A journey through the places of power of the Medici family in Florence
The palace was originally built in 1457 – 1458 at the behest of Luca Pitti, a rival of the Medici family, who, according to Vasari, turned to Filippo Brunelleschi intending to surpass the new Medici palace, built by Michelozzo in appearance and grandeur. In any case, the architect was Brunelleschi’s pupil, Luca Fancelli, and overall the court was inspired by the style of classical Roman solemnity. However, construction proceeded slowly, perhaps due to the owner’s financial problems, and halted in 1465.
In 1549-1550, Buonaccorso Pitti sold the palazzo to Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici. The palace thus became the primary residence of the Medici. It was the subject of massive restoration work by Bartolomeo Ammannati, Niccolò Tribolo and Vasari, and towards the end of the century by Bernardo Buontalenti.
Other extension works were carried out during the 17th century. Between 1618 and 1631, the façade of Piazza Pitti was enlarged. In 1696, at the behest of Cosimo III, the Fonte del Leone was added, adorned with the Medici grand ducal crown. Finally, in the 18th century, Giuseppe Ruggeri added the two side wings embracing the square, like a French-style court of honour.
The palace houses the Palatine Gallery, a collection of paintings centred on the late Renaissance and Baroque periods. The illustrations are not displayed with systematic criteria but are purely decorative, covering most of the wall surface in symmetrical patterns. The layout is, therefore, very faithful to the original arrangement commissioned by Grand Duke Leopold II in the late 18th – 19th century.
Also on the noble floor are the Monumental Apartments, a museum complex consisting of the 14 rooms of the Royal Apartments and the six rooms of the Tapestry Apartment. These were the rooms used by the Medici family and their successors. In particular, the right wing was for the crown prince, while in the left wing (where the Palatine Gallery is housed) lived the reigning Grand Duke. The current decorations and furnishings have significantly changed since the Medici era.
The palace overlooks the famous Boboli Gardens, which also underwent alterations by Niccolo’ Tribolo and other court architects such as Vasari, Ammannati and Buontalenti under Francesco I and later until the 19th century, following the relocation of the court. The main areas that make up the park include the Amphitheatre, the Viottolone, the Prato del Cavaliere, the green tower of the Koffeehouse and the Grotta Grande.