The villas of the Medici and the Charterhouse

STARTING CITY: Firenze, Lucca, Pisa, Siena


We’ll meet and leave for Villa della Petraia, an impressive building from the age of the Medici. Set high on a terrace just outside Florence, in the small village of Castello, Villa della Petraia commands from its “belvedere” a wonderful panoramic view of its rich garden, and of all Florence.
The magnificent villa belonged in succession to the Brunelleschi, the Palla Strozzi (in 1422), and finally the Medici family. Its main attraction is perhaps its ample courtyard, which, in the nineteenth century, was transformed into a Salone delle Feste, a reception room with a covering roof in iron and glass, and a great crystal and amethyst chandelier. There are two series of frescoes: those by Volterrano, depicting the pomps of the Medici (Fasti Medicei) from the seventeenth century, and those by Cosimo Daddi, from the end of the sixteenth century. The gardens below cover three superimposed terraces: at the lower level, we find an Italian garden with the typical boxthorn hedges, and at the superior levels the “prato (lawn) della Figurina” and also the “prato dei castagni (chestnut trees lawn)”. We’ll make the grand tour of the villa and walk through its gardens.
We’ll have lunch at a farm holiday resort in the florentine hills, and taste authentic and organic food straight from this area. One has a wonderful view of the city of Florence below. In the afternoon, we’ll visit the great Carthusian Monastery of Galluzzo, rising high on a rock spur, more similar from the outside to a military fortress than a place dedicated to meditation. The Certosa was founded in 1342 by the wealthy Florentine banker Niccolò Acciaioli, who meant it as a great meeting place where his fellow-citizens could congregate and start on a personal religious path. During the centuries, it was rebuilt and enlarged various times, and during the Napoleonic wars it was robbed of many of its art treasures. In 1866 it became a property of the Italian Government, but in 1958 it returned to its original function as a peaceful place of faith and meditation. The monks are now no longer Carthusian, but Cistercian.

Our guides will be the monks themselves, who will help us understand better the feeling of absolute serenity that fills up the abbey’s majestic spaces. In the abbey complex, the Palazzo degli Acciaiuoli, completed in 1500, is now a small but important art gallery, with works by such artists as Andrea and Giovanni della Robbia, Pontormo, and Donatello.

Return late in the afternoon to the city chosen for the start.