Abbadia d'Ombrone

Abbazia di Vallombrosa

Villa Arceno

Bardini Garden in Florence

Bernard Berenson

Boboli's Gardens

Il parco dei Mostri di Bomarzo

Villa Bottini

Castello di Brolio

Villa Cahen

Villa della Capponcina

Villa Capponi

Villa Medici at Careggi

Villa di Catignano

Cecil Ross Pinsent

Castello di Celsa

Villa Certano Baldassarrini

Certosa di Pontignano

Villa di Cetinale

Villa Chigi Saracini

Villa Farnese (Caprarola)

Gardens in Fiesole

Villa Gamberaia

Villa Garzoni in Collodi

Villa di Geggiano

Villa Grabau

Villa Guicciardini Corsi Salviati

Horti Leonini di San Quirico

Villa I Collazzi, Firenze

Iris Origo

L'Orto de'Pecci (Siena)


Villa I Tatti

Villa Medicea La Ferdinanda

Villa La Foce

Villa La Gallina in Arcetri

Villa Lante

Villa La Petraia

Villa La Pietra

Villa La Suverana in Casole d'Elsa

The Medici Villa at Careggi

Villa Medici in Fiesole, Firenze

Garden of Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Firenze

Villa Medicea at Poggio a Caiano

Medici Villas in Tuscany

Villa di Monaciano

Giardino degli Orti Oricellari | Firenze

Orto Botanico, Siena

Villa Orlandini in Poggio Torselli

Il Palazzone

Villa Palmieri and Villa Schifanoiai

Villa Peyron al Bosco di Fontelucente

Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza

Villa di Pratolino

Villa Reale di Marlia

Villa San Donato in Colle (Bagno a Ripoli)

Villa Santini Torrigiani

Villa di Vicobello

Villa Vistarenni

Il Vittoriale degli Italiani


 
Gardens in Tuscany
             
 
Parco di Villa Reale di Castello (Villa di Castello) in Florence

album Surroundings
       
   

Parco di Villa Reale di Castello (Villa di Castello)


   
   

The original settlement, tied to the complex of the Villa at Castello, known also as Villa dell’Olmo or Villa Reale, took its origin from the presence the Roman aqueduct of Valdimarina, situated between Sesto Fiorentino and Florence. The very name of the place derives from castellum, the meaning of which was that of water tank or cistern. In 1477, Lorenzo and Giovanni di Pier Francesco de’ Medici purchased a rural construction built around a thirteenth-century tower, which they enlarged and embellished with works of art, including the Birth of Venus and the Primavera, commissioned by Lorenzo from Botticelli, and transferred to the Uffizi Gallery in the 19th century.

Following the expulsion of the Medicis from Florence and the serious damage it suffered, the complex was targeted with major renovation by Cosimo I who, around 1538, entrusted Niccolò Pericoli, known as Tribolo, with a project for the garden, realised on the basis of a complex allegorical programme, attributed to Benedetto Varchi and to Tribolo. The programme provided for a system of allegories which were supposed to exalt Medici power by means of several sculptural groups portraying mountains and cities of the Tuscan State, all connected by a waterway, representing the rivers that crossed them. Personifications and allegories of the virtues, in support of Medici power, were incarnated in statues placed in niches along the side-walls, including the Four Seasons and the portrayals of Generosity, Wisdom, Nobility, Value, Compassion, Justice, the Arts, Languages, Sciences, Arms, Peace, Laws. The garden is a stupendous example of Italian parterre. The exotic plants in the garden were described by French botanist and zoologist Pierre Belon who visited the villa during his journey between 1546 and 1549. The particularity of the plants and lanes of the garden and woods, was described by Montaigne who sojourned in the villa during the second half of the 16th century.

Particularly fascinating is the Animal Grotto, composed of two chambers with two fountains in white marble and one in peach-coloured marble from Seravezza, surmounted by sculptural groups portraying a suggestive array of animals from whence the grotto takes its name. Spectacular giochi d’acqua are created by a series of spouts on the floor of the grotto, supplied by a complex hydraulic system. On the sides of this space are two secret gardens which recall the medieval garden: in the one towards the east, called "Ortaccio", a pavilion was built on a large tree where a marble table with a musical fountain were placed; the second one, planted in the 17th century, was called "Stufa dei mugherini", and contained the collection of jasmine begun by Cosimo III. The other secret garden, connected to the kitchen and called "dell’imbrecciato" because of its flooring in polychrome gravel, is thought to have contained a statue of Asclepius, god of medicine and of herbs. To supply the complex water system of the numerous fountains, Piero da San Casciano built the Castellina aqueduct which conveyed water from a nearby spring.

In the Napoleonic era, an ice house was built at the centre of the garden and the statue of Florence was replaced with that of Hercules and Antaeus by Bartolomeo Ammannati. With the return of the Lorraines, Bohemian architect Joseph Frietsch created the spacious English-style woods which were to connect the villas of Castello and Petraia. Today, the Villa of Castello is the headquarters of the Accademia della Crusca.


 


Michel de Montaigne, Travel Journal (1580–1581). Transl. Donald M. Frame. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1983.
Villa Medici, Castello | 'After dinner the four gentlemen and a guide took post horses to go and see a place of the duke’s called Castello. The house has nothing worth while about it; but there are various things about the gardens. The whole estate is situated on the slope of a hill, so that the straight walks are all on a slope, but a soft and easy one; the cross walks are straight and level. One sees there many arbors, very thickly interwoven and covered with all kinds of odoriferous trees such as cedars, cypresses, orange trees, lemon trees, and olive trees, the branches so joined and interlaced that it is easy to see that the sun at its greatest strength could not get in; and copses of cypress and of those other trees disposed in order so close to each other that there is room for only three or four people to pass abreast. There is a big reservoir, among other things, in the middle of which you see a natural-looking artificial rock, and it seems all frozen over, by means of that material with which the duke has covered his grottoes at Pratolino; and above the rock is a large bronze statue of a very old hoary man seated on his rear with his arms crossed, from all over whose beard, forehead, and hair water flows incessantly, drop by drop, representing sweat and tears; and the fountain has no other conduit than that.

Elsewhere they had the very amusing experience of seeing what I have noted above; for as they were walking about the garden and looking at its curiosities, the gardener left their company for this purpose; and as they were in a certain spot contemplating certain marble statues, there spurted up under their feet and between their legs, through an infinite number of tiny holes, jets of water so minute that they were almost invisible, imitating supremely well the trickle of fine rain, with which they were completely sprinkled by the operation of some underground spring which the gardener was working more than two hundred paces from there, with such artifice that from there on the outside he made these spurts of water rise and fall as he pleased, turning and moving them just as he wanted. This same game is found here in several places.

They also saw the master fountain, which issues from a conduit in two very big bronze effigies, of which the lower holds the other in his arms and is squeezing him with all his might; the other half fainting, his head thrown back, seems to spurt this water forcibly out of his mouth; and it shoots out with such power that the stream of water rises thirty-seven fathoms above the height of these figures, which are at least twenty feet high. There is also a chamber among the branches of an evergreen tree, but much richer than any other that they had seen; for it is all filled out with the live green branches of the tree, and on all sides this chamber is so closed in by this verdure that there is no view out except through a few apertures that must be opened up by pushing aside the branches here and there; and in the center, through a concealed pipe, a jet of water rises right in this chamber through the center of a small marble table. Water music is also made here, but they could not hear it, for it was late for people who had to get back to town. They also saw the duke’s escutcheon here high over a gateway, very well-formed of some branches of trees fostered and maintained in their natural strength by fibers that one can barely discern. They were here in the most unpropitious season for gardens, and were all the more amazed. There is also a handsome grotto, where you see all sorts of animals represented to the life, spouting the water of these fountains, some by the beak, some by the wing, some by the claw or ear or the nostril.' (pp. 67–68)

Gardens in Tuscany | Medici Villa at Castello | www.brunelleschi.imss.fi.it

 

   
   
Villa Reale di Castello (Villa di Castello) in Florence
Villa Reale di Castello (Villa di Castello) in Florence

 
   
The villa gave its name to the Castello Plan, an early city map of Lower Manhattan (New York City) from 1660, which was found in the villa in 1900 and printed in 1916.


Villa is Tuscany

Podere Santa Pia, a formal cloister in the Tuscan Maremma is the perfect holiday resort for relaxing and enjoying the splendor of the Maremma hills of southern Tuscany. Located on the outskirts of Castiglioncello Bandini, in a hilly and unspoilt land, Podere Santa Pia is one of the best places to slow traveling in Tuscany. This is a holiday home that will especially appeal to art lovers. The most interesting artistic, historical and cultural sites of southern Tuscany are nearby, and are awaiting your discovery. Explore the medieval hillside villages on your way to Siena, watch the Ponte della Pia near the Eremo di Rosia and marvel at settlements that date back to Etruscan times, try some Vino Nobile wines in Montepulciano, or the Brunello wines in Montalcino, cities where the refined beauty of the squares and churches blends perfectly with the ancient traditions of its wines.

Farmhouses in Tuscany | Podere Santa Pia

 

Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia, view from the garden
on the valley below

  Villa San Martino, Napoleon’s summer residence
         



Villas and Medici's Gardens
Palazzo Pitti [The Pitti Palace] | Address: Firenze, Piazza de' Pitti 1
Medici Villa at Careggi | Address: Firenze, loc. Careggi, Via Gaetano Pieraccini 17

Medici Villa 'La Petraia'
| Address: Firenze, loc. Castello, Via della Petraia 40
Formerly a castle of the Brunelleschi family, in 1575 it passed to Cardinal Ferdinand de’ Medici who had Buontalenti completely renovate the structure. Of particular effect is the great entrance court: covered with a glass skylight in the nineteenth century so it could serve as a ball room, it houses a series of frescoes by Volterrano (17th century) depicting the pomp of the House of Medici. Elected as his summer residence by Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Italy, the villa still has richly furnished period rooms. The building overlooks an Italian-style garden laid out by Tribolo, who also designed the famous fountain of Fiorenza emerging from the water sculptured by Giambologna. Nurseries, hothouses and basins are scattered throughout the “terraces”, with their geometrically patterned boxwood edges. The spacious English park stretches between the villa of Petraia and that of Castello, and is characterized by its dense groves of holm-oaks, cedars, pines, plane trees, conceived by the Bohemian landscapist J. Fritsch, for the Lorraines
Gardens in Tuscany | Medici Villa La Petraia

Parco Mediceo di Pratolino - Villa Demidoff [Medici Park at Pratolino - Villa Demidoff] | Address: Vaglia, Via Fiorentina 282
Medici Villa 'Ambra' | Address: Poggio a Caiano, Piazza de' Medici 14
Medici Villa 'La Ferdinanda' | Address: Carmignano, Artimino, Via Papa Giovanni XXIII 5
Villa Medicea di Cerreto Guidi [Medici Villa at Cerreto Guidi] | Address: Cerreto Guidi, Via dei Ponti Medicei 7
Palazzo Mediceo di Seravezza [Palazzo Mediceo di Seravezza] |Address: Seravezza, Via del Palazzo 358

Medici Villas - UNESCO World Heritage Centre | www.whc.unesco.org

The Medici Villas form a totally new system of residences built by the Medici family outside the walls of Florence, in the centre of vast farming properties. From the 15th to the early 18th century, the Medici family played a decisive political role in the Tuscan territory, adding to their city homes, more specifically connected with the exercise of their power, these places for recreation and hunting which, thanks to the Medici patronage, became meeting places for literati, philosophers, and artists. The group of villas was built during the phase of the family's political success, while the city of Florence was becoming the heart of the formation, and later the expansion throughout Europe, of the Renaissance culture.

The villas were splendid residences, rich with works of art (Botticelli's "Spring" was painted for the villa in Castello), which were both excellent economic investments that were a source of constant income, and safe political centres, since they guaranteed the control of the territory of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Each member of the Medici family had his own estate as a place of pleasure and representation and, depending on the seasons, the Grand Duchy moved from one villa to another; for hunting at Pratolino and Cafaggiolo, and in the winter toward the sea in search of milder temperatures.

Originating as the transformation of ancient castles and pre-existing villas, down through the centuries the country residences of the Medici were the settings of important events connected with both the historic-political and the cultural affairs of the city of Florence.

Characterized by a general conception based on a clear relationship between the building and the park, surrounded by vast gardens, they were a decisive element in launching, for both the conception of architecture and the arrangement of the surrounding greenery, the features that later became typical in the territorial organization around Florence and throughout Tuscany, based on a Renaissance-style rational arrangement. The language of the Medici architects, ordered by the Grand Dukes themselves, is inspired by rigor and elegance and dominated by simplicity and austerity, according to a precise "State architecture" that made the figure of the Prince omnipresent throughout the entire Grand Duchy.

Generally speaking, the villa consists of a compact building whose façade stands out for its calculated sobriety with few decorative elements. Large porticoes open the building up toward the surrounding garden and landscape. The garden, mainly organized into descending terraces, is a fundamental element of the villa, as can still clearly be seen in the Medici complex of Castello, commissioned by Cosimo I from Niccolò Tribolo, who designed it on the basis of the canons and descriptions of Leon Battista Alberti, and considered by Vasari as one of the "richest gardens in Europe".

Apart from the private ("secret") places for the family, the gardens of the villas are organized scenographically to glorify the entire court and astound guests and visitors. They are a measured concession to that "French" style that found little application in Tuscany: the culture of the control of space was too strong and ingrained.

The interiors of the buildings are enriched with important cycles of murals, celebrating the Medici family.

The Villa of Poggio a Caiano constitutes the oldest attempt to bring the classical suburban villa back to life, on the basis of the writings of Pliny and Vitruvius; during the Renaissance, it became an actual country home, even though the solution of the large central atrium with coffered vaulted ceiling derives more specifically from a study of the Roman baths. The edifice was built over the remains of an ancient Cancellieri fortress which had belonged to the Strozzi family and then to Giovanni Rucellai, purchased in 1474 by Lorenzo the Magnificent, who engaged Giuliano da Sangallo to rebuild it completely. The villa is a pure geometric volume supported by a porticoed base. The marked accent of rustic simplicity becomes an expression of a subtler, more sophisticated elegance thanks to the insertion of the tympanum. The general conception of the complex reinvents the layout of the Tuscan villa, no longer revolving around a closed courtyard, as in medieval buildings, but around a large hall or reception room ("salone") that distributes the main rooms, arranged along the longitudinal axis of the building. This centrality of the "Salone" is exalted by the presence of the scenographic pictorial cycle, celebrating the Medici family, painted by Franciabigio, Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo, and Alessandro Allori. During the subsequent centuries, other work enriched and transformed the complex which, in the 19th century, became the vacation home of the Savoy family.

The Villa della Petraia dates from the late 16th century, when the Medici, after purchasing it from the Strozzi, renovated and enlarged the ancient castle, which already existed in the 14th century. The general Buontalenti-style architectural rearrangement was embellished by the various owners with decorative elements and murals. The frescoes of the courtyard, by Cosimo Daddi and Volterrano, date from the time of the Medici, the ground-floor chapel is from the period of the House of Lorraine, and the iron and glass roofing of the courtyard, its arrangement as a large party room, and, more in general, the interior decorating of the villa were added by the Savoy, who brought in furniture from various other residences they owned in Turin, Modena, Lucca, and Parma.

The vast garden surrounding the villa also reflects a similar historic stratification. Over the original late-16th-century general plan with overlapping terraces created with great embankments, were placed the 19th-century landscaping of the so-called "Piano della Figurina", adorned with the Fiorenza Fountain (Niccolò Tribolo and Giambologna), and the romantic English-style park on the north side, created in the early 1800s.

Formerly the favourite residence of Cosimo de' Medici's mother, the Villa di Castello was renovated and decorated by Cosimo himself immediately after his election as the city's Grand Duke (1537). Impressive projects to enlarge the villa and landscape the gardens were promptly launched, in order to celebrate, through the various decorative elements, his astonishingly quick rise to power and his role as an ensurer of the peace and prosperity achieved. The garden, the best preserved specimen of an "Italian style garden", in accordance with Leon Battista Alberti's canons and descriptions, is organized along a central axis on three descending terraces, of which the first may be considered an external continuation of the Villa. A magnificent plumbing system supplied water to the numerous fountains. Among the decorative elements, stand-outs are the Fountain of Hercules and Antaeus, so called after the bronze group by Bartolomeo Ammannati, which decorates its top, and the Cave of the Animals or of the Flood, completed by Vasari, which celebrates, in a perfect simulation of a natural cave in which sculpture groups of animals in polychrome marbles are placed, the pacification of the living universe by Cosimo. Worthy of note is the garden of medicinal herbs, a true gem of its kind, and the excellent collection of citrus plants, including some of the most important in the world.

The Villa di Careggi, the Medici's favourite residence in the 15th century, combines monumental value with the historic value of the place where Lorenzo the Magnificent devoted himself to his studies, surrounded by the philosophers and literati of the Platonic Academy. Purchased by the Medici, it was renovated and enlarged in around the mid-15th century, after a design attributed to Michelozzo di Bartolomeo. It is from this time that the building's typical characteristic of a compact block, with unifying elements in the crenellated top overhanging stone corbels and the projecting volumes of the two loggias to the west, dates. The decorative scheme of the interiors mainly dates from the early decades of the 17th century, when, on orders from Prince Carlo de' Medici, who became a cardinal in 1615, both the villa and the garden were transformed under the direction of Giulio Parigi, an engineer of the Medici court. Particularly fine is the "grotticina", below the first floor "salone", with the fountain decorated with sponges and the majolica-tiled floor. The vast garden surrounding the edifice reflects both the 17th-century changes and those in the romantic vein, made in the late 19th century, when the villa became the place commemorating the legend of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

The Villa di Cerreto Guidi, located not far from Vinci on the slopes of Monte Albano, was built in around 1565 by Cosimo I, and replaced the ruins of the ancient castle of the Guidi counts.

A hunting residence and rural administration centre, as well as a convenient stopover point for the transfers of the Grand Duke's court from Florence to Pisa and the Maremma region, the building, on a rectangular plan, is characterized by simple, straight architectural forms, enhanced by majestic terracotta and stone ramps, traditionally attributed to Buontalenti, which form a sort of scenographic base. The building, whose interior is characterized by a 19th-century decorative scheme, is enriched in the back by a garden, which was also probably redesigned in the last century and, in the front, at the top of the ramps, a large area affording a view of an extraordinary panorama. The imposing size of the villa, which holds an interesting series of Medici family portraits, stands out as an element that characterizes the surrounding landscape.
Satements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Medici Villas have maintained their original characteristics unchanged, expressing the particular measurement and refined taste of the Florentine culture during both the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
All the monuments benefit from legal protection through national legislative provisions (Legislative Decree no. 42/2004, "Code for cultural assets and landscape"), regional and municipal administrative measures, and management mechanism measures that ensure their preservation.
Comparison with other similar properties

This complex of residences is comparable only to the most distinguished examples of aristocratic residences surrounded by gardens ordered by the most important Italian families of the Renaissance - such as the Gonzaga in Mantua and the Este in Ferrara - in relation to the political and cultural function they had, as an extension throughout the territory of the court life, as well as to the Palladian Villas and those of the papal nobility in Latium.
Compared to the examples mentioned, the Medici Villas, which were created through a reutilization of pre-existing structures, stand out for their characteristic as a system of control and supervision over the territory, combined with their productive functions and use as places for artistic expression, representation, and recreation for the Medici family.

Tombolo Feniglia
Podere Santa Pia, famous wines in southern Tuscany
Monte Oliveto Maggiore Abbey
Tombolo Feniglia
         
Media related to Villa di Castello at Wikimedia Commons