History of Villa Medici at Fiesole

The garden in the Medieval period, after Rome fell, was inward oriented and defensive.  It was the inner world, the world of God, which the Medieval monk and intellectual wished to consider.  But with the Renaissance a greater interest in secular matters, as well as increased wealth and prosperity, changed society and the garden.  Country residences became less fortress-like and began to take an outward orientation - like the villa at Torre Annuziata near Pompeii more than a thousand years earlier.

This image of the Villa Medici in the small town of Fiesole near Florence was taken from the road to the village and illustrates the steep hillside site.

Residential gardens of the early Renaissance, especially in Northern Italy, were hillside villas rather small in scale and domestic in character. We will study Villa Medici at Fiesole. Built in the late 1400's, it was the first truly Renaissance villa of the powerful Medici family of Florence. It is a confident, outward oriented villa, simply designed and beautifully proportioned; a significant indicator of a new era.

The designer was Michelozzo Michelozzi (1396-1472). He had the Medici hunting lodge previously but this was the first commission for a new residence in the countryside. Michelozzo can be credited with formulating the character for the new Renaissance form.




There are country villas near Florence that are older than the Villa Medici at Fiesole but they are transitional from the Medieval period.  Typically they are based on a modified medieval castle.  Some of the defensive elements of the castles were removed to respond to the new impulse toward country estates.  However, the villa at Fiesole was a new design based on Renaissance ideas not associated with the farm or castle. 

Villa Medici at Fiesole was designed by Michelozzo Michelozzi and built between 1458 and 1462.  It was owned by Giovanni son of Cosimo Medici the elder.


The image below is a topographic map of the Arno river valley and the surrounding hills.  The black dots show the location of Renaissance villas.  The Villa Medici at Fiesole is represented by the red asterisk.

Which of the factors below do think explains the villa zone shown in grey on the topographic map?
A  Defense and views
B  Summer breezes and views
C  Winter wind breaks and defense



Various owners of Villa Medici

1458 -1462 Villa Medici was built for Giovanni son of Cosimo Medici the elder.

1772 - Villa Medici was purchased by Margaret, Lady Orford. When she had the villa remolded, she died 1781.

1782 - The Villa was owned by Mozzi who is believed to be responsible to the alterations of the villa.

In the mid nineteenth century the villa was sold to William Blundell Spence. No major work was done on the villa while Spence owned it.

In the early twentieth century Lady Sybil Cuttingscott-Lubbock bought the villa.

In 1959 the Villa was purchased by Aldo Mazzini who it still belongs to today.