The Medici Villa of Artimino is also called the Ferdinanda, because it was Ferdinando I de' Medici's favourite, or Villa dei Cento Camini (Villa of a Hundred Hearths), because it is crowned by numerous hearths and chimneys, necessary for heating the large house.
It was built at the behest of Grand Duke Ferdinando who was fond of hunting on Monte Albano and, stopping on the hill of Artimino along with the architect Bernardo Buontalenti, was struck by the landscape, so much so that he wanted to build a new villa for himself and the Medici court.
The villa was built in just four years, between 1596 and 1600, celebrating Bernardo Buontalenti's brilliant last season. The elderly architect, who was suffering from gout, directed the works from Florence, sending his collaborators to the site.
The surrounding landscape winds towards the point where the Arno river narrows towards the Gonfolina bottleneck. The villa blends perfectly into the partly wooded and partly agricultural landscape: for the Grand Duke Ferdinando, this was the perfect place to celebrate the extent of the Grand Duchy. It was for this reason that Flemish painter Giusto Utens was commissioned to create a series of seventeen lunettes depicting the Medici villas, to be placed in a hall that was called "delle Ville" (of the Villas). Many of the lunettes were lost between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: copies can be seen at the villa, while the originals that survived have now been put together in the beautiful museum of Firenze com’era (Florence as it was) in Florence. In the "Sala delle Guerre" (Hall of the Wars) Giusto Utens created other lunettes with scenes of battles, which have all been completely lost.
Other rooms in the villa were frescoed by Domenico Passignano and Bernardino Poccetti and there were also exceptional paintings, such as the Portrait of Pietro Aretino, kept at the Palatine Gallery and the Bacchus by Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio, kept at the Uffizi Gallery.
Given Ferdinando's love for hunting, an immense hunting area was created, surrounded by a high wall, stretching for about fifty kilometres. The villa of Artimino was its point of reference and focal point and, later on, the area bordered with the Villa of Quarrata, purchased specifically for this purpose.
In 1782, the villa of Artimino was sold by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine and after that the property changed hands several times. In the 1920s, several changes were made, with the construction of a new perron and rearranging of the garden. The villa was seriously damaged during the Second World War, but renovation took place quickly and was already finished by the spring of 1945. In 1979, a sale by auction led to the scattering of the villa's furniture and paintings. The villa is now a privately owned hotel and convention centre that hosts important events.
Informations: Medici villas and gardens - The Medici Villa in Artimino