After visiting the wonders of Florence as an ordinary tourist, abandon the trodden tracks. Move to a hidden treasure in its immediate surroundings ( the area between Sesto Fiorentino and Careggi) the Villa la Petraia, the sleeping beauty –as it was labeled lately- now waiting for the kiss of Unesco inspectors. They will probably number it among Unesco heritage sites in a short while. In the meantime, before countless crowds invade this open-air museum, profit from this amazing corner in the outskirts of Florence which deserves to be discovered in solitude. While relaxingly sitting on a bench to waste or better gain time, the unjustly forgotten slow time, or reading a book you will lift from time to time your eyes to get lost in the harmony and charm of the place and capture the spell of the garden.
Edith Wharton, the famous American novelist, in her book “ Italian Villas and their Gardens” speaks of the enchantment of “the traveler returning from Italy with his eyes and imagination full of the ineffable Italian garden-magic… Is it because the sky is bluer and the vegetation more luxuriant?
To its answer she adds “ one must go deeper, the garden must be studied in relation to the house and both in relation to the landscape”. That is in fact the everlasting beauty of Tuscany.
At the moment the Medicean Villa La Petraia, in the outskirts of Florence is a real treasure trunk, disclosing inside, up to the end of September 201, an exhibition of the Flemish 16th century painter Giusto Utens. The mysterious artist, born in Brussels and died in Carrara (the Tuscan marble quarry area), was commissioned 17 lunettes, featuring Medici properties, in a special mixture of landscape and architectural elements, according to the bird’s eye view technique, able to embrace large Tuscan territories in a single glance. The amazingly iconographic collection was meant to decorate another Medicean mansion “La Ferdinanda also called “ the villa of the one hundred chimneys” commissioned by Grand Duke Ferdinando, son to Cosimo the first de’ Medici, to Bernardo Buontalenti.
The Villa La Petraia, originally property of the Brunelleschi family, was bought in the 14th century by the Strozzi, rich Florentine bankers. It passed later to the Medici in the 16th century. Cosimo the first bequeathed the Villa to the cardinal and heir Ferdinando. Stepped terraced gardens, still visible today, were set out in the front of the “palagio”, as a spectacular frame. They are the Prato della Figurina designed by Tribolo ,characterized by a fountain adorned by Giambologna’s Venus on top, popularly called Figurina and the Prato dei Castagni, hardly evocative because of the missing chestnut trees after which it took its name.
The middle area is occupied by the Vivaio, a pool enriched by two flights of steps.
The property includes a romantic park, stretching up the nearby hill. History in its moving on has marked the landscape too. The park, wild and uncontrolled according to the Romantic issues , has replaced the geometrical Renaissance shape .The Lorraine House with Pietro Leopoldo II commissioned the Bohemian architect Joseph Frietsch to join Petraia and another Medicean property the Castello . The trees range from holm-oaks and cypresses to red and downy oaks, thus well featuring the Romantic vital force of uncontrolled nature so far from the geometrical shapes of Renaissance.
The last details, in a such historical walk , the marks left in the partial renovation of the palagio by the Savoy monarchy as the residence of Vittorio Emanuele II when Florence became the capital of Italy in 1865.
If you travel to Florence and surroundings , it’s worth visiting this magnificent example of Renaissance architecture. Choose for that an accommodation in the area