The Medici Villas

From Mugello to Florence, to discover the most beautiful Medici Villas and imagine for a few moments the ladies and gentlemen of the Renaissance. An itinerary provided by Touring club Italiano

Pomp, patronage, power plays and plots. This was the case when the Medici, the most powerful Florentine family of all time, ruled Tuscany both in political and cultural terms; their countless stories have provided valuable material for a wide range of more or less fictional literature. Throughout Tuscany, the Lords of Florence also left a legacy of luxurious architecture, veritable treasure troves of works of art. This is the case of the Medici Villas, scattered here and there in the idyllic countryside or a stone’s throw from Florence, made on purpose so that the Medici could take refuge there, find some peace, or host parties. They were a bit like their buen retiro, welcoming intellectuals and artists of the time. To admire them is to immerse oneself in the sumptuous atmosphere of the Florentine nobility of the Renaissance. These villas were also hotbeds for new ideals and models for the new aesthetics and art of living that later spread throughout Europe. Their value is certified by UNESCO, which has deemed these princely residences worthy of World Heritage status. From San Piero a Sieve to the outskirts of Florence, here are some of the most beautiful Medici Villas in Tuscany.

The Medici Villa La Petraia

The Medici Trebbio Castle 

The visit begins in San Piero a Sieve, where in the early 15th century Cosimo the Elder commissioned Michelozzo, a popular architect at court, to transform an existing castle into a comfortable country residence. It’s the first of a long series of villas. The Renaissance and the cultural ferment of the times were pushing to make way, yet we are talking of a time of transition, when the constructive models of the late Middle Ages had not yet been forgotten. Thus, the architecture of the Trebbio Castle remains substantially that of a fortification, complete with a crenelated tower. In its rooms bustled Lorenzo the Magnificent in his hunting days, Giovanni dalle Bande Nere and his family, and a very young Amerigo Vespucci fleeing a plague-ravaged Florence.

The Medici Villa La Petraia 

First owned by the Brunelleschi family, then by the Strozzi, and again by the Salutati. The first document testifying to the Petraia as a Medici property dates back to 1544. Ferdinando, son of Cosimo I (not to be confused with Cosimo the Elder: there is about a century between them) wanted the early medieval fortress transformed into an elegant noble residence. Buontalenti oversaw its architectural renovation, while Volterrano completed the ‘Pomp of Medici Family’, a cycle of frescoes by Cosimo Daddi in the villa’s courtyard. The garden, on three levels and open to the view of Florence and the Arno River, was enriched with fountains and sculptures, fishponds, and nurseries. Today the Petraia is part of Florence Museum Network. 

The Medici Villa Castello

The Medici Villa Castello 

A ten-minute walk separates the Petraia and Castello Villas. Purchased by the Medici in 1477, it was the favourite residence of Cosimo I. Today it is home to the Accademia della Crusca, a bulwark in defence of the Italian language that has brought together scholars of linguistics and philology for over four centuries. The gardens are extraordinary, to say the least: firstly, because they are the earliest ones of the Medici, and secondly because they were designed by Tribolo, the same landscape architect who created the Boboli Gardens and oversaw the refurbishment of this elegant villa. Villa Castello is worth taking a stroll among the antique roses and peonies, irises, and lemon trees, enchanted by the sculptures of Giambologna or Ammannati. 


The Medici Villa at Careggi 

Here Lorenzo the Magnificent was born and breathed his last. Some Florentine intellectuals came to consider it a meeting and working place, like Pico della Mirandola, Poliziano and the philosopher Marsilio Ficino, who composed his De Vita here. Cosimo the Elder chose it as a hotbed for ideas, founding the Neoplatonic Academy, the most important philosophical school of Italian Humanism. What a successful hit! Surrounded by tall trees, it is difficult to take notice of this large Renaissance villa just a few steps from the car park of the hospital of Careggi. However, it is worth casting an eye over it. The structure of the building is medieval, although it shows clear signs of later Renaissance additions by Michelozzo. 

The Medici Villa in Fiesole

The Medici Villa in Fiesole 

It was purchased in the mid-15th century by Cosimo the Elder, who established the dynasty’s political fortunes. Obviously, taste in design and aesthetics was innovating, and Michelozzo, an architect employed by the Medici and workshop companion of Donatello, put his own spin on it. The result was a very simple construction, with an elegant façade overlooking the garden, lightened by a three-arched portico with grotesque frescoes. The exterior of the villa is decorated with geometric motifs. Cosimo’s nephew, Lorenzo the Magnificent, took over the Villa in Fiesole in 1469 and made it a sort of spiritual retreat. As in the case at Careggi, basically it was a meeting place for the humanists of the court, who were to become key figures in cultural history. Through various changes of ownership, the villa has always remained private, and still is. However, the garden is open to the public: so, all you have to do is enjoy a stroll among the roses and citrus trees and contemplate the view of the city from the belvedere. 


The Medici Villa of Poggio Imperiale 

The refined Isabella de’ Medici chose this very villa for her cultural activities and decorated it to her taste with many works of art. Set amidst the greenery, on the hill of Arcetri, this structure was built in the 15th century but retains nothing of its original appearance. In factat the whim of Grand Duchess Maria Magdalena of Austria, widow of Cosimo II and sister of Emperor Ferdinand II of Habsburg – the architect Giulio Parigi, superintendent of the grand ducal buildings, added an elegant façade with an arched belvedere in the 17th century. Later on, in the late 18th century, Pietro Leopoldo of Habsburg-Lorraine commissioned  Gaspare Maria Paoletti to rebuild the façade overlooking the courtyard. Also, due to the caprices of Maria Luisa of Bourbon first, Elisa Baciocchi-Buonaparte then, and Ferdinand III later, the main façade was modified again in the 19th century. Anyway, with its neoclassical style, today the Villa looks beautiful. Since 1865, it has been the venue of the Educandato della SS. Annunziata, a prestigious boarding school reserved for girls of the aristocracy, now state-run. 


Distance between Barberino Designer Outlet and the Medici Trebbio Castle: 10 km, approx. 20 min 

Distance between Barberino Designer Outlet and the Medici Villa La Petraia: 30 km, approx. 35 min 

Distance between Barberino Designer Outlet and the Medici Villa Castello: approx. 33 km, approx. 32 min 

Distance between Barberino Designer Outlet and the Medici Villa at Careggi: approx. 34 km, approx. 40 min 

Distance between Barberino Designer Outlet and the Medici Villa at Fiesole: approx. 35 km, approx. 40 min 

Distance between Barberino Designer Outlet and the Medici Villa of Poggio Imperiale: approx. 43 km, approx. 36 min 


It is advisable to check the opening hours and visiting conditions of the villas in advance.


The Medici Trebbio Castle. Village of Trebbio 11, San Piero a Sieve (FI)

The Medici Villa Petraia. Via della Petraia, 40 Florence

The Medici Villa Castello. Via di Castello, 44, Florence

The Medici villa at Careggi. Viale G. Pieraccini 17, Florence

The Medici Villa at Fiesole. Via Beato Angelico 2, Fiesole (FI) 

The Medici Villa of Poggio Imperiale. Piazzale del Poggio Imperiale, Florence

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