on July 13, 2006
Merchant Luca Pitti helped sustain the power of his friend, 15th century Florence’s ruling citizen, Cosimo de’ Medici. Pitti aimed to demonstrate his family's rank above others so commissioned a palatial residence on the south bank of the River Arno.Design, perhaps inspired by Brunelleschi, is generally credited to Fancelli, a student of the famous architect. After Cosimo’s death in 1464, Pitti fortunes declined and work on the palace had to stop.Years later, Eleonora di Toledo, spouse of the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, acquired Palazzo Pitti. She purchased the adjacent hillside for creation of Boboli Gardens and began massive improvements to house the Medicis in unparalleled grandeur.Palazzo Pitti was the nerve center for generations of Medicis, subsequent ruling Dukes of Lorraine and eventually, Victor Emanuel II, first King of united Italy. In 1919, the royal House of Savoia deeded the palace to the people. It was divided into galleries to showcase several important art collections.Today, Palazzo Pitti is a popular attraction with about 140 rooms open to the public. The most famous exhibit is the grand and gilded Galleria Palatina, with priceless masterpieces of Titian, Botticelli, Raphael, Rubens, Caravaggio, Lippi, Rembrandt and others. These are sumptuously framed and displayed in 17th century style.The astounding Renaissance and Baroque collection is complemented by the Galleria d’Arte Moderna. It shows works from 1784 to 1924, spread over 30 rooms. (In Florence, “Modern Art is pre-WWII, more recent works are “Contemporary Art”.)The Royal Apartments are 14 richly decorated rooms with frescoes, important paintings and period furnishings. Separate galleries in the main buildings include the Museum of Silver, the Costume Gallery and the Carriage Museum. In the Boboli Gardens is the Porcelain Museum, opened in 1973.Boboli Gardens, an 11-acre masterpiece of landscape architecture, rises behind the palace. This was the first important addition after Medicis acquired Palazzo Pitti. Near the main buildings are formal gardens with symmetrical hedges, fountains, statues and an amphitheatre, a unique outdoor location that hosted celebrated theatrical performances. Walkways lead up to an oval garden with da Bologna’s statue of Oceanus, a simple and majestic fountain.Palazzo Pitti is best reached by one of the city's electric mini-buses (D line). Admission is 8.50 euros and the facility operates until 6:30 pm. A visitor’s level of interest in fine art will determine the comfortable length of time to stroll through the galleries and gardens. For many, that might take about 4 hours, for others, a whole day. Handicapped access is fairly good.Small binoculars help detailed examination of paintings and frescoes. As in all galleries, photography with flash is not allowed to casual visitors. However, many publications with superb photos can be purchased in the gift shops.Caution: Florence can overwhelm because of the huge volume of fine art exhibited. To enjoy comfortably, prepare in advance. Study your itinerary and learn basic information about the sites you will visit. Don't try to achieve too much in one trip.As with good food, savour each bite.
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