Villa Medici a Fiesole
location_cityArchitecture

Villa Medici in Fiesole

Villa Medici in Fiesole is one of the oldest Medici villas

Via Beato Angelico, 35
Only three other Medici villas are older, two in Mugello (Cafaggiolo and Trebbio) and their villa at Careggi. This villa in Fiesole is also known as Belcanto or the ‘Palagio di Fiesole’ and is in great condition.
Villa Medici in Fiesole was built on the site of another ancient house belonging to Niccolò Baldi. This other building was bought by Cosimo il Vecchio around 1450. According to Giorgio Vasari, Giovanni de’ Medici had the building restructured by the family architect, Michelozzo. It is probable that other architects were also involved in the renovation work.
The villa was completed between 1451 and 1457, as is demonstrated by the local land registry. Giovanni de’ Medici was his father’s favourite thanks to his quick intellect and noted passion for the arts. As a result, he can be considered the true predecessor of his famous relative, Lorenzo the Magnificent. Giovanni had a number of interests such as collecting rare books and works of art (in particular by Filippo Lipi) and a passion for architecture which he even dabbled in himself. It is said that he chose the site for the villa in Fiesole which is on a steep downward slope and so went against all the architectural principals of that time.
The quadrangular construction originally measured 32 x 32 Florentine ‘braccia’ (literally ‘arms’) and is a typical example of early Renaissance architecture. Its windows have pietra serena stone frames and there are wide loggias that look out onto the splendid panorama that spreads out beneath the villa. The villa looks very different to earlier Medici villas in that it doesn’t have any of the defensive or military elements common to other villas. For example, there aren’t any look out towers or wall-top walkways and there isn’t a defensive ditch dug around the building. Instead, the loggias are a clear sign of openness to the outside world and strike a contrast to the typical ‘closed’ fortifications of past villas.
The project’s rationality is also expressed in its size. All the villa’s main walls are defined by the same scheme of 4 x 4 Florentine braccia, which make it clear that the construction was extremely well planned. Even the original garden was planned around precise geometric rules based on the layout of the villa.
The constructors also managed to over come the problem posed by the sloping hillside that the villa is built on. This was done by altering the typical distribution of the rooms on to different levels. The lower floors became a cellar and stables and were given vaulted ceilings. The upper floors were for the owner’s rooms with bedchambers, sitting rooms, a library and also a room dedicated to music. In this way, what appeared to be the ground floor on the upper level was actually the first floor which looked out over the beautiful countryside. The terraced garden below had small stone loggias and geometric flower beds.
Giovanni de’ Medici’s personality really comes through when we see that the agricultural land around the villa was changed into a space for total relaxation, contemplation and intellectual - not physical - activity. This was the first villa to be surrounded by an ornamental garden rather than farming land. This fact, along with the lack of military or defensive elements in the architecture of the villa make the building a clear prototype of classic Renaissance villas.
The villa was extremely expensive to build and, as documented by Vasari, the materials used were of the best quality. However, after 100 years the building was still perfectly intact and not at all in need of restoration work or maintenance.
Giovanni de’ Medici didn’t have any children and before his death he gave the villa to his young nephew, Giuliano de’ Medici.

Fiesole
The small town rises on a hill 6 km from Florence
Fiesole was one of the most important Etruscan towns on the southern slopes of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. It was allied to Rome in the III century BC. In 90 BC the town rebelled during the social war, being then taken by Lucio Porcio Catone. The acropolis was found on the top of the hill, where today the convent of St. Francis stands. ...
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