The magnificent Palazzo Pitti - the ancient main residence of the Medici dynasty and the following Tuscan sovereigns- assembles from 1883 one of the most important art galleries complexes in Florence. The palace is situated in Piazza de’Pitti, on the south side of the Arno River at a short distance walking from the Ponte Vecchio.
The hub of the current palace was at first the Florentine residence of Luca Pitti (1398-1472) one of the principal bankers in Florence. Luca Pitti, awarded a knighthood by Cosimo the Elder, had also been magistrate in chief of the Republic of Florence in Cosimo’s age.
The construction of the palace dates from 1458. Pitti commissioned it from a still not known for sure architect.
Even though, Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) the famous Florentine architect and art historian affirmed that Filippo Brunelleschi (1337-1446) began to design the project by 1440 and it was later brought to an end into ancient Roman art by one in of his youngest pupils, the well-known Tuscan architect and sculptor Luca Fancelli (1430 ca. -1495?) who also conducted the work.
In 1549, the Spanish noblewoman Leonor Álvarez de Toledo y Osorio, wife of Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, purchased the palace thus becoming the main residence of the grand ducal family.
The by then unfinished big building – which construction had been stopped in 1465 owing to Luca Pitti’s financial problems – was only arranged on two upper floors over a ground floor with five large windows on each floor.
In 1560 the Grand Dukes commissioned its enlargement and modification, in turn to change the former Pitti’s property into a regal residence, from the celebrated Florentine mannerist architect and sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati (1511-1592) who had been and advantaged pupil and assistant to the illustrious artists Bartolommeo Bandinelli and Jacopo Sansovino.
Between 1560 and 1570 Ammannati, very much influenced by Michelangelo’s architectonical features, had already finished the construction of the two lateral wings, the majestic courtyard, as well as the entire reorganization of the gardens, initiated in 1549 by the great Tuscan artist Bernardo Buontalenti. We refer to the emblematic Boboli Gardens, which are one of the first and most exquisite examples of the so-called Italian Garden.
In the first decades of the 17th century the eminent Florentine architect Giulio Parigi (1571-1635) who had been pupil and assistant to the illustrious Bernardo Buontalenti, assisted by his soon after renowned son Alfonso (1606-1656) gave to the imposing façade its current features with the countless and immense windows, which are bigger than the main doors of some of the principal aristocratic palaces of the age in Florence.
The two side pavilions were connected to the palace around 1830, commissioned by the Habsburg-Lorraine family -subsequent monarchs of Tuscany after the Medici’s extinction- from the renowned Tuscan architects Pasquale Poccianti (1774-1858) and Gaspare Maria Paoletti (1727-1813) believed as the leading architect of the age in Tuscany.
Poccianti constructed also a small palace called “La Meridiana”, which is located at the rear of the Pitti Palace, looking on to the marvellous gardens.
The Pitti Palace has been also the temporary residence in Florence of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte when Tuscany was under the rule of the French First Empire. Florence was one more time elected capital city of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (1809-1814) and was governed by the Grand Duchess Maria Anna Elisa Bonaparte (Ajaccio, 1777- Trieste, 1820) sister of Napoleon.
When Florence was designated capital city of the Kingdom of Italy (1864-1869) Vittorio Emmanuele II of Savoia, first king of Italy from 1861 to 1878, moved his main residence to the Palazzo Pitti.
Nowadays the Pitti Palace houses some of the main museums in Florence: the Palatine Gallery, the Royal Apartments, the Silver Museum, and the Gallery of Modern Art.
The Porcelain Museum is hosted in the Boboli Gardens, situated at the back of the palace, while the Costume Gallery is preserved in “La Meridiana”.
For more information on THE MUSEUMS IN PALAZZO PITTI please click here
Oltrarno Side of Florence
The Cathedrals : Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, Cappella Brancacci, Santo Spirito
Main Monuments : Palazzo Pitti, Piazzale Michelangelo, Ponte Vecchio
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