Who were the Medici, and why does their name still resonate centuries later around the globe? We follow a treasure trail to find out.
Sift fact from fiction with our walking tour of sites featured in the acclaimed series Medici: Masters of Florence to find out the truth about the characters played by Richard Madden, Dustin Hoffman and Annabel Scholey. We learn how the Medici family broke new ground to champion art and science, and in doing so inaugurated a new era: the Renaissance, paving the way for the likes of Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli and Michelangelo to flourish.
Our quest begins in Piazza della Signoria, the open-air art gallery whose sculptures reveal deeper meanings linked to members of the Medici family, followed by a quick peek into the courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio to appreciate the towering Torre di Arnolfo, where Cosimo the Elder was imprisoned. Strolling through Dante Alighieri’s district towards Piazza del Duomo, we come face to face with the mighty dome of Florence’s cathedral, discovering the incredible story of Brunelleschi and his ambitious plan to crown a cathedral that had been left open to the elements for 100 years. Our tour takes us inside the cathedral to admire the largest frescoed surface in the world (3600 square metres) by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari, while outside, standing in front of the Baptistery where Cosimo de’ Medici used to pray, we hear tales of the squabble and triumph that led to the creation of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise.
Following the ancient Via Larga we arrive at Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, the first Renaissance palace in Florence and the private home of the Medici family for nearly two centuries. In the inner sanctum of the palace, we enter a fifteenth-century jewel box, the Chapel of the Magi, lustrously decorated by Benozzo Gozzoli with images that set the foundations of Medici mythology. From the minute to the monumental we cross the Medici district and enter the Church of San Lorenzo, firmly though unofficially recognized as the ‘Medici church’. Today it’s a showcase of this family’s power, patronage and lasting legacy, featuring architecture by Brunelleschi, pulpits by Donatello, the tomb of Cosimo the Elder by Verrocchio, and the adjacent Medici Chapels, containing the final and dramatic works that Michelangelo executed in Florence.