Poggio a Caiano is located on the banks of the River Ombrone, in the middle of the Florence-Prato-Pistoia plain, at a point which serves as a crossroads for the whole area. It owes its fame to the magnificent Medicean Villa Ambra, a UNESCO heritage site and home to the Museum of Still-life Painting since 2007; the villa, perched on its hill, dominates the surrounding plain. Commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent and built to the designs of Giuliano da Sangallo between 1484 and 1520, the project transformed the existing structure into a new aristocratic residence, in line with the Renaissance architectural ideas of Leon Battista Alberti, who propounded a new relationship between building and nature. Today the villa is the prototype of the Renaissance villa, with a park, lemon-house and stables, which were renovated in 2000 and are now used as a multi-purpose structure.
The villa was the summer residence of the Medici and the setting of important events in their dynastic history. Here were celebrated the wedding between Alessandro de' Medici and Margherita d'Austria (1536), of Cosimo I and Eleonora da Toledo (1539) and of Francesco I and Bianca Cappello (1579). In the second half of the seventeenth century the villa was equipped with a theatre to satisfy the whims of Margherita Luisa d'Orléans. When the last descendant of the Medici family died, the building became property of the Habsburg-Lorraine.
Outside, the villa has kept its original aspect, designed by Sangallo, except for the two twin staircases by Poccianti which lead to the terrace: these were erected in the early nineteenth century to replace the originals, which were straight and perpendicular to the body of the villa. Inside, there are frescoes by Alessandro Allori, Pontormo, Filippino Lippi and Andrea del Sarto.
Also noteworthy is the arrangement of the cultivated land, showing the innovative genius of the Magnificent and his architects.