.
Tribolo’s design for the garden was described in great detail in Vasari’s Lives of the Artists. The house became the property of the Accademia della Crusca, which owns it today. The garden became a national museum in 1984.
Villa of Petraia was originally bought by the Brunelleschi family, who later sold it to Strozzi in 1422. In first half of the XVI century, the villa passed to the Salutati family. This one transferred the property to the Medici family. In this time, the Cardinal Ferdinando, who was nominated Grand Duke in 1587, carried out a radical transformation of the villa, turning the villa from a mansion into a princely residence.
The ballroom’s perimeter is completely decorated by frescoes carried out by Cosimo Gaddi during the Lorraine period and by Volterrano who painted scenes that told of the various exploits of the Medici family.