City of Prato:
Itineraries

From the historical city centre to the green hills of Montalbano

Medici itinerary

From the historical city centre to the green hills of Montalbano

The starting point of the itinerary is the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri. Leaving the city to the south, you reach the first of the Medici municipalities, Poggio a Caiano (15 min. by car from the city centre), whose territory, together with that now included in the Municipality of Carmignano, was one of the favorite estates of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Francesco I and the Grand Duke Ferdinando, lovers of the beautiful country houses, hunting trips and great feasts in the gardens. The second stop on the itinerary is the large park of the Cascine di Tavola. In 1473/74 the Magnificent, the most enlightened member of the family, bought a "casa da signore" (mansion) on a small hill and the vast surrounding land, designing the renovation into a new villa that became a noble residence and the centre of a large estate. It was the genesis of Poggio a Caiano Medicean complex which consists of the Villa and its park, the Scuderie (restored in 2000 and now used as an exhibition and conference space) and the Cascine di Tavola (8 a.m.-4 p.m.

in winter, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. in summer). The third stop on the itinerary is Villa Ambra in Poggio a Caiano. Completed in 1520 according to the plan by Sangallo, it is the prototype of the Renaissance villa; the most prestigious room is the Leo X hall, surrounded by an imposing cycle of frescoes painted by Pontormo, Franciabigio, Alessandro Allori and Andrea del Sarto. The villa was always the summer residence of the Medici and the scene of important events in their dynastic history. Here were celebrated the weddings of Alessandro de 'Medici and Margaret of Austria (1536), of Cosimo I and Eleonora of Toledo (1539), between Francesco I and Bianca Cappello (1579). The death of the latters, perhaps due to poisoning, is still shrouded in mystery and stuff of legend. At the time of Cosimo III (second half of the seventeenth century), the villa was equipped with a theatre on the ground floor to satisfy the whims of Marguerite Louise d'Orléans.

Prince Ferdinando made it an active cultural centre. To the death of the last descendant of the Medici family, the building became property of the Habsburg-Lorraine family. Since 2007 the villa hosts the Still Life Museum, which occupies sixteen rooms on the second floor and exhibits around 200 paintings from the late sixteenth to the mid eighteenth century. To find the other big Medici villa, fourth stop of our journey, we have to leave Poggio a Caiano in direction of Artimino, in the Municipality of Carmignano (10 minutes by car). Villa la Ferdinanda, also called “of the Hundred Chimneys”, was built by the Grand Duke Ferdinando I (1549-1609) on the hill of Artimino at the end of the sixteenth century according to the plan by Bernardo Buontalenti, the court architect who was responsible for the realization of many Medici buildings as well as the bastions of Prato walls. The villa was the favorite of Ferdinando in the summer and the main floor was frescoed by Domenico Cresti, known as Passignano, and by Bernardo Poccetti with mythological subjects that allude to the virtues of Ferdinando.

On the ground floor are the grand ducal cellars and the armory. Among the buildings annexed to the villa is the elegant structure of Paggeria which now houses a hotel. Again the imposing building is linked to the territory being the centre of Barco Reale, great hunting reserve, cared for with great interest by the Grand Duke himself. The villa and the Artimino estate are now private property. The villa, used for ceremonies, events and conferences, can be visited only by reservation (055 / 8751427-8-9). Since 2014 both villas have been declared World Heritage by UNESCO.

For more information:
www.beniculturali.it
www.artimino.com