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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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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