If you want to know who the Medici really were, these are the books you should start with. They are filled with vivid details and well-told stories and are indispensable reads for fans of the Medici family. They also paint a picture of Renaissance life in Florence which is interesting if you’re planning a visit to the city.
3 Top Books about the Medici family
The long history of the Medici family involves a series of astute politicians and diplomats, bankers, popes and fearless leaders. You have murders, plots, vicious enemies, piles of money, passion, mysteries and intrigue. And we shouldn’t forget that they shaped one of the most handsome cities on earth, Florence, financing artists like Michelangelo and Brunelleschi. But how did an obscure family from the Apennine valley of Mugello achieve their remarkable success?
MEDICI MONEY by Tim Parks – Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in 15th century Florence
Tim Parks is a wonderful storyteller. Even when he’s writing about a subject as complex as the economy and the Florentine Renaissance, he manages to make it enjoyable. This is a real page-turner, filled with juicy details, it’s a witty and fascinating insight about how making money was then strictly related to the rules and laws created by the Church. Parks starts with a clear and provocative statement “with usura we have the Renaissance, no less” and delves into the history of banking system, of which the Medici were main actors.
The book spans over 150 years, and covers Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici and his banking roots, the achievements of his son Cosimo and the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent, with whom the Medici bank had already started to lose his grip. What makes this one of the great books about the Medici family, is the way he captures the spirit of the age and brings these extraordinary characters to life, showing their flaws as much as their successes. It shows how the family rose to power in Florence, how they were often less than democratic, and how they dealt with fierce opposition from the Church who regarded interest as a sin. Find the book on Amazon.
THE HOUSE OF MEDICI. ITS RISE AND FALL by Christopher Hibbert
This book is loaded with lots of accurate historical details, a complete account of the Medici family from the first step of Giovanni di Bicci and Cosimo until the family’s last members in the 18th century, “this enthralling book charts the family’s huge influence on the political, economic and cultural history of Florence”.
You’ll learn what was it like to live in Florence, and why they had so many enemies like the Albizzi. You’ll find out which artists they supported, their ailments, their politics within Europe, their first cautious steps into the Florentine Republic and the creation of the Gran Ducato with Cosimo I. Finally you’ll see how the family line slowly declined.
The history of the Medici family is filled with drama, twists and passion. With many interesting details and colourful descriptions, this isn’t a dry historical account but a vivid painting of a family that straddled centuries. You can find the book on Amazon.
THE MEDICI GODFATHERS OF THE RENAISSANCE by Paul Strathern
We love Paul Strathern’s writing. It pulls you inside the story and gives you an overview of how the Medici were influential in the Italian Renaissance. It’s a story of endless ambition, power and drama and is interesting particularly for the way it shows how the Medici family’s involvement with the great painters and scientists of the age.
Strathern covers the members of the family who were influential outside Florence, from two Popes to Catherine de’ Medici. It’s an accessible book that shows how one family changed the face of Europe, and highly recommended for anyone interested in the Renaissance as a whole. You can get hold of this book on Amazon.
⇒ The Medici are featuring in the Netflix series “Masters of Florence”. Read our post to see what it is about, but don’t expect any historical accuracy!
The second season will come out on Italian television on October 2018, and soon after that it will be available on Netflix.
The Medici family is an endless source of fascination for people. They were on the scene for three centuries and during that time they made the city of Florence one of the most important and cultured cities in Europe, later creating the Gran Duchy of Tuscany in central Italy. As able businessmen they made plenty of money, and owned the most important banks in Europe at the time.