Florence’s Medici History

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Whether you are familiar with their names or not, the powerful Medici family made a mark on Florence. They built palaces, supported the work of famous artists and architects, as well as amassing remarkable art collections.

Florence is a city that has a rich history thanks to the Medici. You’ll find something related to them almost everywhere you go on your Florence itinerary . You can get a better understanding of how dependent we are on the Medici by visiting the listed places – preferably with a guide who can help you put it all into context.

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Did you know?

Italian for “doctors”, the name “Medici” is a name that means “doctors” in Italian. Some historians believe the name derives from an ancestor who was a doctor in the 11th century.

Palazzo Medici Riccardi

Palazzo Medici Riccardi || creative commons photo by ho visto nina volare

The Palazzo Medici Riccardi, which was the first palace built by the Medici family of Florence, was constructed for Cosimo de’Medici around the middle-15th century. The Palazzo della Signoria, which is now the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I, was not built until 1540. Michelangelo lived in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi while under the patronage of the Medici.

Casa Buonarroti

Casa Buonarroti is where you can see some of the art Michelangelo made while he was an apprentice with the Medici. It’s the house Michelangelo later bought (but never lived in) in his later years. You’ll find his first two sculptures, the reliefs “Madonna of the Steps”, and “Battle of the Centaurs”.

Laurentian Library

Basilica di San Lorenzo, built by the Medici and their parish church, contains a large library that was built in 16th-century to house the extensive collection of manuscripts. The impressive entrance staircase and beautiful reading room were designed by Michelangelo.

Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio on Piazza Signoria || creative commons photo by Zolli

Today we call this palace the Palazzo Vecchio or “Old Palace,” however, it was known as the Palazzo della Signoria when the Medici arrived in 1540. It was originally constructed in the 14th-century as a palace for government of the Florentine Republic. The Palazzo della Signoria was renamed the Palazzo Vecchio when the Medici decided to move across the river to the Pitti Palace.

Uffizi Gallery

After Grand Duke Cosimo I had made the Palazzo Vecchio home, he required a new location for the government’s offices. The large building located next to the Palazzo Vecchio was ordered by him, and is now known as the Uffizi. (The word “uffizi”, which means “offices,”).

Pitti Palace

The Medici family desired more space than Palazzo Vecchio and wanted to escape the bustlier side of Arno River in the middle-16th century. They purchased the Pitti Palace in Oltrarno and increased its size to more than twice its original size. They remained there until the beginning of the 18th century. The palace today houses seven museums.

Vasari Corridor

The commute from the Medici home and the government offices was not a short walk, but a long, treacherous journey. Grand Duke Cosimo I commissioned Giorgio Vasari, an elevated passageway linking the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi. The Vasari Corridor, which is now an extension of Uffizi Gallery’s walls, can only be visited by private tour.

Medici Chapels

Visit the Basilica di San Lorenzo’s Medici Chapels to pay your respects. Michelangelo, who also sculpted four figures in the tombs to either side of this room, was again the architect. Lorenzo the Magnificent, Cosimo (who constructed the first Medici palace), and Grand Duke Cosimo II are all buried here.

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One Response to “Tracing Medici History In Florence”

  • It is a nice summary of everything Medici. Great gardens to explore at the Pitti Palace, too.

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