The villa was designed by Giuliano da Sangallo, upon appointment from Lorenzo the Magnificent, on land sold by the Rucellai family. In the project, Renaissance architecture blends the classics, such as Vitruvius, with Tuscan rural architectural elements and those of Leon Battista Alberti, in a search for symmetry and harmony of proportions.
The Villa of Poggio a Caiano was built on the top of a hill and raised from the portico platform that extends it outwards towards the landscape of the surrounding hills.
Building began in the late 15th century; the works stopped when Lorenzo the Magnificent died in 1492 and were resumed in 1512, under the guidance of his son Giovanni, who became Pope Leo X, and were finally finished more than 15 years later.
The facade and the rearward are traditional: the pediment has a multicoloured glazed terracotta frieze, typical of Tuscan fifteenth-century tradition, and the stone Medici coat of arms stands out up above.
Grand Duke Francesco I and his wife, the Grand Duchess Bianca Cappello, loved to stay in this Villa. They both died within the space of a few days in mysterious circumstances.
After the rulers of Lorraine, in the nineteenth century, the Villa became the residence of Elisa Baciocchi, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, and when Florence became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, it became the Savoy family's country residence.
The interior of the villa is full of surprising elements, thanks to all the works carried out by the important personalities who contributed to the construction and decoration of the villa.
On the ground floor, there is a theatre, a billiards room, the apartments of Bianca Cappello and works by Veronese and Vasari, while on the main floor there is the majestic Sala di Leone X (Room of Leo X), a real jewel where you can admire one of the most significant cycles of Tuscan frescoes of the sixteenth century, pained by Pontormo, Andrea del Sarto, Franciabigio and Alessandro Allori.
On the second floor, there is the first European museum dedicated to still life. It contains about 200 Renaissance paintings depicting game, fish, birds, fruit, flowers and utensils in their natural context or on laden tables. The magnificent paintings were a source of pride for the Medici court. Not only were they great patrons of Flemish, Dutch and Italian talents, but also innovators of the concept of food: the importance of the kitchen as a place of excellence for the preparation of banquets that sealed the success of parties, meetings and military political agreements. The canvases show us wooden tables with flasks of wine, copper pans and earthenware pots full of vegetables, colourful spices and tables laden with food, with laurel and citrus fruit centrepieces. It is fascinating and intriguing that, in his paintings, the artist Bartolomeo Bimbi, highlighted biodiversity, diseases and seasonal pests, painted with meticulous perfection thanks to the advice of leading botanists in that period.
The garden and the park extend outside the Villa and are dominated not only by the great villa, but also by the large nineteenth-century lemon grove and the sixteenth-century monumental stables.