Don’t Miss the Medici Villas and Gardens
Posted by Virginie (26/06/2015)
For many years, from the last 14th century to the 18th century, the history of Tuscany was strongly tied up with that of the Medici family. From relatively humble origins, the family rose over the centuries to become Grand Dukes of the Tuscany region. Today the region bears a number of reminders of the influence of the Medici family, including the world famous Medici Villas and Gardens.
Who were the Medici?Originally hailing for the Mugello region in northern Tuscany, the Medici family were well established in the city of Florence by the late 1300s. Through a combination of close ties to other powerful families and financial prowess, the Medici rose to become the city’s preeminent family. The Medici bank that they founded went on to become Europe’s largest bank, giving the family international prominence.
Having dominated the cities politics for over a century, the family eventually became hereditary rulers of the city when Florence transformed from a republic into a duchy. Later, following the conquest of old rivals Siena, the Medici transformed the region into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany under their control. The family continued to dominate Tuscany until the mid-eighteenth century when a lack of male heirs and bankruptcy lead to their fall from grace.
UNESCO World Heritage listed siteThe Medici where strong patrons of the arts, including architecture, and their influence can still be seen in much of the buildings and art work that dates from their time. One of the most enduring and visibly legacies of the family today is the collection of villas and gardens bearing their name which are scattered throughout the Tuscany region.
The Medici Villas and Gardens were declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2013, recognising their historical significance. The villas were the family’s country palaces and acted as leisure resorts for the Medici and their supporters as well as being important centres for agricultural activities in the surrounding areas.
The earliest villas include Villa del Trebbio in the Mugello region where the Medici originated and Villa Medici at Cafaggiolo. These early villas were effectively fortified farmhouses providing strong seats from which the Medici could control the local countryside. Later villas include excellent examples of Renaissance architecture, such as Villa di Pratolino, and neoclassical design, such as Villa del Poggio Imperiale.
Many of the villas had elaborate gardens, such as those at Villa di Castello, which were designed by the famous Mannerist artist Niccolò Tribolo.
Today many of the Medici Villas and Gardens have been preserved as museums, the homes of various institutions and as privately owned estates. Some of these are open to the public either on a regular basis or on special occasions and are well worth visiting if you have the opportunity.We have a wide range of luxury villas in Tuscany to rent, providing the perfect base to explore this beautiful and historic region. For more ideas on what to see and do during your visit, check out our customisable infobook