Explore the grand Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, the home of the Medici. One of the highlights of the Florentine Renaissance palaces, it entrances visitors with an ornate courtyard and ornate frescoes. It once numbered the young Michelangelo and neoplatonist philosophers amongst its guests.
This house was the symbol of Medici supremacy at the end of the 15th centuries. Afterwards, Cosimo I moved his residency, first to Palazzo Vecchio and later to the huge Pitti Palace on the other side of the river.
It’s a pleasant place to spend an hour enjoying Renaissance elegance, and walking through the rooms once inhabited by the Medici family. Situated in Via Cavour, a few steps from San Lorenzo Square, the palace is an oasis of tranquillity in an otherwise busy area. You can combine a stroll to San Lorenzo Market with a visit to this historic residence.
Highlights of Palazzo Medici-Riccardi
The interior courtyard, created by the enclosing of the medieval loggia, has some splendid details. Amongst them, the reliefs in the tondi bear Medici heraldic symbols and mythological scenes.
The palace’s most interesting features are the Galleria Riccardiana’s ceiling by Baroque artist Luca Giordano, and the charming frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Cappella dei Magi (1459-61). Here the biblical episode of the Magi’s journey is used to represent an important episode of the city’s history: the Council of Florence in 1439, organised to reconcile the Eastern and Western churches.
Following a Renaissance trend, the painter depicts members of the Medici family and other illustrious contemporary characters in the parade of people that accompany the Magi. The scene is full of dainty, subtle details that are worth taking one’s time to appreciate. See Cosimo the Elder dressed in black on his horse, on the eastern wall.
Palazzo Medici-Riccardi also hosts temporary art exhibitions that are worth a look.
A bit of history
This was the first great Medici mansion house. The district was then a quiet residential area, just on the outskirts of the city centre.
It was built in 1444-48 for Cosimo the Elder by his friend and favourite architect Michelozzo, one of the pioneers of Renaissance architecture in Florence. Michelozzo was also responsible for San Marco complex and the Cathedral. It was in these rooms that Cosimo the Elder’s nephew, Lorenzo the Magnificent, kept his art collection and entertained guests – amongst them Michelangelo and neoplatonic philosophers like Ficino and Pico della Mirandola.
A branch of the Medici family carried on living here until 1659, when it was bought by the Riccardi family of bankers. Once under new management, the house was restructured and extended, hence the its double-barelled name.
Palazzo Medici-Riccardi – Address: Via Cavour, 3 – open from 9am to 7pm, closed on wednesday
Did you know?
Cosimo the Elder had previously rejected a design for this palace presented by Filippo Brunelleschi “because it was too lavish and magnificent” and would “arouse envy among the citizens, rather than being a grand ornament for the city, and comfortable in itself” (wrote G. Vasari, 1568).
Later however, all modesty and moderation went out of the window with the Princes Chapel which is part of the Medici Chapels.