Parco Villa Demidoff, the villa and the old oak tree, the farnia di Villa Demidoff


Villa di Pratolino | Parco Villa Demidoff


The Villa di Pratolino was a Renaissance patrician villa in Vaglia, Tuscany, Italy. It was mostly demolished in 1820: its remains are now part of Villa Demidoff, 12 km north of Florence, reached from the main road to Bologna.


The villa was built by the solitary Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany in part to please his Venetian mistress, the celebrated Bianca Capello. The designer of villa and gardens was his court architect- designer- mechanician- engineer Bernardo Buontalenti, who completed it in a single campaign that lasted from 1569 to 1581; it was finished enough to provide the setting for Francesco's public wedding to Bianca Cappello in 1579. In its time it was a splendid example of the Mannerist garden.
Francesco had assembled most of the property, which was not a hereditary Medici possession, by September 1568,[1] and the construction was begun the following spring.
The garden was laid out along a perfectly straight down-slope axis passing through the center of the villa, which stood midway. Down the central descent, the visitor still walks under a cooling arch of fountain jets, without getting wet.

Michel de Montaigne, one of the earliest visitors to leave a description of Pratolino, saw it in 1581,[2] and considered it to have been built, he thought when visiting Villa d'Este, "precisely in rivalry with this place". A long description was published by a Florentine, Francesco de' Vieri, in 1586.[3] Giusto Utens included a view of the southern half of the villa complex among his series of lunettes containing bird's-eye views of the Medicean villas, painted in 1599. Six views were etched by Stefano Della Bella in the mid-17th century, and the picture is rounded out by further 18th century descriptions. Nevertheless, Pratolino has not survived, as other Medici villas have.

Il Colosso dell'Appennino (“The Apennine Colossus”), detail

Though the villa and its fountains were kept in repair, after Francesco's death it was deserted; in the eighteenth century some of its sculptures were removed to adorn the extension of the Boboli Gardens, and the place was left to fall into decay; by 1798 a German visitor was impressed with the romantic ruin of it.[4] Grand Duke Ferdinand III decided to capitalize on the air of overgrown wildness; in 1820 it was decided to demolish the villa, and the garden was then re-designed in the English landscape manner and became one of the most romantic gardens ever seen in Tuscany. In 1872 the complex was sold by the heirs of Leopold II, former Grand Duke of Tuscany, to Prince Pavel Pavlovich Demidov who restored the Paggeria, or pages' lodgings of the former residence, as the Villa Demidoff di Pratolino. The property was eventually inherited by Prince Paul of Yugoslavia. Later the park was bought by the province of Florence who maintain the park and open it for public use from May until September.
The complicated iconography of the garden is embodied in the brooding statue of "Appennino" (1579-1580), a colossal sculpture by Giambologna, which originally seemed to emerge from the vaulted rockwork niche that once surrounded him. Multiple grottoes with water-driven automata, a water organ, surprise jets that drenched visitors' finery when the fontanieri opened secret spigots, offered striking juxtapositions of Art with imitations of rugged Nature.[5]
The Park of Pratolino hosts many century-old and valuable trees such as oaks, English oaks, cedars and conker trees.


Giambologna, sculpture of Appennino, Il Colosso dell'Appennino,

Giambologna's largest work - the 33-foot high figure of the mountain god Appennino (1577-81). Made from brick and stone, the god crouches above a pond and appears to have emerged from the earth.

Giardino degli Orti Oricellari

Purchased by Bianca Cappello in 1573, the Garden was restored its original beauty, becoming a place of delights and leisure, abounding in entertainment and games organised by the grand duke and duchess for their guests. In the mid 17th century, cardinal Giovan Carlo de’ Medici became the promoter of the first major series of works, creating an Italian-style garden. Inspired by the work of Bernardo Buontalenti at Pratolino, it was planned to convey water from Boboli to the garden, exploiting the channelling system along the via Maggio and Ponte Santa Trinita, in order to supply the fountains designed by sculptor Antonio Novelli. The most grandiose of the fountains is the square-plan fountain portraying Polyphemus drinking from a water-bag, made of plastered masonry with an iron framework, the same technique used by Giambologna for the statue of the Apennines at Pratolino.
In 1640, the property once again passed into Medici hands as a result of a complex inheritance situation. The first main transformation of the garden dates back to the mid-17th century, when Buontalenti introduced new water displays and giant statues. Here, as in Villa Pratolino though on a smaller scale, the atmosphere is Arcadian, and takes its inspiration from classical mythology.

Gardens in Tuscany | Oricellari Gardens

Polyphemus drinking from a wineskin, sculpted by Antonio Novelli

Villa di Pratolino | Parco Villa Demidoff
Opening hours
The park is open to the public during the months of March and October Sundays and holidays from 10 to 18. From April to the end of September, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 19.30.

Transport: a 20 minute bus ride on 25 from San Marco

Michel de Montaigne, Travel Journal (1580–1581). Transl. Donald M. Frame. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1983.
Villa Medici, Pratolino | 'It was to rival this place that Pratolino was built. As to the richness and beauty of the grottoes, Florence is infinitely superior; as to abundance of water, Ferrara; in variety of sports and amusing mechanisms derived from water, they are equal, unless the Florentine has a little more elegance in the arrangement and order of the whole body of the place; Ferrara excels in ancient statues, and in the palace, Florence. In situation and beauty of prospect Ferrara is infinitely superior; and I should say the same in all natureís favors, if it did not have this extreme misfortune, that all its waters, except the fountain that is in the little garden all the way at the top, and which is seen in one of the palace rooms, is only water from the Teverone, a branch of which the cardinal has taken over and diverted to a separate channel for his service. If this water were as clear and good to drink as on the contrary it is muddy, this place would be incomparable, especially its great fountain, which is of the finest workmanship, and more beautiful to see with its adjuncts than anything else either in this garden or elsewhere. At Pratolino, on the contrary, what water there is is spring water and drawn from far away. Because the Teverone comes down from much higher mountains, the inhabitants of this place use it as they will, and the example of several private individuals makes this work of the cardinalís less marvelous.' (p. 100)

[1] Most of the factual information in this article is derived from Webster Smith, "Pratolino" The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 20.4 (December 1961), pp. 155-168; Smith derived his documentary information from the Florentine State Archives.
[2] Montaigne, Journal de voyage en Italie par la Suisse et l'Allemagne en en 1580 et 1581.
[3] Vieri, Delle marauigliose opere di Pratolino; Vieri had the cooperation of Buontalenti and his son Francesco Buontalenti in setting out the plans on paper.
[4] Ernst Moritz Arndt, noted in Smith 1961:166.

[5] Giambologna, born as Jean Boulogne, incorrectly known as Giovanni da Bologna and Giovanni Bologna (1529 – 13 August 1608), was a sculptor, known for his marble and bronze statuary in a late Renaissance or Mannerist style.

Giambologna was born in Douai, Flanders (now in France). After youthful studies in Antwerp with the architect-sculptor Jacques du Broeucq, he moved to Italy in 1550, and studied in Rome. Giambologna made detailed study of the sculpture of classical antiquity. He was also much influenced by Michelangelo, but developed his own Mannerist style, with perhaps less emphasis on emotion and more emphasis on refined surfaces, cool elegance and beauty. Pope Pius IV gave Giambologna his first major commission, the colossal bronze Neptune and subsidiary figures for the Fountain of Neptune (the base designed by Tommaso Laureti, 1566) in Bologna. Giambologna spent his most productive years in Florence, where he had settled in 1553. Ten years later, he was named a member (Accademico) of the prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, just founded by the Duke Cosimo I de' Medici, at 13 January 1563, under the influence of the painter-architect Giorgio Vasari, becoming also one of the Medici most important court sculptors. He died in Florence at the age of 79 - the Medici had never allowed him to leave Florence, as they rightly feared that either the Austrian or Spanish Habsburgs would entice him into permanent employment. He was interred in a chapel he designed himself in the Santissima Annunziata.

Giambologna became well known for a fine sense of action and movement, and a refined, differentiated surface finish. Among his most famous works are the Mercury (of which he did four versions), poised on one foot, supported by a zephyr. The god raises one arm to point heavenwards, in a gesture borrowed from the repertory of classical rhetoric that is characteristic of Giambologna's maniera.
Giambologna's several depictions of Venus established a canon of proportions and set models for the goddess's representation that were influential for two generations of sculptors, in Italy and in the North. He created allegories strongly promoting Medicean political propaganda, such as Florence defeating Pisa and, less overtly, Samson Slaying a Philistine, for Francesco de' Medici (1562).
He delighted in solving the complex spatial problems of three intertwined figures in his famous Rape of the Sabine Women (1574–82). The subject was not finally determined until after it had been set up in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence's Piazza della Signoria. Heracles beating the Centaur Nessus (1599) is also a conscious tour de force.[4] It is also in the Loggia dei Lanzi.

The equestrian statue of Cosimo I de' Medici also in Florence, was completed by his studio assistant Pietro Tacca.
Giambologna provided as well as many sculptures for garden grottos and fountains in the Boboli Gardens of Florence and at Pratolino, and the bronze doors of the cathedral of Pisa. For the grotto of the Villa Medicea of Castello he sculpted a series of studies of individual animals, from life, which may now be viewed at the Bargello. Small bronze reductions of many of his sculptures were prized by connoisseurs at the time and ever since, for Giambologna's reputation has never suffered eclipse.
Giambologna was an important influence on later sculptors through his pupils Adriaen de Vries and Pietro Francavilla who left his atelier for Paris in 1601, as well as Pierre Puget who spread Giambologna's influence throughout Northern Europe, and in Italy on Pietro Tacca, who assumed Giambologna's workshop in Florence, and in Rome on Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Alessandro Algardi.


Giambologna, The Rape of the Sabine Women (detail)
This article incorporates material from the Wikipedia articles Villa di Pratolino and Giambologna published under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Giambologna.


Tuscany is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Known for its enchanting landscapes, its fantastic and genuine food and beautiful towns as Florence, Pisa, Lucca and Siena. Podere Santa Pia is an elegant and luminous house and attached apartment in the characteristic Maremma region, just a few steps from Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano, Abbadia di Sant' Antimo and San Quirico d'Orcia, famous for their artistic heritage, wine, olive oil production and gastronomic traditions. The strategical geographical position in southern Tuscany will give you the opportunity of arriving in Siena and other important cities of art in Tuscany, such as San Gimignano, Volterra and Massa Marittima.
W ith its wide panoramic terrace overlooking the Maremma, in the heart of the evocative Tuscany country, Podere Santa Pia is the ideal place to enjoy the beauty of Tuscany and to pass a very relaxing holiday in contemplation of nature, with the advantage of tasting the most typical dishes of Tuscan cuisine and its best wines.
The extreme simplicity of Tuscan cuisine is its strongest strength, as the flavours that emerge during the cooking process are vibrant and pure. A little known fact about Tuscan cuisine is that the French learned how to cook from their Tuscan counterparts when it was imported by Catherine de' Medici into the court of Henry II. The Tuscan style of cooking is richly flavoured and wholesome. With its original kitchen and the wood burning pizza oven, Casa Santa Pia offers an upbeat atmosphere.

Tuscan Holiday houses | Podere Santa Pia

Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia, garden
Florence, Duomo

Villa I Tatti
Parco di Villa Reale di Castello (Villa di Castello) in Florence
Villa Medici in Fiesole

Il parco dei Mostri di Bomarzo
Villa Arceno gardens
Villa La Pietra, near Florence

Choosing one of the Florence walking tours you'll be able to visit the world-famous museums of the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries, discovering the main historical and artistic treasures of the city.
The tours focus on Florence's major sights and attractions, including the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio and the city's famous churches and Renaissance palaces.
Novelist Henry James called Florence a “rounded pearl of cities -- cheerful, compact, complete -- full of a delicious mixture of beauty and convenience.” The best way to experience the Italian city’s artistry, history and joy of life is by walking the same paths that the Medicis, Michelangelo and James once used.

On the right the Boboli gardens. The Boboli Gardens are located behind the Palazzo Pitti, the Ducal palace of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the first of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Originally, the Boboli Gardens extended from the back of Pitti Palace to the eastern border of Forte Belvedere. The Palace was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi around 1440 for the wealthy merchant, Luca Pitti.
A little over a century later, the property was purchased by the Medici family. In the eighteenth century some of the Pratolino sculptures were removed to adorn the extension of the Boboli Gardens.

1 | A Walk Around the Uffizi Gallery

2 | Quarter Duomo and Signoria Square

3 | Around Piazza della Repubblica

4 | Santa Maria Novella

5 | San Niccolo Neighbourhood in Oltrarno

6 | Walking in the Bargello Neighbourhood

7 | From Fiesole to Settignano


Boboli gardens in Florence

Castello di Vincigliata

In 1885 John Temple Leader purchased the medieval castle of Vincigliata and spent twelve years redesigning it in accordance with the "Gothic revival" style popular at the time. However, a number of original crests can still be seen in the courtyard, and a fine fresco cycle dating back to the 14th century also survived the renovation work. The 19th-century scheme was not limited to the restoration of the building but also included its surroundings: the slopes of the hill were planted with trees and dense undergrowth suited to the rocky terrain. Cypress trees were also introduced here and there, in amongst the pines and holm-oaks, creating an unusual mix of conifers and deciduous trees. Leader was assisted in his landscaping scheme by the architect Giuseppe Fancelli and hydraulics expert Alessandro Papini. In the second half of the 19th century, Temple Leader purchased the ancient "Cava delle Colonne", a quarry whose name is a reference to the fact that the stone used to make the columns of the Princes' Chapel in the church of San Lorenzo came from here. This natural basin, which was transformed into a lake-like pool using water from the Mensola river, is the most conspicuous feature of the large romantic park. On one side of this lake the shoreline takes the form of craggy rocks that create beautiful caves, on the other an embankment was built. The waters are overhung by the surrounding greenery and the surface is adorned with aquatic plants such as water lilies, iris, papyrus and rushes. All the buildings in the park were constructed before 1883, with the exception of the Gothic-style tower (1885-1886), the visual focal point of this charmingly atmospheric bathing area. The tower, topped by a protruding walkway with Guelph-style crenellations, is very similar to the one on the castle's watch tower. The ladies' changing cabin, a Swiss chalet-style pile construction built over the water, is the only feature that has been lost. The so-called Maria Luisa Bridge connects the two sides of the river, beyond which stands the Kaffeehause with an elegant loggia. This building was originally used as a storeroom for equipment used in the nearby quarries. The garden surrounding the waters of the Laghetto delle Colonne, is criss-crossed by tortuous paths that wind their way through the dense vegetation encountering on their way various typical romantic garden features: ornamental bridges, walls, statues of mythological monsters and a nymphaeum-grotto. The time when Queen Victoria came to the villa in 1893 as a guest of Temple Leader is recalled in a stone tablet.
Address: Fiesole | Località: Vincigliata, Via di Vincigliata, 13 |

Villa i Tatti

Villa i Tatti, originally owned by the Zati family, was built over an existing ancient building dating back to the 11th century and, after changing hands various times gradually fell into a poor state of repair. Then, in 1906, it was bought by the famous art historian and critic Bernard Berenson. In 1909 Berenson commissioned Cecil Pinsent and Geoffrey Scott to transform the house and garden. The original entrance, now no longer used, was reached by an avenue lined with cypresses, which also led to a small flight of steps adorned with a niche containing a sculpture. The steps lead up to a terrace, situated between the main building and the lemon house, which is laid out with flower-beds bordered by box hedges, with a number of trees at the centre. Beyond the lemon house is a series of terraced gardens that run down over the slope facing south. These terraces, which are lined on both sides by tall cypress trees closely set to form hedges, are divided up into geometric flower-beds bordered by box hedges and laid out along the central avenue, which is embellished with mosaic paving and box trees cut into the shape of obelisks. A passageway through the high espalier of cypress trees that closes off the garden on the valley side is marked by two statues that stand at the top of a short flight of steps leading down into a copse of holm-oaks. Behind the villa there is a hanging garden, which also has flower beds edged with pruned box hedges. Here, too, Pinsent succeeded in creating a garden that blends beautifully with its surroundings, forming a series of tree-lined avenues that lead into the open countryside. Berenson bequeathed I Tatti to Harvard University, which turned it into a centre for Italian Renaissance studies.
Gardens in Tuscany | Villa Tatti
Fiesole | Via Vincigliata, 26 |

Villa il Roseto

This narrow garden, which clings to the rocky hill below the centre of Fiesole, affords one of the most beautiful views over Florence and the Arno Valley. An avenue leads to the villa, built by Belgian painter Consuelo De Jevenois between the late 19th and early 20th century, when these hills were largely populated by foreigners. The Roseto villa has a beautiful flower garden filled with hydrangeas, azaleas and roses, with two paths leading to two panoramic points higher up. The only way a garden could be laid out on this steeply sloping site was through the creation of terraces. A whole range of different plant species have been planted on the terraces here (cypress, oleander, bitter orange, cherry, laurel, pomegranate and plants typical of Mediterranean scrubland). Short rows of olive trees border the serena stone pathways, lined with wild roses and irises. The very simple, ochre-coloured villa building is based on typical Tuscan farmhouse style. A five-arched loggia separates off the belvedere and the upper part of the garden. Architect Giovanni Michelucci, who lived here from 1958 with his wife, the painter Eloisa Pacini, made hardly any changes to the property. The garden is still laid out over the old terracing, and many of the original plants which are typical of the area have been kept. In compliance with the wishes of the Michelucci couple, a Michelucci Foundation has now been set up, comprising the villa, the library buildings, and the study drawings and models produced by the architect, who died in 1991 just before his hundredth birthday. The foundation is also connected with the publication of the La Nuova Città review, the aim of which is to promote social architecture studies in the field of prisons, hospitals and schools.
Address: Fiesole | Via: Beato Angelico, 15 |

Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo

Famous among the historical Barberino di Mugello attractions is the Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo. The term “Medicea” means “belonging to the Medici family”. The villa was actually once a castle, which probably dated to medieval times, and which was renovated extensively to be made into a princely country residence in 1451, on order of Cosimo de Medici. It maintained, however, many aspects of its fortress past, such as a tower, a moat and a drawbridge. It was particularly loved by Lorenzo de Medici, also known as “Lorenzo the Magnificent”, grandson of Cosimo. Lorenzo was known to spend most of his summers at the villa, accompanied by his group of philosophers.
It was renovated numerous times throughout the years and in 1537, hunting grounds were added. Adjacent to the villa was also added a majolica factory, where precious majolica ceramics were made. Renovations completed in the 1800s eliminated many of the original characteristics of the structure. Today, it is somewhat of a museum. Visitors can walk through many of the corridors that were once walked by the powerful Florentine family, admiring the portraits of various members of the Medici clan. You’ll get to see part of the majolica factory, things written by the illustrious guests of the villa, historical renaissance costumes and, finally, the majestic grounds of the villa, characterized by trees that are hundreds of years old. Go online to check out the hours of the villa, as well as convenient hotels in Barberino di Mugello that are located in the vicinity of the villa.


Podere Santa Pia is set high up in the Maremma hills with sweeping views of Tuscany