In 2013, Tuscan Medici Villas and Gardens have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, places of priceless value, belonging to humanity as a whole.
The Medici Villas, immersed in the Tuscan landscape, testify the heritage left to us by the powerful Medici family between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. During their hegemony, the villas represented not only holiday resorts and resting places during the hunting season; villas, in fact, were a point of reference for the surrounding farms and even more a social status of their dominion over the territory.
Built in perfect harmony with the environment, embellished with splendid gardens, works of art and innovative technological solutions, they represented a new model of manor house inspired by some fundamental principles of Humanism and Renaissance.
It is interesting to point out how many changes underwent over the centuries , in terms of style evolutions: from the first villas, commissioned by Cosimo the Elder, in the Mugello area (Cafaggiolo, Trebbio) – as Medieval fortresses but softened by Michelozzo’s intervention – or those commissioned by Lorenzo il Magnifico (Poggio a Caiano, Fiesole) of humanistic inspiration to the lasts (Castello, Petraia, Boboli) enriched by the famous Italian-style gardens on a project by Niccolò Tribolo for Cosimo I.
The unmistakable style of the great Master Buontalenti is reflected on the villas of Cerreto Guidi and Pratolino, commissioned by Francesco I. Other architectural examples in which Medici villas developed their style are the villa "of the hundred fireplaces" of Artimino, commissioned by Ferdinando I, and the intervention works carried out on the villa of Poggio Imperiale – the last in chronological order - commissioned first by the Grand Duchesses Maria Maddalena of Austria and then by Vittoria della Rovere (the wives of Cosimo II and Ferdinand II respectively).
Boboli garden, located in the center of Florence (in the Palazzo Pitti complex), is considered a open-air museum featuring a set of statues, caves and monumental fountains. Three other beautiful villas are always located in the municipal territory: Petraia and Castello (regularly visitable) and Careggi (momentarily closed).
Out of the city, the municipality of Vaglia houses the fabulous Parco Mediceo di Pratolino, whose villa (now lost) was commissioned by Francesco I dei Medici. The park is usually open to the public from April to October.
Other villas, the oldest ones, are in the Mugello district, the Medici’s origin place: Trebbio (open to the public) and Cafaggiolo (temporarily closed). Since the mid-16th century, during the Medici Grand Duchy, many other villas were built, such as the one at Cerreto Guidi in the Empolese area, regularly open, Villa Medici in Fiesole and the neoclassical Villa di Poggio Imperiale in Florence (both can be visited only occasionally).
The Medici Palace of Seravezza, in the province of Lucca, contrasts the typical Medici pageantry with simplicity. Today it is owned by the municipality (regularly visitable).
A few kilometers from Prato: the Medici Villa of Poggio a Caiano, a key example of architecture commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent, in this case to Giuliano da Sangallo (regularly visitable); the Villa of Artimino, commissioned by Grand Duke Ferdinando I De' Medici (which can only be visited on booking). Last but not least, Villa la Magia in Quarrata (regularly visitable).
For further information about UNESCO Medici Villas and gardens - not only in the surroundings of Florence, but also in the rest of Tuscany – please visit the official page.