Palazzo Pitti Travel Guide
The Palazzo Pitti or the Pitti Palace is considered the largest museum complex in Florence. It is comprised of several museums and galleries that have been built over the centuries. It contains prime examples of art from the Renaissance period, including collections of paintings, sculptures, porcelain and other various works of art. It is situated in the southern area of the River Arno and a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio.
The palace was started as a project by Filippo Brunelleschi for Luca Pitti in the second half of the 15th century. Unfortunately, Brunelleschi died twelve years before the start of the palace construction in 1458. Its rusticated stonework design appealed to the Florentine sensibilities and persisted during the subsequent additions to the palazzo. The palace was ultimately unfinished upon the death of Pitti in 1472.
In 1550, the palace was then sold to Eleonora da Toledo, the wife of Grand Duke Cosimo I de’Medici. This became the principle residence of the family and, as such, underwent several changes throughout the centuries. In the 17th century, Giulio and Alfonso Parigi gave the façade its present day look. Several other additions in the early half of the 19th century, including two lateral projecting pavilions and the Palazzina della Meridiana, were integrated during the time of the Lorraine family. When the palace was passed onto Savoy ownership in 1860, it and other buildings in the Boboli Gardens were divided into separate art galleries and a museum. It housed many priceless artifacts as well as many collections acquired by the state. This trend continued until the modern times where the palace and the gardens now house the Palatine Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Silver Museum, the Porcelain Museum, the Costume Gallery and the Museum of Carriages.
What to See
The Palatine Gallery is considered the principal gallery of Palazzo Pitti and contains a large collection of famous Renaissance paintings. It was opened to the public by the Lorraine family and shows off its lavishness and personal taste as befitting of those of the owning family at the time. The frescos and stuccoes here are a representative example of the Florentine Baroque. Famous works housed here include those of Titian and Raphael.
The most prominent of these are the Portrait of a Gentleman and Magdalene by Titian, and the Madonna of the Grand Duke, the Madonna of the Chair and the portrait of Maddalena Doni by Raphael. Other important works of the time include those of Reubens with The Four Philosophers and The Allegory of War, Van Dyck with the portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio, the Madonna with Child by Murillo, the Sleeping Cupid by Caravaggio, as well as other portraits made by Frans Pourbus and Velazquez. There are also older works painted by Bronzino, Fra Bartolomeo, Piero del Pollaiolo and Filippo Lippi. The gallery is further divided into 28 other rooms, the most important of which show off some of the historical and artistic signatures of the 17th century. Notable rooms include: the Music room, done in a neo-classical style; the Putti room, which is dedicated to Flemish painting and the Stove room, which contains the Four Ages of Man, painted by Pietro da Cortana.
Gallery of Modern Art
Many works from this gallery was taken from various places around Florence. During the remodeling of the Florentine academy in 1748, a gallery of Modern Art was established to collect new works of art. By the middle of the 19th century, many of the Grand Ducal paintings were transferred to the Palazzo della Crocetta, which was considered the newly formed Modern Art Museum. It was only in 1922 that these works were transferred to the Palazzo Pitti, where it complemented the existing works of modern art owned by the state and the municipality of Florence. The collection was housed in the vacated apartments of the Italian Royal family and was opened for public viewing in 1928.
Also called “The Medici Treasury”, it contains a collection of priceless silverworks, cameos and semi-precious gemstones from the collection of Lorenzo de’ Medici. There were also delicate silver gilt mounts added in the 15th century. In the 17th century, they were decorated with elaborate frescos as part of the private royal apartments. The Silver Museum was also used to house the collection of German gold and silver artifacts, which was purchased by Grand Duke Ferdinand after his return from exile in 1815.
Located in the Casino del Cavaliere in the Boboli Gardens, it was opened to the public in 1973 to display its fine collection of porcelain works. It showed off porcelain from the most notable European porcelain factories, with the most prominent ones from Sèvres and Meissen near Dresden. Many of the porcelain items were gifts from European sovereigns, while others were commissioned by the Grand Ducal court.
The Costume Gallery is found in the Palazzina della Meridiana wing of the palace. This gallery contains a wide collection of costumes from the 16th century all the way until the present time. It is the only museum that showcases a history of Italian fashion. This includes garments like funeral clothes and costume jewelry. There a functional solar meridian instrument sponsored by Sala Meridiana and built into the fresco by Anton Domenico Gabbiani.
Comprised of a suite of 14 rooms, the Royal Apartments was where the Medici family and their successors lived. They contain an expansive collection of Medici portraits, many made by the artist Giusto Sustermans. It is considerably smaller in size compared to the great salons of the Palatine Gallery, but still contained a grand and gilded style. These rooms were still used as living apartments in 1920 by the last Kings of Italy. While the palace was already converted into a museum at this time, a suite of rooms were still reserved for this occasion when the visiting royalty was in Florence.
The Gardens are one of the first and formally recognized 16th century Italian gardens. Its expansive and open style was quite unconventional for its time. However, it did flaunt the prominent garden style of its time with its longer axial developments, wide gravel avenues and its lavish use of stone, statuary and fountains. It lacks a natural source of water, so a conduit had to be built nearby that fed water into an elaborate irrigation system into the Garden. It has undergone several reconstruction phases throughout the centuries, with an expansion done in the 17th century to reflect its current size of around 45,000 square meters. It showcases a wide collection of garden sculptures, with remarkable examples of Mannerist architecture and culture.
This is where carriages and other conveyances used in the 18th and 19th century by the Grand Ducal court is exhibited. Located on the ground floor of the museum, it showcases a wide collection of such vehicles. There are even carriages that are lavishly decorated with gilt as well as painted landscapes on their panels. An excellent example of this is the “Carrozza d’Oro”, which is surmounted with gilt crowns that is indicative of the station of the carriage’s occupants.
Tips and Advice
- Tickets for the Palatine Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art cost EUR 8.50, while tickets for rest of the areas cost EUR 7.00. There is also a combined ticket for EUR 11.50 that is valid for three days. Take note that additional fees may be included for online bookings.
- The Palace and its different museums are open from Tuesday to Saturday from 8:15 am to 6:50 pm. The staff normally lets a limited number of people inside to avoid overcrowding.
- Because the Boboli Gardens require constant maintenance and restoration, a schedule has been established to provide regular care and periodic upkeep to this part of the palace. While this does not necessarily prohibit visitors from going here, it is best to inquire about the schedule beforehand to keep tabs on the restoration efforts being done here.