Wandering through Tuscany, I never stop running into important historical sites and museums that house exceptional art. Never waste the opportunity and visit as many sites of interest as possible: this is the philosophy that takes me off to explore this region.
Today, I want to share with you the discovery of one of these places: the Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano, a small town in the province of Prato built around the Medici-era villa.
This villa is the site where many important people of the past once lived and organized their parties and where today you can breathe in its air of nobility and royalty.
A bit of history
The Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano was built by Lorenzo de' Medici, designed by architect Giuliano da Sangallo and built between 1445 and 1520. A charming place, the slopes of Mount Albano frame the the setting of this beautiful villa. It was a summer residence for the Medici, the site of important family events including weddings as well as unpleasant incidents, such as the death of Francesco I caused by a deadly fever. The Leone X hall, with celebratory frescoes on the walls commissioned by the Medici from Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo, Franciabigio and Alessandro Allori, go back to 1518 when the villa was still being finished.
It definitely helps to know a little about a place before you visit to better understand what you find in front of you.
Thus, you might know that as the dynasty of the Medici ended, the Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano was passed on to the Hapsburg-Lorraine dynasty. Even then, in the eighteenth century, this continued to be used as a summer residence. Later, this became Elisa Baciocchi Bonaparte's favorite residence.
During the period when Florence was capital of Italy, King Vittorio Emanuele II built new stables, redecorated several rooms and transformed the ground floor hall into a billiards room.
What to see inside...
This villa was the theater to many love stories and today belongs to the Italian state. It hosts two important, separate museums: one is the historical apartments and the other the Museum of Still Life, created on the second floor [in June 2007], containing still-life paintings from the Medici collections.
To really visit the entire villa, including the gardens, I recommend you spend at least half a day here.
Inside the Renaissance villa, you can admire the apartments which belonged to Bianca Cappello, the entrance hall, the billiards room and the court theater on the ground floor; the Leone X hall, the entrance hall and dining room on the first floor; the Museum of Still Life on the second floor.
... and the gardens outside!
The Medici Villa at Poggio a Caiano is surrounded by lovely gardens which take in part the form of an English garden with shaded boulevards and picturesque views, while the other part mirrors the classic Italian garden with countless pots of lemons. On a beautiful, sunny day, after admiring the two museums and precious interior decorations that adorn them, go out and enjoy the breeze as it caresses your face and hair as you stroll through the gardens of the Villa.
Do you want to visit the villa?
Make sure to note the practical information found on the right column of this page to better plan your visit to the Medici Villa at Poggio a Caiano.
What else is there to see nearby?
If you visit Prato, you should not miss visiting this magnificent example of Renaissance architecture which, in a sinuous embrace, mixes classic details with period features from Tuscan rural nobility residences and is a place where time seems to have stopped. Likewise, if you make your way to visit the Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano, make sure to go to Prato where the small historical center is a pleasure to explore and discover (it isn't on many itineraries so you won't find many crowds).
The villa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
In 2013, the Medici Villa at Poggio a Caiano, along with 11 other Medici villas and 2 gardens, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a look at this video which takes you on a journey through the various Medici villas and gardens in Tuscany - and make sure to visit the other Medici villas at Castello and Petraia just outside of Florence, or the Medici garden park in Pratolino in Mugello or the villa in Cerreto Guidi while you are in Tuscany!