La Petraia is an ancient fortress of medieval origin. It belonged to the Brunelleschi family and became the property of the Strozzi family in 1422.
In 1544 the villa became part of the Medici properties: Cosimo I gave it as a gift to his second son, Cardinal Ferdinando I, and it was he who carried out the first and important renovation, transforming it from a small fort into a villa. A new internal courtyard was created with two colonnades and loggias, the raising of the tower and the addition of a building to the north. The works were entrusted to Bernardino Barbatelli, known as Poccetti, who, along with Cosimo Daddi, frescoed the chapel located on the main floor.
In 1609, Villa la Petralia became the property of Don Lorenzo dei Medici, who carried out a new renovation of the whole complex. In 1622, a beautiful art gallery was created consisting of works by Florentine artists, including Cesare Dandini, Giovanni da San Giovanni, Carlo Dolci and Stefano della Bella. In 1636, Ferdinand II commissioned Baldassarre Franceschini, known as Volterrano, to paint a cycle of frescoes inside the central courtyard. The theme of the frescoes was the splendour of the Medici family and the actions carried out by the Order of the Knights of Santo Stefano.
With the arrival of the Lorraine dynasty, Pietro Leopoldo had the beautiful Venus-Florence allegorical fountain, sculpted by Giambologna, transferred from the Villa di Castello to Villa la Petraia. In 1822, a lemon house was built on the east side of the garden and shortly thereafter, in order to protect the collection of exotic plants, a tepidarium was built.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the gardener Joseph Frietsch designed a landscaped park that also contained an avenue connecting the two adjacent Villas of Petraia and Castello, with paths and lanes that climbed the hill alongside streams and ponds.
When Florence became the capital of Italy, the courtyard was transformed into a ballroom, covering the ceiling with a wrought iron and glass skylight. Two small lakes were added, as water deposits. In 1984, the Villa became a National Museum.
Informations: Medici villas and gardens - Villa la Petraia