27 April 2013

Villa della Petraia, Florence, Italy

April 25th was another holiday here in Italy, Liberation Day, which marks the end of Mussolini's regime. Five American women chose this holiday for a field trip. From Stazione Santa Maria Novella, we took one of two ATAF buses, the   No. 2 or 28, to visit one of more than 25 Medici family villas throughout Tuscany. We visited La Petraia.

The bus arrives about 15 minutes after leaving the station. A short walk up the hill past another Medici villa, the Villa di Castello, and past the onetime home of Collodi, the author of Pinocchio, will land you at the entrance of La Petraia. Free admittance and a free guided tour. Our tour was in Italian. I did my best to follow along, grasping 60 to 70 percent, enough to fascinate me to discover more. The villa previously belonged to the Brunelleschi family, the architect who built the dome on Santa Maria del Fiore ("the Duomo"). The villa is worth the visit for its frescoed courtyard .

However, what particularly interests me are the gardens. Italian gardens are not quite what we think of as gardens in the U.S. A few hundred years ago, they were rarely full of flowers, though flowers were included. Instead, they were about order and beauty, geometric designs of landscape architecture. They were designed to impress, and they were about power. The larger the garden, the more power the family had. The Italian-style gardens were later copied throughout Europe (French Renaissance Gardens and English Gardens). One more art form to be appreciated in this city, the birthplace of the Renaissance (thanks to the Medici family).

Villa della Petraia
via della Petraia, 40
Castello, Firenze, Italia