Pratolino Park and Villa Demidoff, Florence
To the right of the charming Piazza Demidoff is a public garden called the Demidoff Gardini, with a statue covered by a Victorian glass canopy - monument to Nicolo Demidoff, Russian Ambassador in Tuscany . This square was dedicated to the Russian noble Nikolaj Demidoff (1773 – 1828). The Italians converted his Russian first name to the familiar Nicolo. Count Demidoff had been ambassador in Florence in the years 1820 - 1828 and lived in the palazzo Serristori (16th C) at the side of the square; during that years Demidoff was a great benefactor for the city and financed several school and assistance institutes. In 1870 the heirs of Demidoff donated to the City of Florence the marble monument (a work by Lorenzo Bartolini) portraying Nicolo as benefactor, with children and allegorical figures of the virtues around. In origin the cast iron and glass covering was not present: it was added in 1911,when the sculpture proved to have been damaged by weather inclemency.
Several generations of the Demidoff family lived in Tuscany, an independent state at the time. Anatoli Demidoff (1813 – 1870), the Count’s son, lived nearby, at 54, Via San Niccolo. He married Princess Mathilde Bonaparte and became 1st Prince of Principality of San Donato. This small Principality was located in what is now greater Florence and included the Villa Pratolino, originally a Medici Palatial Estate. Though the original villa had been lost, what was left of the estate and grounds were preserved today thanks to Prince Paul (1839 – 1885), 2nd Prince of San Donato.
But let’s go back to the Piazza Demidoff . At the rear corners of the Demidoff garden are still to be seen two perfectly maintained small shelters which were used by the gardeners as the tool stores. Many of them were built in the gardens and squares of Florence at the beginning of 20th C, but they were all demolished in later periods: those in Piazza Demidoff are the only two survived until now.