There are some buildings that you can walk round and fail to connect with, the Medici Palace is not one of them – for me anyway.
Set in the centre of the town, its external appearance is that of a fortress; huge stone blocks, roughly cut, suggest a prison or some other high security building. It sits on a corner of a street just yards away from the Medici Chapel and this amount of real estate says a lot about the Medici family and the influence that they had in Florence.
The Medici family, also known as the House of Medici, first attained wealth and political power in Florence in the 13th century through its success in commerce and banking. Beginning in 1434 with the rise to power of Cosimo de’ Medici (or Cosimo the Elder), the family’s support of the arts and humanities made Florence into the cradle of the Renaissance, a cultural flowering rivaled only by that of ancient Greece. The Medicis produced four popes (Leo X, Clement VII, Pius IV and Leon XI), and their genes have been mixed into many of Europe’s royal families. The last Medici ruler died without a male heir in 1737, ending the family dynasty after almost three centuries.
They mixed with the great and the good during their time. Michelangelo designed their tombs. They supported the work of da Vinci and Galileo and had connections with many royal and noble families throughout Europe.
During their ascendancy they controlled Tuscany as was the way in those days, where powerful families controlled areas of the country, but at a stroke, when Grand Duke Gian Gastone died without an heir, the Medici line ended and control of Tuscany passed to the Hapsburg’s.
I mentioned that the outside is very severe and brooding, inside, its is a thing of beauty and a place of tranquility within the high walls and the beautifully laid out garden.
As ever, click on the first picture to start the slide show.