Situated on the first large square in the area the Florentines call "Diladdarno" - beyond the Arno - Palazzo Pitti dominates from a small elevation at the feet of the Boboli hill.
Only minutes from the Ponte Vecchio, the vast, mainly Renaissance Pitti Palace was the residence of the Medici. The powerful Florentine family bought it from a rich banker named Luca Pitti in 1549 and transformed it into the main residence for the Grand-Duchy of Tuscany. The Medici added to the original core building and transformed the Palazzo into a veritable treasure chest.
In 1565 the Grand-Duke ordered the construction of a “secret” corridor for the family so they could walk to Piazza della Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio, seat of government, avoiding the danger of attacks. Vasari was commissioned to design and build the project.
Grand-Duke Ferdinand II summoned artists of great fame, such as Giovanni da Sangiovanni and Pietro da Cortona, to decorate some of the rooms with their magnificent frescoes, making it a truly royal palace.
It was the Lorraine Family who completed the façade as we know it today, adding the two lateral "rondò" which stretch the palace towards the square, seemingly embracing it.
At the end of the 18th century, Pietro Leopoldo commissioned Gaspare Maria Paoletti and Pasquale Poccianti to build the Palazzina della Meridiana, the last part added to the building.
For a brief time the palace was also home to the King of Italy when Florence was capital of Italy,
Palazzo Pitti, which through time assumed different functions, is today the seat of important museums, such as the Silver Museum, the Porcelain Museum, the Costume Gallery, the Carriage Museum, the Palatina Gallery, the Modern Art Gallery, and the Boboli Garden. A visit to these makes it possible to experience the buildings, rooms, and halls of the palace, and taste the court splendors of a faraway epoch, passed down faithfully through history.
The palace's gardens, the Boboli, are one of the most beloved gardens in Florence, and offer vast green spaces, landscaped to perfection, splendid works of sculpture, as well as stunning views onto Florence.
The Palatina Gallery
The Gallery takes its name from the fact that it is located in the palace of the reigning family. Opened to the public by the House of Lorraine as early as 1828, it still preserves the traditional layout of a private collection, not following a chronological order nor schools of paintings, revealing instead the lavishness and personal taste of the inhabitants of the palace.
The history of this gallery is inextricably linked with the history of the Medici, their collections and the artists taken on by the family, in particular by Cardinal Leopoldo (1613-1675), Cardinal Giovan Carlo (1611-1663), and Prince Ferdinand (1663-1713). The works they collected had a private function and value, while the gallery of representation was that of the Uffizi. Thanks to the interest of the Habsburg-Lorraines (1737-1848) the collections grew, and were reunited in the Medici family's apartments.
You will access the 28 rooms that house the Palatina Gallery from the staircase built by Ammannati. These rooms were the Grand Duke's apartments and audience rooms at the time of the Medici. A majestic decorative complex of frescoes and stuccoes by Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669) graces these spaces. Inspired by classical myth as an allusion to the education and life of the Prince, this work is one of the most representative examples of the Florentine Baroque. It forms a magnificent backdrop to the 16th and 17th century works of art displayed here.
Noteworthy among the many important works of art is a group formed by masterpieces from the hands of Titian and Raphael. These came into the Medici's possession through the will of Vittoria della Rovere, wife of Ferdinand II de' Medici and youngest daughter of the Duke of Urbino. Alone the Portrait of a Gentleman and Penitent Magdalene by Titian, the Madonna of the Grand Duke, the Madonna of the Chair, and the Portrait of Maddalena Doni by Raphael are worth the visit.
The Gallery also offers a comprehensive overview of 17th century European painting, displaying famous works such as The Four Philosophers and The Allegory of War by Rubens, the Cardinal Bentivoglio portrait by Van Dyck, the Madonna with the Child by Murillo, Caravaggio's Sleeping Cupid, and other portraits by Frans Pourbus and Velazquez. Exceptional older works by Bronzino, Fra Bartolomeo, Piero del Pollaiolo, and Filippo Lippi are also on view.
From an historical and artistic point of view a few of the rooms are particularly noteworthy: the Music Room decorated and furnished in a neo-classical style, the Putti Room dedicated entirely to Flemish painting, and the Stove Room, decorated with the 1637 masterpiece The Four Ages of Man by Pietro da Cortona, commissioned by the Medici. This cycle of paintings represents the beginnings of the Baroque for the Florentine painting school.
The Gallery of Modern Art
Palazzo Pitti opened its doors to the Gallery of Modern Art in 1924. Of the apartments occupied by the royal family until 1920, 30 rooms are today filled with masterpieces of Italian painting, Tuscan Neoclassicism, Naturalism, and the Tuscan Impressionist school, known as the Macchiaioli.
The chronologically organized exhibition begins with Neoclassicism, with works by Napoleone di Pietro Benvenuti, Joseph Bezzuoli, and Francesco Hayez. The most important sculptures in the first rooms are the Calliope by Antonio Canova, Pietro Tenerani's Psyche and Giovanni Dupré's famous Abel.
Some of the best known works include paintings from the Macchiaioli circle, a group of painters active in Tuscany who somewhat anticipated the French Impressionist movement, even though the pursued slightly different goals. Thanks to the collection of Diego Martelli, art critic and friend of many of these painters, the gallery includes many works by Giovanni Fattori, head of the movement, as well as works by Silvestro Lega and Telemaco Signorini.
Other important Italian painters represented are Giovanni Boldini, Federico Zandomeneghi, Francesco Podesti (with the remarkable portrait of the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning with her young son Robert), Antonio Donghi, Giorgio Morandi, Filippo De Pisis, the Futurists such as Giacomo Balla and Filippo Marinetti, and the French painter Elisabeth Chaplin. Sculptures also form a part of the collection, with for example works by Adriano Cecioni.