Firstly, a brief history of the Palazzo Pitti. The building is best known as the home of the Medici Dukes, starting from its acquisition by Cosimo I de' Medici's wife Eleonora di Toledo in 1549. Before this, the residence belonged another banking family, the Pitti, who were forced to sell the property after going bankrupt. Under the reign of the Medici, the Palazzo went on to become the pre-eminent palatial residence in Italy. Due to the Medici family's ties with French royalty, it is widely agreed that the extravagance of the Pitti was the stylistic precursor to the Palace of Versailles. Any history-lover should be delighted to visit the courtyard of the Palazzo, which was filled with water for a mock sea battle, or naumachia, during the 1589 wedding of Ferdinando de' Medici and Christina of Lorraine. The Medici line came to an end in 1743 with the death of Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici. After this, the residence passed to the heirs of the Austrian House of Lorraine and for a short time housed Napoleon during his occupation of Italy. It was only after the unification of Italy that the building was eventually presented to the nation in 1919. The Palatine Gallery was itself opened to the public in the late 18th Century, and became a fashionable destination for traveling aristocrats and artists. Even if you know the history of the palace, or some of the works contained within, it is hard to ignore the extravagant display of wealth. This can be distracting if you want to see your Renaissance and Baroque heroes such as Raphael, Giorgione, Titian and Caravaggio.
To assist visitors to the Palatine Gallery, here is a brief guide of some stand-out works. As you traverse the gilt halls and high frescoed ceilings, use these works to bring your focus to the true treasures of the palace.