The Medici Dynasty: Masters of the Renaissance

Florence, Prato

Florence was the cradle of the Italian Renaissance. Its most powerful family, the Medici, was responsible for ushering in a golden era in the humanities. They financed the greatest minds of their time, including Donatello, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Raphael, and Galileo! Follow in the footsteps of the man responsible for their unstoppable ascent into power: Cosimo de’ Medici. Il Vecchio (or “The Elder”), as he was also called, was a passionate patron of the humanities who was equally as fulfilled in business. He grew the Medici Bank into the most powerful in the continent by expanding throughout western Europe and serving even the Vatican! Cosimo eventually became the first Medici to branch into politics by taking a seat as de facto ruler of Florence. Later on, their lineage produced Grand Dukes, a Queen, and even Popes!

Updated 9 months ago


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Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo

Prato, Italy • Recommendation • 9 months ago

The Medici dynasty originated around Cafaggiolo, in the countryside north of the Florentine metropolis. Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo, one of their early properties, remained the family’s favorite. They entertained Popes, royalty, and artists here. Cosimo even employed the leading architect of the time, Michelozzo, to remodel the old castle into something more in-fashion. It was a stark contrast to the life Cosimo’s father led. Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici built an empire as a banker and wool merchant. The foundation he laid paved the way for his son, Cosimo, and his descendants to rise up in power. Now, the villa is prized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site! It’s currently closed to the public due to restorations, so keep updated online as they will soon welcome back visitors!

Via Cafaggiolo 11, Barberino Di Mugello, Italy

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Palazzo Medici-Riccardi

Florence, Italy • Recommendation • 9 months ago

Fresh from country life, the Medicis moved into their first mansion in the city called the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi! Cosimo bought the fairly modest estate after marrying Contessina de’ Bardi, a noblewoman from a family that once owned one of the richest banks in Europe! Their union and the Palazzo cemented his position as a true nobleman in society. Visit the Palazzo’s crowning jewel, the Magi Chapel, was the ultimate portrait of who’s who in Renaissance society! On the East Wall, a few of the Medici men are depicted alongside prominent heads-of-state in the Biblical procession of the three wise men (or three magi). It perfectly documented the extent of the family’s political ambitions!

+390552760340

Via Camillo Cavour, 3, Florence, Tuscany, Italy

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Villa Medici at Careggi

Florence, Italy • Recommendation • 9 months ago

Cosimo de’ Medici offered up his country home, Medici Villa di Careggi, to Florence’s most influential thinkers. In addition, Cosimo helped establish a discussion group dedicated to the works of Plato called the Florence Neoplatonic Academy. Membership was led by Marcilio Ficino, a scholar who was both a Catholic priest and humanist philosopher. His Latin translations of Plato’s work made it accessible to western Europe and led to a revival in Platonic thought in the Renaissance. Roam the beautiful gardens and inner courtyards—maybe a little enlightenment will come to you!

Viale Gaetano Pieraccini, 17, FIorence, Tuscany, Italy

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Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Florence, Italy • Recommendation • 9 months ago

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral) is the utmost proof of what the Medicis were capable of. The cathedral’s egg-shaped dome is comprised of more than four million bricks and weighs 37,000 tonnes. Even more remarkably, no pillars support the dome’s integrity! It was an unprecedented feat in engineering and to this day experts are still trying to work out the secret to success. Cosimo de’ Medici had the answer: Filippo Brunelleschi, an artisan with unbridled and unusual genius. Il Vecchio endorsed Brunelleschi to engineer the dome for the unfinished cathedral. It was the most prestigious project of their age, to the extent that Cosimo invited the Pope himself to conduct the cathedral’s consecration.

+390552302885

Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy

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San Marco Museum

Il Museo di San Marco

Florence, Italy • Recommendation • 9 months ago

Peruse the ornate text blocks and writing implements from the first public library of Renaissance Europe! The San Marco Museum was renovated by Cosimo de’ Medici’s aid. He commissioned his trusted architect, Michelozzo, to design then-San Marco Church. Its monastery was home to a reading room that served Dominican priests and a larger scholarly community. Until that point, only private institutions and wealthy individuals owned libraries. Books were a protected luxury item because everything was copied down by hand. Cosimo donated 400 rare texts from his own collection inherited from humanist Niccolò de Niccoli. Niccolò had been funded by the Medicis and pored his life into copying ancient manuscripts.

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San Lorenzo Basilica

Basilica di San Lorenzo

Florence, Italy • Recommendation • 9 months ago

The San Lorenzo Basilica has been around since year 393 (when it was consecrated). However, it was only in 1470, with the support of the Medici, that it was finally completed. It was their parish church, so their influence clearly shows in every inch of the Basilica. The family’s favorite artists all had a hand in the church’s beauty. The Old Sacristy was by Brunelleschi, the interior decorations and sculptures by Donatello, the Laurentian Library and New Sacristy by Michelangelo, and the Medici Chapels by Matteo Nigetti.

Piazza di San Lorenzo, 9, Florence, Italy

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The Chapel of the Princes (Medici Chapels)

Cappella dei Principi

Florence, Italy • Recommendation • 9 months ago

After Cosimo The Elder’s death, the Signoria (the government) awarded him the title “Pater Patriae” meaning “Father of His Country.” He was entombed in the Chapel of the Princes (also known as the Medici Chapels). Most of the family line was later laid to rest here, as well. Today, Grand Dukes and almost 50 other holders of the Medici name are interred in the chapels. Enter the chambers from a special entrance behind the San Lorenzo Basilica. Michelangelo designed the chapels at the height of his career; his personal relationship with the family gave him insight that informed his design. Sidle up to the marble sculptures of Night and Day, as well as Dawn and Dusk in the New Sacristy (Sagrestia Nuova) for a closer work at the master sculptor’s handiwork.

+390550649430

Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini, 6, Florence, Italy

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Uffizi Gallery

Florence, Italy • Recommendation • 9 months ago

Come face-to-face with Cosimo de’ Medici’s marbled form at the Uffizi Galleries! The family dynasty’s unrivaled collection of art has spilled over from their mansions into the museum, including statues of their likeness. Surround yourself with rare masterpieces from the world’s most celebrated artists. Scholars speculate that Sandro Botticelli’s iconic “Birth of Venus,” housed here, was commissioned by a member of the family. There is plenty to see whether laid on canvas, brought forth from a piece of stone, or etched skillfully on creamy paper. The Uffizi is one of the most visited galleries in Italy, with long queues taking hours to brave, so best book tickets online in advance!

+39055294883

Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6, Florence Italy

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