The Palace of the Masters of Florence

1280px-Palazzo_Medici_Riccardi_by_night_01One of the little-known museums in Florence is that of the Palazzo Riccardi Medici, and yet it contains one of the most interesting and renown frescoes in Italy. The 10-euro entry fee was well worth an early evening spent touring this Renaissance-era palace and a special exhibition.

Completed in 1484 at the behest of Cosimo Medici (he was head of the banking family by this time) and designed by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo, the palace was known for its stone masonry, which includes the architectural elements of ashlar and rustication. The picture above shows how each story of the building decreases in height while a horizontal stringcourse clearly divides them. The cornice, common in Roman buildings of the time, is unique in design. The modest exterior design is intentional; sumptuary laws prevented one from openly displaying their wealth. Cosimo instead spent some of his wealth decorating the inside. The details in the interior rooms is amazing.

Completed in the 1680s, the Hall of Luca Giordano is a masterpiece of Florentine Baroque art and features panel after panel of painted mirrors topped with a frescoed ceiling, Apotheosis of the Medici Dynasty, done by Giordoano. (This space can now be rented for conferences!)

Fillipo Lippi and Botticelli both enjoyed Cosimo’s patronage. The Madonna of Palazzo Medici by Lippi enjoys a place above a huge console at the end of one hall.



Throughout the part of the palace that is open to the public, furnishings, statuary, and paintings of Medici family members are on display.

The heart of the palace is the Magi Chapel. Covering the walls are frescoes done by Benozzo Gozzoli. The scenes portray the best known personalities of his time playing the parts of the procession of the magi. Each generation of Medici partiarch features in a different panel. As with any chapel in Italy, you have to be sure to look up!

Once we almost completed our tour (almost, because it was closing time, and we were the last ones inside, and we really wanted to take just one last look around), we found ourselves locked in the palazzo’s main atrium! The entrance gates at both ends of the Courtyard of Michelozzo were closed and padlocked. A police station is located just off the atrium, though, and the officer on duty let us out by way of his office.

Being stuck inside this particular courtyard would not have been a hardship, but it is better viewed in the daylight. At one time it was completely open and colonnaded at the far corner of the palace but was walled in during the 16th century. Three-hundred pieces of ancient art have been placed on the walls of the courtyard. Potted orange trees, statuary and a fountain make this an oasis right in the middle of the city.

courtyard fountain w mosaicsmedici courtyard statue

We made a quick trip to the hotel before meeting with the others at the Cosimo statue in Palazzo della Signoria. Then we headed to a local restaurant for a traditional Italian dinner. Later that night, the rest of the tour group finally arrived in Florence. We could hardly admit to all the sights we’d been able to enjoy when there would be no opportunity for them to do so. Out of thirty, we were the only one to visit the Uffizi.

And if you’ve ever wondered how Italian women keep their figures, we know the secret. According to our iPhone, we walked 8.6 miles on this day. Time for a glass of prosecco.

Next up on our itinerary—a walking tour of Florence.


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