Palazzo Pitti. Palace in Florence, Italy

Palazzo Pitti

Palace in Florence, Italy

Palazzo Pitti Photo © David Jones

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Palazzo Pitti

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	Palazzo Pitti
Palazzo Pitti. Photo by xiquinhosilva
The Palazzo Pitti, also known as the ‘Pitti Palace’ in English, is an enormous Renaissance palace in Florence, Italy. It is located in the Oltrarno (Wikipedia Article) neighborhood across the River Arno from the historic city center and used to be the residence of first the Grand Dukes of Tuscany and later of the Kings of Italy. After being built by Luca Pitti, a wealthy banker, in the 1450s, it was purchased by the Medici family about a hundred years later. They were the ones who turned it into the main residence of the rulers of Tuscany. The following generations collected works of art, jewelry and other luxury objects and stored it all in the palace, making it a true treasure house.

The palace and everything in it was given to the people of Italy by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1919. Nowadays, it houses a number of excellent museums and many renowned collections of paintings, sculptures, porcelain and costumes. It is, in fact, the largest museum complex in all of Florence, covering about 32,000 square meters. Behind the Palazzo Pitti lie the famous Boboli Gardens, home to numerous sculptures, statues, landscaped gardens, grottoes and buildings, and one of the very first Italian-style Renaissance gardens, which inspired many court gardens across Europe, most notably the gardens of the Palace of Versailles.

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Palazzo Pitti. Photo by xiquinhosilva

History

The construction of this massive building was commissioned in 1458 by Luca Pitti, a prosperous Florentine banker who was a friend of Cosimo de’Medici, who is also known as ‘Cosimo the Elder’. He chose a site in Oltrarno across the River Arno, a site that was a rural area at the time. It is said that, even though he was a friend and supporter of the ruling family, Pitti wanted to have a building built that would rival the residence of the Medicis. However, the Palazzo Pitti would in no way be equal to the Medici residences of the time. The building’s design is attributed to Brunelleschi, but because he died twelve years before construction even started, it is usually his assistant, Fancelli, that is credited as being the architect. Luca Pitti died in 1472 before his palace was finished.

The original palace, a cube with two floors and a ground floor that each contained five windows, was purchased by Eleonora de Toledo in 1549, because Pitti’s descendants had run into financial problems. Eleonora was the wife of Cosimo I de’Medici, who would become the Grand Duke of Tuscany. The building became the official residence of the Medici family when they moved there from the Palazzo Vecchio, which remained the seat of the City Council. Giorgio Vasari was then commissioned to expand the building as he saw fit. He more than doubled the size of the building. He also built the so-called Vasari Corridor on top of the buildings on the Ponte Vecchio, which allowed the Medicis to walk from their palace across the River Arno to the Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio without having to set a foot outside. Later on, the land behind the palace was purchased and turned into a magnificent garden – the Boboli Gardens – by Ammanati, who also was responsible for another expansion of the palace and the construction of a courtyard.

After the House of Lorraine had taken over power from the Medicis, they expanded the palace once again in 1828 and also completely renovated the interior. The Palazzo Pitti then became the residence of the House of Savoy, the Bourbons and Napoleon for a while. Its last inhabitant was King Victor Emmanuel III, who opened it to the public in 1919.

Museums

The Palatine Gallery -
	Palazzo Pitti
The Palatine Gallery - Palazzo Pitti. Photo by Leon Reed

Palatine Gallery

The Palatine Gallery is the main gallery is the Palazzo Pitti. It occupies the entire left wing of the first floor and used to be the residence of the Medici grand dukes. After Tuscany had come under the rule of the Lorraine family in 1828, all important paintings were placed in the gallery, which was then opened to the public. Now, there are more than 500 mostly Renaissance paintings to be seen there, all of which were part of the vast collection of the Medicis and their successors. Artists whose work is displayed in the Palatine Gallery include Raphael, Rubens; Titian, Correggio, Caravaggio; van Dyck, and Pietro da Cortona, as well as other European and Italian masters. The gallery's most splendid rooms were decorated by da Cortona in a high Baroque style. His magnificently detailed frescoes and stuccoes are an absolute highlight.

Royal Apartments

The Palatine Gallery overflows into the Royal Apartments. These apartments are made up of fourteen rooms, the former living and work rooms of the Medici family and later the Lorraine family and the Kings of Italy. The rooms, however, have been changed since the Medicis last occupied them. The most recent renovation took place in the 19th century. The rooms are smaller and more intimate than the ones in the Palatine Gallery and house a collection of Medici portraits. They are decorated and furnished to suit every-day living. The apartments were last used by the Kings of Italy in the 1920s, at a time when most of the rooms had already been transformed into a museum. Until then, a series of rooms, now comprising the Gallery of Modern Art, was reserved for the royal family in case they visited Florence.

Gallery of Modern Art

Located on the second floor, the Gallery of Modern Art in its current state dates from 1924. The gallery was founded in 1914 and originally contained works from the Academy of Fine Arts. Nowadays, the collection takes up no less than thirty rooms and is organized in a chronological order, starting at Peter Leopold’s time and ending at the First World War. Works created after the war are regarded as contemporary in Italy and are housed in another museum.

Costume Gallery

The Costume Gallery is located in an 18th-century wing that overlooks the Boboli Gardens, known as the Palazzina della Meridiana. This gallery contains about 6,000 costumes, theater outfits, costumes, jewelry and accessories dating from the 16th up to the 20th centuries. It is Italy’s only museum that features the history of fashion and one of the most important of its kind in the entire world.

Boboli Gardens -
	Palazzo Pitti
Boboli Gardens - Palazzo Pitti. Photo by xiquinhosilva

Silver Museum

The Silver Museum, also known as the Museo degli Argenti and the Medici Treasury, showcases a phenomenally rich collection of precious objects and jewelry that was collected by members of the Medici family. The stately rooms, beautifully decorated with frescoes by Giovanni da San Giovanni (Wikipedia Article), houses crystal vases, ivory, gems, silverware, carpets, jewels, cameos and so on.

Porcelain Museum

The Porcelain Museum used to be part of the Silver Museum, but is now housed in the Casino del Cavaliere in the Boboli Gardens. Its collections consist mainly of porcelain tableware that was used by the Medici grand dukes and the Houses of Lorraine and Savoy. Many pieces of the collection were especially made for the Florentine rulers and/or were gifts from other European houses and monarchies.

Boboli Gardens

The magnificent Boboli Gardens are the largest green area in Florence. It is filled with hedge-lined walkways, sculptures, statues, grottoes – the grotto by Michelangelo is a real highlight –, ponds, fountains, an amphitheater and an Egyptian obelisk. It was one of the very first landscaped Italian Renaissance gardens and was the model of many a royal garden in Europe.

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Palazzo Pitti. Photo by Kriisi

Visiting the Palazzo Pitti

The Palatine Gallery, the Royal Apartments, and the Gallery of Modern Art can be visited with the same ticket. That ticket costs €9 ($9.78) for adults and €4 ($4.89) for EU citizens between 18 and 25 years old. Entry is free for EU citizens younger than 18 and older than 65, all children under 12, disabled visitors, teachers, tour guides and a few others. Those three museums are open from Tuesday through Sunday between 8.15AM and 6.50PM. They are closed on Mondays and on New Year’s Day, May 1 and Christmas Day.

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Palazzo Pitti. Photo by xiquinhosilva
The Porcelain Museum, the Silver Museum, the Costume Gallery, the Boboli Gardens, and the Bardini Gardens can all be visited with the same ticket. Full price is €7 ($8.05); the reduced price is €4 ($4.03). Entry is free for children younger than 12 and EU citizens younger than 18 and older than 65, disabled visitors, tour guides,… Those museums and gardens are open throughout the year, except on the first and last Monday of every month, and on New Year’s Day, May 1 and Christmas Day. Opening times are from 8.15AM to 4.30PM from November through February; from 8.15AM to 5.30PM in March; from 8.15AM to 6.30PM in April, May, September and October; and from 8.15AM to 7.30PM from June through August.

How to Get There

The Palazzo Pitti is located on Piazza dei Pitti the south bank of the river Arno River. From the city center and the Florence Cathedral or Palazzo Vecchio, the gardens can be reached by walking across the river on the gorgeous Ponte Vecchio, thereby taking in at least three major attractions in the city. There is also a bus stop at the Piazza dei Pitti.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

The fabulous Boboli Gardens lie behind the palace and shouldn’t be missed. Other museums in Florence worth visiting are the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’Accademia.

Other famous art museums elsewhere in the world are The Louvre, the Villa Borghese, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Feb 11, 2015

Pictures of Palazzo Pitti

porticato al palazzo pitti - Palazzo Pitti
porticato al palazzo pitti - Photo by Giuseppe Moscato

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