A huge fortified complex of about 80,000 square meters stands imposingly in the heart of Florence. The Fortezza da Basso, or fortress of San Giovanni Battista, is now the most important exhibition centre in the city, hosting events, exhibitions, conferences and all kinds of national and international events.
The architectural masterpiece comes from the Renaissance era and was constructed for military purposes between 1534 and 1537 at the behest of Alessandro de 'Medici. The project and construction was undertaken by two great Italian architects of the period, Antonio da Sangallo and Pier Francesco da Viterbo, who built a monumental building to host large troops of soldiers and give refuge to rulers in case of insurrections. It was also intended to provoke fear with its magnificent appearance in an attempt to discourage any revolt by Florentines with republican aspirations.
With an irregular pentagonal plan and walls punctuated by ramparts, the fortress was initially called Castello Alessandria. After the construction of Forte Belvedere at the end of 1500 which was built at the highest point of the Boboli hill, it was renamed Fortezza da Basso, given its locatation in the flat part of Florence.
Even in the Lorraine period, the fortress maintained its military purpose. It was a period in which many other buildings were built, such as the Teatrino. It was only in the sixties that it was restored and adapted to take on the role of the main exhibition centre in the city of Florence. Not only that, it also houses a headquarters of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, a renowned international institute in the field of restoration.
The imposting yet beautiful fortress can be visited on the occasion of numerous events such as the Fiera dell’Artigianato and Pitti Immagine, and it offers a fascinating underground path that can be seen in the company of local guides during organized visits.
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