For over two hundred years Florence attracted some of the world’s greatest minds, from artists and scientists to poets and business men. The Renaissance was period of cultural rebirth beginning in the Republic of Florence.
In the 14th century Florence was thriving; its banking industry was known throughout Europe and its currency was so pure it was the standard across the continent. As the city-state flourished the humanist movement gained momentum; with the wealthy Medici family acting as it’s primary patron. Despite not holding official title until the 16th Century, the Medici family had accumulated so much wealth and influence that they became the de facto rulers of Florence and the “god-fathers of the Renaissance.” The Medici were the benefactors of famous artist like Donatello, Botticelli and Da Vinci.
Michelangelo had a particularly unique relationship with the Medici Family. At the age of 14 his art works caught the attention of Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Magnificent. He bought the young Michelangelo to live with him educating him alongside his own children in the hopes of nurturing the young mans talents in the arts, philosophy and sciences. Michelangelo, as we well know, excelled as an artist; creating some of the most recognizable pieces in art history. The Statue of David, would go on to become the symbol of Florence’s prowess and solidify Michelangelo’s reputation as a master of art and sculpture. Ironically leading him to paint the Sistine Chapel, an experience he detested so much he wrote a poem to his friend, Giovanni da Pistoia, about his misery.
The Medici Legacy can be seen all around the Globe. Catherine de’ Medici took the renaissance to France when she became queen. Popes Leo X, Clement VII, Pius IV and Leo XI were all of the Medici Family. You’ll find Medici in Florentine architecture too, the famous Vasari Corridor running between Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo Pitti through to the Boboli gardens allowed the Medici to travel freely and in privacy around the city.
However, for art lovers the most important legacy of the Medici Family must be the Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi was originally commissioned by Cossimo the Great, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, to be the administrative and judiciary offices of Florence. Later part of the Uffizi would be used as a private gallery housing some of the already large Medici collection. As the family began to die out Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici signed the Family Pact, an agreement that the entire Medici collection would be handed over to the Uffizi Gallery upon her death, in the hopes that “they would remain as decoration for the State, for the utility of the Public and to attract the curiosity of Foreigners."
Nowhere else in Italy can eclipse Florence’s art scene, its not only home to a coveted collection of Renaissance pieces it also houses an impressive assortment of contemporary art. Anna Maria Luisa de ’Medici wish came true, each year an estimated 1.5 million people travel to Florence for the opportunity to get lost in the Uffizi Gallery.
To see the Medici legacy up close and personal try our Uffizi tour or if that’s not enough try our Best-of-Florence-tour.