The Medici family ruled Florence for many years. In the late 1400s, Cosimo I began building his new home in town, which to the horror of other merchants who were jealous of the Medici wealth through their banking business, felt that the palace was too much for a mere merchant family. Cosimo had even toned the opulence down from Brunelleschi’s initial plans and went with another architect with less grand plans. The Medici family later sold the house to the Riccardi family so the building is actually now called the Medici-Riccardi Palace (the Medicis moved across the river to the Palazzo Pitti).
The home itself is built around a central open courtyard with an open garden behind it. In the center of the courtyard stood Donatello’s David (found in the Bargello), which would be seen by all those passing by when the gates were open. The garden has orange trees growing in it, representative of the Medici ‘balls’ that are found in their coat of arms.
Today, the home is a museum that is a very fancy house. In our tour it appeared that the place was also used as a conference and meeting center since many of the fine rooms were set up for meetings with projectors and screens. There are some wonderful tapestries and paintings in the museum.
The highlight of the tour is the Chapel of the Magi, the Medici family’s private chapel with frescoes by Gozolli. In these frescoes, you can see the Medici family immortalized as part of the procession heading around the room with the three kings (Lorenzo, Cosimo’s grandson and future leader of Florence, is actually portrayed as one of the kings) as they head towards Mary and baby Jesus at the altar. This seems rather pretentious, but perfectly acceptable in a private chapel (but it wouldn’t be acceptable in a public church). The frescoes themselves are fantastic and show a delight in nature with all the trees and animals. In the procession are many famous people including the Medici.
This chapel was expensive! Not only for the commission for the fresco, but the marble and the carved wood stalls. This room alone is worth a visit to the Medici Palace.
Visits to the Chapel of the Magi are limited due to the smallest of the space – only ten visitors every 7 minutes are allowed in the room. Absolutely no photos in the Chapel but the rest of the palace photos are allowed with no flash.
Open weekdays and holidays from 9:00 am – 7:00 pm, closed Wednesdays.
This was our last official tour with our Renaissance art history class. That evening, we held a celebration dinner at Ristorante Acqua al 2 at the recommendation of our instructor.
This palazzo was designed by the famous Renaissance architect Michelozzo for the Medici family. From the outside, as it's the case with many buildings in Florence, it almost looks like a fortress. This type of architecture, which I personnally don't find very attractive, was considered a symbol of power back when it was built in the mid-15th century. It also had the advantage of not flaunting the Medici's fortune in people's face by not seeming unduly elegant. When the family eventually decided to move to Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno River, Palazzo Medici was sold to Gabriello Riccardi in 1659, hence the name of the palace today.
Although a large part of Palazzo Medici-Riccardi now houses city offices, some rooms are open to visitors, and even though I thought admission was pretty expensive (7 Euros), I'm still glad we decided to go. Visits begin in the inner courtyard where Donatello's "David" used to stand before it was moved to the Bargello; it's since been replaced by another beautiful sculpture by Baccio Bandinelli called "Orpheus placating Cerberus with his song". Inside the palazzo, I thought the Chapel of the Magi, with its frescoes painted by Benozzo Gozzoli, the room of the four seasons, with its 17th century Florentine tapestries, and the Galleria of the Riccardi, with its gorgeous ceiling painted by Luca Giordano, were especially interesting. A nice way to end the visit is to go for a quick walk around the palazzo's garden, and perhaps stop by the special modern art exhibition if there happens to be one.
Inside Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in via Cavour
Chapel is more than worth visiting for the frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli which are not only very fine art, but also represent some of the ultimate expressions of political flattery :)
Journey of the Magi, which is the highlight of the chapel, depicts Lorenzo and Cosimo Medici, as well as their numerous relatives in Biblical scenes. Of course, there was a place for the artist himself too :)
A practical note
Only a few people at a time are admitted inside the chapel, so book your place at the palace ticket desk. I've not had problems with it when I went in November, it was obviously more of a challenge in August. Also, keep in mind that you will be allowed to remain in the chapel only for a very short period of time
Palazzo Medici - Riccardi begun in 1444 by Michelozzo di Bartolommeo and was eongated in the 17th century by the Riccardi family. The palace was originaly built as a home for Cosimo Vecchio (the Older). It rusticated front facade appearence almost like an fortress.
I can't remember the name of this room inside the palace, but its opulence and extravagance made me feel rich. It's located at the top of the stairs on the second floor (one floor above ground level).
Built for Cosimo de' Medici in the 15th century, this is a beautiful palace, however only three of four rooms are open to the public, so I wouldn't visit if you are pressed for time.
If you do visit, you'll be especially impressed by the Cappella dei Magi all the way up the stairs on the top floor. It's a tiny room, but covering its walls is Benozzo Gozzoli's famous and brilliantly colored Procession of the Magi, which puts members of the Medici family in a biblical procession that sweeps around the walls and makes you feel like you are actually in the painting's lush, idyllic setting.
Built by Cosmo I in 1444 this palace was originally built by Donatello but the facade was redone by Michelozzo when Cosmo thought it was too ostentatious.
Palazzo Medici is a work of Michelozzo. There is a small chapel with frescoes by Gozzoli inside.
This building also hosts the city's main tourist office.