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  • Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence: the second courtyard decorated with ornamental statues and potted lemon trees.zoom in altra finestra
  • Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence: access to the building from the second courtyard decorated with ornamental statues and potted lemon trees.zoom in altra finestra

Palazzo Medici Riccardi

Built in the 15th century to the project of Michelozzo di Bartolomeo at the order of Cosimo the Elder de' Medici, it is a splendid example of Florentine Renaissance palace, although showing Brunelleschi's influence as well. It was the Medici family's principal residence until the time of Cosimo I, who, for reasons of security, decided to move to Palazzo Vecchio.

Adjacent to the palace a small garden of quadrangular shape enclosed by high crennelated walls, of whose original layout little is known, was created, also to the project of Michelozzo. The garden was positioned on the same axis of symmetry and perspective that governed the palace, forming a striking sequence of spaces consisting of the main entrance, the splendid courtyard and the garden. Since the second half of the 15th century, the hedges trimmed like sculptures had been famous; they adorned the garden for special holidays or feasts, such as those of 1469 for the wedding of Lorenzo the Magnificent and Clarice Orsini. The small garden was also embellished by ancient and modern sculptures, among them Donatello's Judith, which was moved to Piazza della Signoria in 1494, after the expulsion of the Medici.

In the second half of the 17th century the palace was sold to the Riccardi family, who extended the façade on Via Larga (today's Via Cavour). In 1814 the Riccardi sold it to the Lorraines, who converted it for use as administrative offices. In the early 20th century the architect Enrico Lusini restored the garden, realising a layout on the same axis as the entrance, with statues and potted citrus trees that enhanced the original perspective sequence. On the north side, toward the fountain of Hercules against the wall, the space was divided into four square flowerbeds arranged symmetrically. The south side, toward the loggia, was laid out with a semicircular flowerbed arranged around a circular basin.

Today Palazzo Medici Riccardi is the seat of the Province and the Prefecture of Florence. In addition, a museum itinerary offers visits to the monumental apartments, with the famous chapel frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli with a representation of the Cavalcade of the Magi, the courtyard and the garden.


Texts by Graziano Magrini

English translation by Catherine Frost

Last update 19/feb/2008