The grand Pitti Palace museums are filled with paintings from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. Highlights are the Palatine Gallery with a superb collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and the Macchiaioli Room in the Modern Art Gallery.
The Pitti Palace is just one of the Medici family’s residences that can be visited in Florence. It’s a vast and extraordinary example of Renaissance architecture, with rooms sumptuously decorated in the fashions of different eras. It used to be the home of the Medici and later the king of Italy. Today there are five museums to choose from, displaying everything from paintings to costumes and silverware. The splendid Boboli Gardens, annexed to the palace, can also be visited.
Pitti Palace – Explore the galleries
See the impressive collections of Italian and European masters, from the Renaissance to the Baroque period. Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Andrea del Sarto are all there. The paintings completely cover the walls of the lavishly decorated rooms. The style is that of a traditional 17th century private picture gallery, where the works are displayed with no regard for chronological order, but rather according to their decorative features.
The best way to enjoy a visit is to choose what you want to see beforehand so you won’t get lost amongst all the art. Look out for Raphael‘s “Madonna of the Chair” in the Saturn Room, Rubens’ “Consequences of wars” in the Mars Room, “The Veiled Lady” by Raphael, Titian‘s”Mary Magdalene”, and the impressive works by Caravaggio.
From the Palatine Gallery the visit continues through the Royal Apartments. They consist of fourteen immodestly decorated rooms, with plenty of frescoes, drapes and stuccos. They were once the home of the Medici, the Lorraine grand-ducal family and, from 1865, the king of Italy.
Modern Art Gallery
This hosts a collection of Italian painting from the 18th to early 20th century. Highlights are the Macchiaioli, forerunners of the French Impressionists, with luminous Maremma landscapes by Giovanni Fattori.
Costume Gallery and Silverware Gallery
The Costume Gallery is the 18th-century wing of the Pitti Palace that overlooks the Boboli Gardens. The collection is made up of six thousand costumes and accessories from the 16th to the 20th centuries.
If you’re curious about the Medici’s taste that sometimes bordered on kitsch, pop inside the Silverware Gallery. It houses a huge collection of artefacts, homeware, ceramic and jewellery from the Medici household.
There’s also a Porcelain Museum with a small collection of European ceramics. This is located in the Casino del Cavaliere, in the highest part of the Boboli Garden and can be visited with the same ticket bought for the gardens. There’s pretty pottery and great views over Florence.
The history of Pitti Palace: a mansion fit for royalty
Cosimo I de’ Medici bought the palace in 1549 from a rival family called the Pitti. They had tried to surpass the Medici by building the biggest mansion in Florence, but after a series of political fiascos, they found they couldn’t cope with the expenses and were forced to sell.
At that point Cosimo’s wife Eleonora was looking for a change of scenery. She didn’t enjoy living in the smaller Palazzo Vecchio, and found the crowded area near the city centre unhealthy. The Pitti Palace seemed the perfect choice for the couple. A grand building with a vast piece of land attached to it, it perfectly represented the man who became Grand Duke of Tuscany. Particularly because it was able to accommodate his illustrious guests and all the political leaders that would frequently arrive in the city.
Over the years many architects worked on the palace, including Brunelleschi and Ammannati, and the style is largely Florentine Renaissance.
Boboli is a vast Renaissance Italianate garden, with plenty of sculptures, grottos, tree-lined avenues and fountains. It’s a perfect place to escape the crowds and have a peaceful wonder in the garden that once belonged to the Medici family.