Sunset on the Arno River in Florence

Florence in the Rain: The Genius Renaissance Artists of Lorenzo de Medici, Part-2.

Feature Image: Sunset on the river Arno as viewed from the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo.

Lorenzo di Credi, Adoration of the Child with two angels and Saint Joseph, @1490, Accademia, Florence, Italy
Lorenzo di Credi, Adoration of the Child with two angels and Saint Joseph, @1490

Continuing from Part 1, where my wife and I walked the Spring rains in Florence to view the Palazzo Medici, the Duomo, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Uffizi Gallery. With the rain gone, we took advantage of our skip-the-line tickets to gain early entry to the Accademia Gallery.

Botticelli, Madonna with saints, Medici Trebbio Altarpiece, Accademia, Florence, Italy
Botticelli, Madonna with saints, from the altarpiece of the Medici family villa in Trebbio, one of Lorenzo de Medici’s favorite retreats

Day 3 – The Accademia: Founded in 1784 by Pietro Leopoldo, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the gallery features the works of Michelangelo and the art of the 13th to 16th centuries. Included are many talented artists active during Lorenzo de Medici’s life (1449-1492), including Alessandro Filipepi, aka Botticelli, Lorenzo di Credi, Domenico Bigordi, aka Il Ghirlandaio, Mariotto Albertinelli, Neri di Bicci, Lorenzo di Credi, Giuliano Bugiardini, Fra’ Bartolomeo/Bartolomeo di Paolo del Fattorino and Francesco Granacci.

Michelangelo is center stage with his sculpture of the biblical David, the hero who brought down Goliath with a slingshot and a rock.  The Accademia also includes unfinished works by Michaelangelo that were destined for Rome. When Leonardo de Vinci passed away, his son, nicknamed Piero-the-unfortunate, took over but could not replace his father for intellect or political savvy. Seeing an opportunity, Charles VIII of France invaded. Firenze was no match for the power of the French army, and artists, including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, fled to Rome.

Michaelangelo's David, The Accademia, Florence, Italy
Michaelangelo’s “David”
Lorenzo Bartolini gallery, The Accademia, Florence, Italy
Lorenzo Bartolini gallery (1777-1850)
Nicolo Machiavelli, sculpture by Lorenzo Bartolini, Accademia, Florence, Italy
Greatly influenced by his political experiences in Firenze, Nicolo Machiavelli, sculpted here by Lorenzo Bartolini.

The Accademia Gallery also showcases the fantastic art and productivity of Lorenzo Bartolini (1777-1850). Among his many sculptures is one of Nicolo Machiavelli.  Machiavelli’s family was banished from Firenze following a failed assassination attempt on Lorenzo de Medici’s father, Piero. Machiavelli plotted but never got his revenge. Years later, he wrote “The Prince” based on personal political experiences in Florence. In “The Prince,” he espoused the now famous saying, ‘the end justifies the means.’

Entrance to the Accademia Gallery, Florence, Italy
Visitors eagerly waiting to enter the Accademia

With the gloomy, overcast sky gone and replaced with a beautiful sunny day, we needed a break from the crowded museums, so we sought out The Central Market.

Central Market, Florence, Italy
Il Mercato Centrale

Central Market, Florence, Italy

Central Market, Florence, Italy
Cups of hot melted chocolate

Il Mercato Centrale Firenze: Florence’s social and cultural life is alive in the Central Market, especially at lunch and dinner. Old mixing with young, animated conversations with arms and hands waving emphatically, and above all, a melting pot for all citizens. The food was good, the atmosphere was better, and our hot melted chocolate drinks were the best we’d ever had. We picked up some fresh pastries, fruits, and Pecorino cheese to take home to our hotel. But on the way, just outside Central Market, we couldn’t resist a little retail therapy on Via del Ariento, a pedestrian street lined with booths and stores selling lovely Italian leather.


Open air market near the Central Market, Florence, Italy
Open-air market just outside the Central Market on Via dell Ariento























The spring rains, umbrellas, and thinned crowds were gone when we awoke the next morning. We headed out early to escape the crowded piazzas, crossed the Arno River on the Ponte Vecchio bridge, and walked up the Via Guicciardini to the imposing Palazzo Pitti Gallery.

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy
Palazzo Pitti, former 16th-17th century home of the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany

Day 4 – Palazzo Pitti: The Pitti family was a wealthy rival of the Medici family who sought to convey their elevated social status through extravagant luxury conveyance at their home palazzo. On The Hill, the palazzo became the site of political activity for rivals of the Medici. The death of Cosimo de Medici in 1466 gave The Hill an opportunity. Luca Pitti (1398-1472) helped orchestrate a rebellion against the Medici on August 27, 1466. Peiro, Lorenzo de Medici’s father, bargained with Luca to abandon his co-conspirators and end the rebellion. In return, Piero offered Luca enormous financial and political advantages. With all citizens knowing that Luca Pitti had been bought, he was shunned, and the opulent Palazzo Pitti no longer received political visitors on The Hill.

Napoleon's bathroom, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy
Napoleon’s bathroom

When the Medici family outgrew Palazzo Medici in 1549, Cosimo-I de Medici’s wealthy wife Eleonora di Toledo, formerly of the Naples Spanish Court, purchased Palazzo Pitti for the Medici family and initiated a building campaign that doubled the palazzo’s size. Future Medici generations added more, including extensive formal gardens, the Boboli Gardens, and fountains. When the last Grand Duke of the Medici line passed away in 1737, the Duke of Tuscany title and Palazzo Pitti passed to the Austrian House of Habsburg-Lorraine.

Sala Castagnoli, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy
Sala Castagnoli, so named for the artist whose brilliant frescoes adorn the ceiling, was the anteroom to Napoleon and Josephine’s suites of apartments

Napoleon conquered the Austrians and northern Italy in 1797 -1800. He and Empress Josephine moved into Palazzo Pitti in 1813 and resided there off and on until 1821. Some of their changes have been preserved and can be viewed within the gallery. Napoleon’s bathroom and the anteroom, Sala del Catagnoli, to Napoleon and Josephine’s suites of apartments are elegantly finished in a Sevres lime-green paint embellished with gold trim in the First Empire Style.

The Palazzo Pitti Gallery contains an extensive collection of more than 500 Renaissance paintings collected by just two families, the Medici and the Habsburg-Lorraine’s, over 200 years in the 15th to 17th centuries. Those two families’ private art collections are amazing, including unique Roman and Greek sculptures, Ming dynasty vases, large Meissen porcelain pieces, and paintings by Raphael, Correggio, Peter Paul Rubens, and Pietro da Cortona. The paintings are all arranged in the nature of a private collection, probably much as they might have been when the Grand Dukes of Tuscany resided in the palazzo three hundred years ago.


The Allegory Room (The Volterrano), Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy
The Allegory Room (The Volterrano) is named after the ceiling frescoes depicting fortitude, fame, victory, modesty, truth, and wisdom. At the center of the room is Emillio Zocchi’s (1835-1913) sculpture of Michelangelo Bambino, in which the bambino intently sculpts a faun’s head. This is how Lorenzo de Medici reportedly discovered the exceptionally talented teenage Michelangelo (see Part I.)








I was somewhat overwhelmed by the opulence on display but absolutely in awe of the amazing, talented artists whose creations were proudly displayed. The artists may have passed on to heavenly pursuits, but their centuries-old creations are as awe-inspiring today as they were in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Sala delle Belle Arti, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy
Sala delle Belle Arti











The Hill, Boboli Garden, Florence, Italy
View of Florence from “The Hill” in Boboli Garden

Seeking some solitude to allow reflection on all we had seen, we walked out into the Boboli Gardens, up the hillside to a grassy lawn with a wonderous view, and then spent some time reflecting on the disparity in wealth between the artists and their patrons, how hard the artists had to work, the fleeting nature of their lives, and the enduring legacy of the fantastic masterpieces they created from blocks of rock and pieces of canvas. Unlike the Greek and Roman sculptors whose names are lost in antiquity, we know the names of the Florentine artists of the Renaissance. Their names will live on as long as some appreciate their works, and the crowds we experienced during our rainy mid-March visit suggest it will be a long time.

Our path back from the Palazzo Pitti at sunset took us over the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. As we marveled at the many elegant goldsmith shops on the bridge and reflected on how beautiful Florence was in the rain, a guitarist began playing a haunting Italian opera, and local Italians began singing the lyrics. Puccini immortalized the Ponte Vecchio bridge in his opera Gianni Schicchi. It was a fitting emotional way to remember Firenze: the singing, the setting sun, and the crimson reflections on the water of the Arno River. Bellissimo. Grazie Firenze.

The link for Part 1 is Florence in the Rain: The Genius Renaissance Artists of Lorenzo de Medici, Part-1.

IF YOU GO: Take care to book ahead, including skip-the-line tickets for the major galleries; Florence is a desirable destination for tourists and tour groups. We thought we might escape the crowds in mid-March, especially if it rained. While there were likely fewer tour groups than in summer, we found navigating challenging, especially on crowded sidewalks and in galleries. One key seems to be to either go early or go late when others are heading off to dinner. In the overcrowded piazzas, we followed sound advice and found it much more convenient to enjoy the views at night after the tour groups had dispersed. We visited the major tourist attractions. Other worthwhile sites in Florence are less traveled and equally worthwhile, so consider doing your homework. For more information on the major venues, the following links may be helpful: Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori, Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, the Accademia Gallery, Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Pitti, Ponte Vecchio, and Boboli Gardens.

One thought on “Florence in the Rain: The Genius Renaissance Artists of Lorenzo de Medici, Part-2.

  1. Great article. I will totally remember the ‘skip-the-line’ tickets. Everyone traveling to the area needs to read this story. Bridge photo is stunning.

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