Recently the Medici’s villas have been added in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Among them there is the Villa of Poggio a Caiano in the surroundings of Prato.
A brief history and few curiosities
The villa was commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent to architect Giuliano da San Gallo in late 15th century. This was the first example of the typical Renaissance country villa and was enriched with frescoes, sculptures and other artworks by major artists from all the centuries. It was probably the most beloved by the Medici for their holidays in the Tuscan countryside. Inside the ville has a small theater as well as a large ballroom, the room of Pope X, richly decorated by frescoes of Pontormo and Alessandro Allori.
Most of the inside has been re-arranged during 17th century when the villa became property of Napoleon’s sister Elisa Baciocchi Bonaparte first, and then of the King Vittorio Emanuele II. The furnishing, the colored wall decorations, the glass chandeliers and some of the internal architectures dates back to this period. I liked the apartment of Rosina, the King’s lover. Actually there is another interesting lover’s apartment.
It’s the apartment of Bianca Cappello, lover of the Grand Duke Francesco I, that looks almost isolated from the rest of the house. There is a particular balcony in the waiting room reminding to Juliet’s balcony in Verona. The love affair between the Grand Duke and this beautiful Venetian woman was one of the most famous sexgate in the Renaissance. Here in Poggio a Caiano the couple lived some of their best moments of this outrageous relationship and here found the death in 1587. Their internal organs were put in two funeral urns inside the Parish Church of Bonistallo, located on top of hill nearby the villa. Lately scientists discovered the urns and found out that both were poisoned.
The Villa of Poggio a Caiano is open every day from 8.15 am to dusk and is closed on the 2nd and 3rd Monday of the month. Entrance is free and is allowed at the half of every hour, starting from 8.30 and lasts for one hour. For more info about schedules see the official site of Polo Museale Fiorentino.
The villa is located in Poggio a Caiano and the best way to get here is driving following the signs for Poggio a Caiano. By bus from Florence you can take the Copit line 51 to Pistoia or the CAP line PF from Florence SMN to Poggio a Caiano. Otherwise you can reach Prato by train and then take the Cap line LAM-MT Azzurra SUD (light bue) from Prato to Poggio a Caiano.
- Gardens – the villa has a large park that is free and always open during the museum’s opening hours. During the good weather you can also admire the big lime and orange trees, so beloved by the Medici.
- Guided tour – I suggest you take a guided tour to visit the villa since there are not many info inside and in books. What I like about guided tours are the stories and curiosities they tell you about places like this, since the villa was a real drama-place. I actually take a tour with Elena of SeeFlorence. She was really nice and prepared and lives next door. She told us lots of stories in addition to the most juicy historical facts. In addition I recommend you visit the website because they organize not the usual guided tours and if you want to discover what’s beyond the classic Florence these guys are for you.
- Soffici Museum – located inside the Medici stables the museum hosts a large collection of Soffici‘s writings and paintings.
- Parish Church of Bonistallo – this church is located on top of a hill right in front of the villa. It’s about a couple of kilometers. From up there you can admire the panorama of Prato surroundings, take a nice walk in the olive groves and get some rest.
- Shops – the town of Poggio a Caiano has lovely shops and if you like shopping you should just your time and shop! I liked the Via degli Angeli shop, near the Soffici Museum. The store is small boutique were you can find the latest fashion trends coming from Italy and Europe. I loved the bags, the shirts and the jewels!