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Palazzo Pitti history | From Medici to Lorraine to Savoy dynasty

Palazzo Pitti is a grand Renaissance palace in Florence, Italy, that has made significant highlights in the city's history. Originally built for a wealthy banker in the mid-15th century, the palace was later acquired by the powerful Medici family and became their primary residence. With its grand architecture, lavish interior, and extensive collection of artworks, Palazzo Pitti is a popular tourist attraction and museum. Take a walk to the past at Palazzo Pitti!

Brief Palazzo Pitti history timeline

  • 1458: Construction of Palazzo Pitti begins for Luca Pitti, a wealthy Florentine banker and rival of the Medici family.
  • 1549: The palace is purchased by the Medici family and becomes their primary residence.
  • 1560-1580: The Medici family enlarges the building and transforms the interior, commissioning many important artworks to decorate the palace.
  • 1737: The last Medici heir dies and the palace passes to the Lorraine family.
  • 1773-1776: The palace is extensively renovated by the Lorraine family, adding new wings and further embellishments to the building.
  • 1865: The palace became the residence of the King of Italy.
  • 1919: The palace is turned into a museum, housing a vast collection of artworks and historic objects.
  • 1944: During World War II, the palace suffers significant damage from bombing but is eventually restored.
  • 2017: Palazzo Pitti celebrates its 500th anniversary with a series of special events and exhibitions.

Detailed Palazzo Pitti history explained

15th Century Palazzo Pitti

Luca Pitti and the birth of the Palace

1458

The construction of Palazzo Pitti was commissioned by Luca Pitti, a Florentine banker and supporter of Cosimo de’ Medici. This grand palace was built to rival the Medici family's influence, becoming the largest private residence in Florence. Despite myths attributing the design to Filippo Brunelleschi, Luca Fancelli was the actual architect.

Medici Family
17th Century Boboli Garden

Baroque renovations

17th Century

During the 17th century, the Palazzo Pitti underwent further renovations and expansions under the Grand Duke Ferdinando II. He commissioned the Baroque architect Filippo Juvarra to design a new facade and enhance the palace's interiors with lavish decorations and furnishings.

18th Century artwork of Palazzo Pitti

Grand Ducal Patronage

18th-19th Centuries

In the 18th century, the Palazzo Pitti briefly served as the power base of Napoleon and then became the residence of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty, who succeeded the Medici family as rulers of Tuscany. They added further decorations and furnishings to the palace, including many fine artworks

19th Century Palazzo Pitti

From Italian unification to present day

20th Century

Transitioning from royal residence to state property, Pitti Palace evolved into a national museum and was opened to the public. During World War II, the palace was damaged by Allied bombings, but the artworks had been previously removed and were safe. It now showcases a treasure trove of art and history, inviting visitors to explore its rich heritage and architectural splendor.

Palazzo Pitti architecture 

The Pitti Palace showcases a blend of Renaissance, late Mannerist, and Baroque influences in its interior design. Its exterior features colossal stories, "Florentine arches," and rusticated blocks symbolizing wealth. Over time, the palace was adorned with lavish frescoes, stucco work, and intricate details by artists from diverse regions. This embellishment includes elements of Rococo and Neo-classical styles, enhancing the palace's architectural richness and creating spatial illusionism within its grand rooms.

Who designed Palazzo Pitti?

who designed pitti palace

The architect of Palazzo Pitti is not definitively known, but there are several theories. While some suggest Luca Fancelli, influenced by Alberti, others attribute it to Filippo Brunelleschi's collaborator. Despite lacking concrete evidence, these candidates, particularly Luca Fancelli, stand out as potential creators of the iconic palace.

Palazzo Pitti today

Today, the Palazzo Pitti is a vibrant cultural center and one of the city's top tourist attractions. The palace complex houses several museums, including the Palatine Gallery, the Royal Apartments, the Museum of Fashion and Costume, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Silver Museum.

The Palatine Gallery showcases a collection of paintings from the Renaissance period, including works by renowned artists such as Raphael, Titian, and Rubens. The Royal Apartments, once the residence of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, feature exquisite furnishings, ornate decorations, and stunning ceiling frescoes. The Boboli Gardens, which cover over 100 acres, is a beautiful green space and a popular destination for visitors. It's beautiful architecture and rich history make it a must-see destination for anyone visiting Florence.




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Frequently asked questions about Palazzo Pitti history

How old is the Palazzo Pitti?

The construction of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy began in 1458 for Luca Pitti and was completed in 1465. The palace was later purchased by the powerful Medici family, who expanded and enhanced the building over the years. So, the Palazzo Pitti is over 550 years old.

What motivated the Luca Pitti to build Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy?

Luca Pitti was motivated to build Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy as a grand statement of his wealth and power, aiming to challenge the influence of the Medici family. The palace, constructed around 1440, was intended to be the largest and most impressive private residence in Florence, showcasing Pitti's ambition and desire to rival the Medici's authority through architectural magnificence.

How did the ownership of Palazzo Pitti transition from Luca Pitti to the Medici family?

The ownership of Palazzo Pitti transitioned from Luca Pitti to the Medici family when Eleonora of Toledo, wife of Cosimo I de' Medici, purchased the unfinished palace in 1549 to serve as a ceremonial residence for the Medici family and the nascent Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

What significant role did Palazzo Pitti play during Napoleon's time?

During the 19th century, Palazzo Pitti assumed a pivotal role as Napoleon's power base. It served as a significant center of influence for the French leader, who was received at the palace by Grand Duke Ferdinand III in 1796. This period marked a notable chapter in the palace's history, as it became a focal point of Napoleon's authority and later briefly served as the principal royal palace of the newly united Italy.

How did Palazzo Pitti become the principal royal palace during Florence's brief period as the capital of Italy?

Palazzo Pitti became the principal royal palace during Florence's brief period as the capital of Italy when it was used as a power base by Napoleon in the late 18th century and later served as the principal royal palace of the newly united Italy. The palace grew to become the chief residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, evolving into a great treasure house of paintings, jewelry, and luxurious possessions.

What distinguishes the architectural style of Palazzo Pitti from other palaces in Florence?

Palazzo Pitti stands out in Florence's architectural landscape due to several distinct features.
- Its heavy, rusticated stonework, crafted from large blocks of rough stone, imparts a commanding presence, contrasting sharply with the ornate styles prevalent elsewhere.
- The facade's repetitive arch-headed apertures, reminiscent of Roman aqueducts, create a unique visual rhythm that influenced subsequent designs.
- Moreover, the colossal scale of the palace, with stories twice the height of its counterparts like the Palazzo Medici, exudes grandeur and dominance.
- Yet, amidst its imposing presence, Palazzo Pitti's architect prioritized functionality over ornamental extravagance, resulting in a structure that is both impressive and utilitarian.
These defining characteristics collectively distinguish Palazzo Pitti as a monumental masterpiece, reflecting the unique blend of power, utility, and architectural innovation that characterizes Florence's rich heritage.

Are there guided tours explaining the Palazzo Pitti’s history?

Yes, guided tours are available at Palazzo Pitti that explain the palace's history, art, and architecture. Professional guides offer tours in different languages.

How has Palazzo Pitti evolved over the centuries under different royal families?

Palazzo Pitti has evolved significantly over the centuries under different royal families. Originally commissioned by Luca Pitti in the 15th century, it was later acquired by the powerful Medici family, who transformed it into their primary residence. Subsequent expansions and renovations were carried out by various architects, including Bartolomeo Ammannati and Giulio and Alfonso Parigi, under different ruling dynasties like the Habsburg-Lorraine family. The palace's evolution includes additions, interior decorations, and the creation of the Boboli Gardens, reflecting the changing tastes and styles of each era and royal family that inhabited it.

What are the key attractions and galleries inside Palazzo Pitti that visitors should not miss?

When visiting the Palazzo Pitti you should not miss the Palatine Gallery and Royal Apartments, showcasing masterpieces by renowned artists, the Gallery of Modern Art with works from the Neo-Classical era to the 1930s, the Treasury of the Grand Dukes featuring precious objects, the Museum of Costume and Fashion displaying historic clothing, and the tranquil Boboli Gardens with its diverse landscapes and sculptures. These attractions offer a rich cultural experience spanning art, history, fashion, and nature within the grand setting of the palace complex.