The royal Medici Villa di Castello belonged to the Medici family from 1477 and was inhabited by Lorenzo and Giovanni dei Medici, cousins of Lorenzo the Magnificent and sons of Pierfrancesco dei Medici. The two brothers had lost their father in adolescence. It was in this villa that the young Lorenzo, cousin of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who was also his legal guardian, was educated by Marsilio Ficino. Sandro Botticelli painted Spring and the Birth of Venus for this villa.
Like all Medici villas, the Castello villa was also built on an older site, dating back to the 12th century. The villa is located along an ancient Roman aqueduct that supplied the city of Florence with water from the Val di Marina, an area located between Monte Morello and the Calvana Mountains, near the ancient village of Calenzano. In the fourteenth century, the villa was also called "il Vivaio" (the Fish Farm) because of the large pools located at the front.
In the sixteenth century, important transformation works began and ended under the grand duchy of Ferdinand I. A great many architects followed one another over time, but the three that left the most important mark that we can still see today were Niccolò Tribolo, Giorgio Vasari and Bernardo Buontalenti. The villa has a very simple two-story structure with Renaissance-style windows, built around a 16th-century courtyard with loggias and Tuscan-style pillars on the lesser sides. Only one fresco remains inside the building: the Annunciation by Rossellino del Garbo.
In the first few years of the 20th century, the villa became the patrimony of the Italian state; later on, it also became the historical site of the prestigious Accademia della Crusca (Academy of Bran).
The design of the marvellous garden, a prototype of the sixteenth-century Italian garden, was entrusted to Niccolò Tribolo, who was also responsible for the construction of the impressive water system that brought water from the Castellina spring and would later feed water to the numerous fountains: the fountain of Hercules and Antaeus, built by Niccolò Tribolo and Pierino da Vinci and crowned by the bronze statue by Bartolomeo Ammannati and the marvellous Grotto of the Animals or of the Flood. The grotto is one of the best known in Europe: it was invented by Tribolo and was originally animated by spectacular mechanisms providing water features, simulating a real natural grotto. It concluded the perspective axis that, starting from the Fountain of Hercules and passing through the Fountain of the Maze, reached the terrace of the "wild area" of holm oaks, oaks and cypresses.
In the garden, there is a beautiful collection of about 500 citrus fruit trees of historical and botanical importance and unique in the world. Ancient varieties of citrus trees were collected by the Medici family, some of which are more than 300 years old. The plants are meticulously cared for according to ancient cultivation techniques. They are exposed outdoors from April to October and sheltered in the winter in the historic, beautiful greenhouses.
In the medicinal herb garden, there is the Stufa dei Mugherini, a hot house containing the rare Indian jasmine from Goa, called mugherino.
The garden is open to the public, while the villa can be visited by booking.
Informations: Medici villas and gardens - Medici Villa di Castello