Medici's villa in Poggio a Caiano
Photo ©A. Pagliai
Following the Medici through the municipalities of Carmignano and Poggio a Caiano, favourites of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Francesco I and the Grand Duke Ferdinando
In search of the Medici, from Poggio a Caiano to Carmignano
Prato Area
by Prato Area /en/authors/prato-area-tourism-office/

The territories of the municipalities of Carmignano and Poggio a Caiano were among those preferred by Lorenzo the Magnificent, Grand Duke Francesco I de’ Medici and the Grand Duke Ferdinando: all three were lovers of beautiful country residences, nature, hunts, and great feasts in the gardens. In 1473/74 Lorenzo the Magnificent (1440-1492), bought a lord’s manor in Poggio a Caiano, on a small hill near the Ombrone stream, plus the vast uncultivated surrounding land.  The Medici complex at Poggio a Caiano Medicean consists of the Villa Ambra and its park, the Scuderie (stables) and the park of Cascine di Tavola.

The other large Medici villa is that of 
Artimino, sometimes known as Villa la Ferdinanda or the Villa of the Hundred Chimneypots. It was built by the Grand Duke Ferdinando I (1549-1609) on the hill of Artiminio at the end of the sixteenth century. The imposing building is located at the centre of the Barco Reale, a large hunting reserve which the Grand Duke himself used extensively.

Since 2014 both villas have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Poggio a Caiano and its Medicean Villa

Poggio a Caiano is located on the banks of the River Ombrone, in the middle of the Florence-Prato-Pistoia plain, at a point which serves as a crossroads for the whole area. It owes its fame to the magnificent Medicean Villa Ambra, a UNESCO heritage site and home to the Museum of Still-life Painting since 2007; the villa, perched on its hill, dominates the surrounding plain. Commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent and built to the designs of Giuliano da Sangallo between 1484 and 1520, the project transformed the existing structure into a new aristocratic residence, in line with the Renaissance architectural ideas of Leon Battista Alberti, who propounded a new relationship between building and nature. Today the villa is the prototype of the Renaissance villa, with a park, lemon-house and stables, which were renovated in 2000 and are now used as a multi-purpose structure.

The villa was the summer residence of the Medici and the setting of important events in their dynastic history. Here were celebrated the wedding between Alessandro de' Medici and Margherita d'Austria (1536), of Cosimo I and Eleonora da Toledo (1539) and of Francesco I and Bianca Cappello (1579). In the second half of the seventeenth century the villa was equipped with a theatre to satisfy the whims of Margherita Luisa d'Orléans. When the last descendant of the Medici family died, the building became property of the Habsburg-Lorraine.

Outside, the villa has kept its original aspect, designed by Sangallo, except for the two twin staircases by Poccianti which lead to the terrace: these were erected in the early nineteenth century to replace the originals, which were straight and perpendicular to the body of the villa. Inside, there are frescoes by Alessandro Allori, Pontormo, Filippino Lippi and Andrea del Sarto. 

Also noteworthy is the arrangement of the cultivated land, showing the innovative genius of the Magnificent and his architects.

Artimino and Villa La Ferdinanda

Dominating the village of Artimino, in the Municipality of Carmignano, is the majestic Medicean Villa La Ferdinanda, also called the Villa of the Hundred Chimneypots. Grand Duke Ferdinand I de’ Medici entrusted its construction to the architect Bernardo Buontalenti. The internal halls are decorated with frescoes by Domenico Cresti, also known as “il Passignano”, and by Bernardo Poccetti. On the ground floor there are the grand-ducal cellars and armouries. The villa is private property and can be visited only by reservation. 
The adjoined buildings include the elegant structure of the Paggeria, which today houses a hotel.

Artimino offers many other visiting opportunities. Not far from Villa La Ferdinanda is the parish church of San Leonardo, a typical example of Romanesque architecture, whose foundation is attributed to the Countess Matilde di Canossa.

Furthermore, numerous Etruscan remains to be found, well preserved, in the Archaeological Park in Carmignano, immersed in one of Tuscany’s most beautiful natural areas. The Etruscan Archaeological Museum F. Nicosia collects finds from the whole area, in particular from the Tumulus of Montefortini, from the archaeological area of ​​Pietramarina and from the Necropolis of Prato Rosello.