Studio Musivo Lastrucci: masters of the Florentine mosaic, the art of “painting with stones”

Studio Musivo Lastrucci: masters of the Florentine mosaic, the art of “painting with stones”

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The artistic discipline named “commesso” or Florentine mosaic made with semiprecious stones emerged in Florence in the 16th century. As could be expected, the Medici family was a great promoter of this new artistic manifestation. Using the traditional technique of the Romanesque mosaic, the “commesso” added interspersed gemstones with highly aesthetic results, very similar to those of a real painting. Each mosaic is handmade in the laboratory following the traditional method, which allows to maintain the authenticity of the technique and enhance the natural colour of each stone. To complete a surface equivalent to a DIN A3 size, three or four years of craft work are needed. …

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The ubiquitous Medici escutcheon in Florence

The ubiquitous Medici escutcheon in Florence

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Contrary to the legend, the surname Medici has nothing to do with medical ancestors in the family, but with their move from the region of Mugello to Florence, back in the thirteen century, abandoning agriculture to devote themselves to financial life. The six red balls on the golden field of the coat of arms are not pills but bezants, a unit of weight from the Byzantine era used by merchants and medieval bankers to count. The mythical escutcheon is easily recognizable in any corner of Florence and when least expected.…

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Medici villas #2: Poggio a Caiano

Medici villas #2: Poggio a Caiano

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The construction of this medicean villa located between Florence, Prato and Pistoia was the whim of Lorenzo the Magnificent, thus he commissioned it to his favourite architect, Giuliano da Sangallo, at the end of the 15th century. A residence for the pure leisureliness of contemplation by the dynastic power, the villa of Poggio a Caiano recovers elements of the classic architecture such as the fronton and Ionic temple at the main facade. Due to the harmony and symmetry of its proportions, as for representing an ideal of life in the outskirts under Humanism, the site is listed World Heritage by the UNESCO since 2013. Walking the Parco all’inglese and the Giardino all’italiana is as stimulating as visiting its interior. Free entrance.
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Medici villas #1: La Petraia

Medici villas #1: La Petraia

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Perched on a hill top of Castello, with a panoramic view of Florence, this astonishing 14th century villa was first owned by the Brunelleschi family and the Strozzi, before being home to Cosimo I de’ Medici and his offsprings. It was also the favourite residence of Vittorio Emanuele II in the company of her lover Rosa Vercellana. Its significance has paved the way for restorations throughout the centuries, thus becoming declared UNESCO World Heritage in 2013 and an asset of the state museums today. Not to miss are the famous lunettes painted by Giusto Utens — each representing a Medici villa and garden —, the sculptures of Giambologna and a wander lost in its gardens. There is a guided tour in Italian every 30 minutes. Free entrance.

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Gian Gastone de’ Medici, the last homosexual of the Medici dynasty

Gian Gastone de’ Medici, the last homosexual of the Medici dynasty

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The last sovereign ruler of the Medici dynasty, Gian Gastone (1671-1737), Grandson of Ferdinando II, reigned fourteen years – from 1723 to 1737. He was a lonely pubescent man who spent most of his time isolated in the Boboli Garden, concentrated in his studies on flowers and plants and his collection of dainty, delicate objects and things. It is said that because of his homosexuality, he was affected with a deep melancholy. He was the second in the hereditary line since the first soon of the Grand Duke was Ferdinando. When Ferdinando died without heirs in 1713, Gian Gastone inherited the throne. In 1697 and for alliances and dynasties reasons, Gian Gastone was forced to marry a German-Bohemian princess, Anna Maria Franziska. The matrimony was a calamity from the beginning due to the lack of comprehension combined with a high degree of repellency and depressed resignedness on part of Gian Gastone. The marriage had no children thus consequently the option of a Medici heir vanished.

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Gardens of Florence #9: giardino di Boboli, the paradigm of a 16th century Italian garden

Gardens of Florence #9: giardino di Boboli, the paradigm of a 16th century Italian garden

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The Boboli Gardens date back to 1418, when Luca Pitti bought its land in Oltrarno with the intention of building the magnificent Pitti Palace, later owned by the Medici family. The landscaping was commissioned by the Medici to Niccolò Tribolo, the famous architect responsible for the gardens of their villas of Castello and La Petraia. However, after the premature death of Tribolo, it was Bartolomeo Ammannati who finished the job. The Boboli is the paradigm of the 16th century Italian garden, as well as one of the largest historical parks in Florence. Around the main axes are placed avenues, hedges, terraces full of statues and fountains. The first operas of history were also represented in its open air amphitheatre.
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Medici villas #3: Medicean villa di Castello – Accademia della Crusca

Medici villas #3: Medicean villa di Castello – Accademia della Crusca

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Like the villa of La Petraia, the villa medicea di Castello is in the hills of Castello, a few kilometres from Florence. Built in the 14th century and completely rebuilt in the 16th century, it is mostly famous for its gardens, which compete in splendour with those of Boboli. Also known as Villa Reale, L’Olmo or Il Vivaio, di Castello serves currently as the headquarters of the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s most prestigious linguistic institution, so the visits are restricted and always subject to prior request. The gardens under management of the Polo Museale di Firenze, the institution in charge of the public museums of the province of Florence, are however more accessible. In addition to the gardens, another must-see is its library, the largest in the country regarding linguistics and history of the Italian language.
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Past and present of the “pensione” Annalena in Florence

Past and present of the “pensione” Annalena in Florence

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The story of Annalena (an orphan aristocrat adopted by Cosme de ‘Medici) and her palace is told in Niccolò Machiavelli´s Florentine Stories at the beginning of the 16th century. Her palace of Via Romana (a few steps from the Palazzo Pitti) was Cosme´s gift as she married Baldaccio di Bicci de ‘Medici. After Bicci´s murder, Annalena converted the building into a convent, to become later a casino, a luxury brothel, and finally, in 1919, a boarding house. Since then, it’s been the favourite of foreign travellers, musicians, poets, artists and actors, as Annalena displays through the furniture its splendid and decadent past. The Nobel Prize for literature Eugenio Montale used to stay here in the 30s; he shared “his room” with his lover when attending occasional meetings at the Crusca Academy in Florence. Prices depend on the season, so one double room with terrace could cost between 60 and 140 euros.
Hotel Annalena – Via Romana, 34, Florence, 50125, Italy

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Not a home but your home

Not a home but your home

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I am here a few months per year to please my voracious curiosity, searching meanwhile for some luck. The coexistence of different historic periods gives Florence a certain air of timelessness. Thus, I walk through these foreign streets as if my ancestors had left their trail in establishments and sidewalks; as if this is the home to which one always wishes to return. To my astonishment, I have discovered I feel at home in Florence. I especially sensed it through the intense joy, or rather euphoria, felt at the time of arrival. Also through the sadness, almost depression, lived at the moment of departure. Next comes the longing for the piercing song of the starlings and the tolling of the bells, as opposite to the exhausting sirens of police, ambulances and the squeaking rattle of the Berlin tram.…

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Forte di Belvedere: refuge of the Medici and viewpoint of Florence

Forte di Belvedere: refuge of the Medici and viewpoint of Florence

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Built at the end of the 16th century by order of Fernando I de’ Medici, Forte Belvedere is the common name of the fortress of Santa Maria in San Giorgio del Belvedere, one of the two fortresses of Florence. This building is also a popular panoramic viewpoint and a valuable architectural site of the city. The final move of the grand ducal court from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti undoubtedly influenced the decision to build the new fortress, near the wall surrounding the Boboli gardens adjacent to the Pitti Palace. In case of any danger, the prince and the court could quickly reach a fortified refuge from which they could still rule the city.

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