The Garden Guide

Villa Medici at Castello (Villa Reale)

Duke Cosimo I, Grand Duke of the Medicis, loved this place. Though a cold, secretive, moody and ruthless despot, Cosimo I was a generous patron of the arts. He employed a sculptor, Niccolò Tribolo, to design the garden. Castello has spacious terraces and a central axis, following Bramante's example. There is a fine grotto set into the garden wall on the main axis. It celebrates Cosimo I's love of hunting (check). Tribolo's garden sculpture uses an iconographical theme drawn from Ovid's Metamorphosis. It celebrates the greatness of the Medici family. Much of the original garden furnishing, which Vasari describes (below) has gone. The garden is enclosed by walls, in the manner of a hortus conclusus. A lunette of the garden was painted in 1599 (8?), now kept by the Museo Topograpico in Florence, shows the structure of the garden layout much as it is today. Sadly, the garden's sculpture programme was never finished, the planting has been thinned and the garden does not have as much charm as one feels it could have. Montaigne's description has secured the garden's fame (written in 1580 and published 1774).

Castello, Tuscany, Italy

All year, Daily, 9am to closing time (varies according to season), Closed on second and third Monday of each month

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Visit the Villa Medici at Castello (Villa Reale) website

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Designers and Influences


  • almost 4 years by Stephen Harmer 5 / 5

    One of the first renaissance gardens that displays the perfect symmetry and geometric form of this style. The axis line is again one of the first to be used in a renaissance garden, although unlike the baroque of France it is not connected with the villa.
    The allegorical message given by the grotto is one of Medici power.
    This garden must be visited if you are in Florence.
  • over 5 years by Robert Jubb 4 / 5

    The garden is not easy to find, Situated on the NW side of Florence a short bus ride from Florence railway station. The entrance is not well signed so do search for it. This was the old home of Duke Cosimo 1 De Medici. The gardens and Villa were transformed in 1537 to the fine renaissance Villa and garden we see today. Designed by Tribolo it is an ornamental fruit and flower garden where the Medici collection of 800 lemon and other citrus fruit are displayed together with statues typical of this period. The citrus fruit are grown in large terracotta pots and from October - April these are placed in the Lemonaia, Lemon House. Many of the pots are original. In spring it takes the gardeners one month to move the trees onto to stone plinths in garden where they spend the summer months. We visited in April when the gardeners were moving the lemon trees. At that time of year the Banksian roses are in bloom and Iris collection. This is garden well worth visiting.

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