The Medici Villas are a series of rural building complexes near Florence which were owned by members of the Medici family between the XV and the XVII centuries. The villas served several functions. They were the country palaces of the Medici, scattered over the territory that they ruled, demonstrating their power and wealth. They were also recreational resorts for the leisure and pleasure of their owners; and, they were the center of agricultural activities on the surrounding estates.
The best way to see the Medici Villas is by a guided tour.
Originally a castle of the Brunelleschi family, the Villa of Petraia became a possession of Grand Duke Ferdinand I. In 1575, under the orders of the Grand Duke, Buontalenti redesigned the villa. It has a beautiful inner courtyard covered by a glass roof. There is a series of XVII century frescoes by Volterrano. The villa has a series of “period” rooms furnished with beautiful paintings, pictures, and furniture. King Victor Emanuele II used the villa as his summer residence. This magnificent villa overlooks an Italian style garden designed by Tibolo.
In the XIV century, they called this villa II Vivaio or the Greenhouse. When the Florentines banished the Medici family, they destroyed the villa. However, later Cosimo I commissioned Giorgio Vasari to rebuild it in a classical Renaissance design.
Currently the villa houses the Accademia della Crusca, a private school and museum. Hence, it is only possible to visit the gardens. These gardens are very beautiful and among the most magnificent and ornate in the whole of Europe.
Villa Poggio a Caiano
Lorenzo the Magnificent Medici lived in this villa during the summer. It remained the summer residence of the Medici family for centuries. Francesco I and his famous mistress, Bianca Cappello, were found dead here in 1589; they believed they were poisoned by the Grand Duke’s power-hungry brother.
During the first years of the unified Italian Monarchy in the XIX century, the villa became the royal residence. Later on, during the Second World War, residents of the town took shelter in the villa’s basement as protection from the bombing.