Forte Belvedere ~ The Ruling Medici Hideout of Renaissance Florence

Timeless Italy Forte Belvedere
I was captivated ~ the moment my eyes rested on this lovely view of the Oltrarno hillside from Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence. In fact, I loved it so much that I made it the header of my blog, Timeless Italy. The sun was setting over the land with gorgeous pastel colors. At first I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. But then I decided to investigate and learn what lay behind this gorgeous “villa.”

What I did find out is that this is so much more than a villa. It is the Forte Belvedere, the famous fortress built in 1590 to protect the ruling Medici family of Renaissance Florence. But as I continued to research, I discovered so much more.

Forte Belvedere, Florence

Shaped like a star, this fortress is equipped with mysterious, medieval passageways. The Medici’s meant business when they had it built. They needed a quick and effective escape from the city that would provide adequate protection from invaders and those who posed a threat to this mega-wealthy banking family.

The drawing below gives some scope of the area and shows the Forte Belvedere in the upper left surrounded by the star-shaped walls. It is positioned at the edge of the Boboli gardens. The Palazzo Medici is at the bottom center.

Forte Belvedere by Pitti Palace & Boboli gardens

Michelangelo himself engineered the Forte Belvedere’s strategic location and structure. Surprisingly, the architect who designed the Forte Belvedere, Bernardo Buontalenti, also invented gelato in 1565. A man of all trades! He supposedly gave the recipe and refrigeration techniques to Catherine de’ Medici. Lucky lady, and most likely envied among the ladies of Florence.

Galileo completed some of his important discoveries in astronomy here among stunning views of Florence and the surrounding countryside.

But probably the one event most of us relate to today that recently happened here is the wedding of Kayne and Kim Kardashian. Although the Forte Belvedere is not typically available for weddings, the Kardashian’s were convincing with a 300,000 euro rental fee.

I have not yet hiked up to the Forte Belvedere, but on my next visit to Florence it is a must. I’ve been told by others who have, that the views of the city are magical and even more so when enjoyed with a drink from the bar. There are few crowds here which often makes it a better viewing site than the better known Piazzale Michelangelo.

*Forte Belvedere, Via San Leonardo, 1

Have you been to the Forte Belvedere? If so, please share your thoughts below.

Piazzale Michelangelo ~ Florence’s Renaissance Cityscape from Above

Fiery Firenze Sunset
Fiery Firenze Sunset

“Tonight the sun has died like an Emperor…great scarlet arcs of silk…saffron…green…crimson…and the blaze of Venus to remind one of the absolute and the infinite…and along the lower rim of beauty lay the hard harsh line of the hills.”  John Coldstream

I couldn’t wait to watch the sun set over Florence. After a delicious dinner in the Piazza Vecchio, I crossed the Arno River and its shops of precious jewels on to the left bank and followed the road upwards. After about 20 minutes on the Viale dei Colli, which runs through the hills that surround the central area of Oltrarno, I arrived at Piazzale Michelangelo. Extremely popular with tourists and locals alike, it has the best panoramic views of the heart of historic Florence.

Arno River with Three Bridges

The terrace lookout gives an open cityscape that is a beloved postcard photo of the city. The Palazzo Vecchio, Duomo, Baptistry and Bell Tower loom in the background.

In 1869, designer and architect Giuseppe Poggi built the Piazzale Michelangelo while Florence was the capital of Italy. As a result, it was decided the entire city needed a risanamento, a rebirth, which involved heady urban renewal of elegant proportions. Poggi’s most outstanding accomplishment, however, was the Viale dei Colli on the left bank. At eight kilometers long, the tree-lined street winds up the hill of San Miniato, ending at the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Michelangelo-Bronze Copy of the Original at his Piazzale Michelangelo

A bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David stands in the round-about, accompanied by the Four Allegories of the Medici Chapels of S. Lorenzo. The originals are in white marble. It took 9 pairs of oxen to transport the monument up from the city in June of 1873.

Old City Wall as seen from Piazzale Michelangelo

Remains of ancient city walls still surround parts of Florence in a protective embrace. From the Piazzale Michelangelo, this wall with towers runs up the side of a long hill. Begun in 1284 and completed in 1333, it is believed that it was built under the direction of Arnolfo di Cambio. The gates, no longer in existence, were embellished with religious scenes of the Madonna and Saints, standing 35 meters tall.

Most all of Florence’s history is laid out before us on the skyline. As twilight descends on this vibrant renaissance town, golden lights illuminate the stone facades of foremost landmarks. People begin to gather with iPhones and cameras ready to capture the beauty of shifting colors that begin to streak across the evening sky. All grows a bit quiet as the sun, like a golden orb, sinks slowly into the west.

Santa Croce-Gothic Style Franciscan Church with 14th C. Frescoes by Giotto and the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavellli
Santa Croce-Gothic Style Franciscan Church with 14th C. Frescoes by Giotto and the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavellli
Palazzo Vecchio-Heart of Florence's Social and Political Life for Centuries. It was here that girolami Savanarola was Burned at the Stake as a Heretic.
Palazzo Vecchio-heart of Florence’s social and political life for centuries.

My day in Florence drew to a close in the most dreamlike manner. Despite lengthy strolls through museums and dinner on the Piazza Vecchio with delicious wine, my most vivid memory is of Firenze’s dazzling rays of amber sunlight stretched out over the city in waves of crystal beauty. Breathtaking beauty….the kind that travels straight to the heart and soul, and leaves you longing for more.

Hilltop Villa

The Twilight Shift

Good Night , Florence....Buona Notte Firenze!
Good Night , Florence….Buonanotte Firenze!

Classico: Roman Wine II

soave

“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”  Galileo Galilei

Evening sunlight plays delicately among the luscious grape clusters, casting shadows across the nurturing volcanic soil that feeds the vine. The sun’s vitamin-enriching warmth had done its job. Cool evening breezes softly lend rest for the night.

Evening vineyard

Italy today is a wine-lovers paradise. It’s not just the variety of grapes and tastes, but the wine embraces the ancient tradition of viticulture introduced by the Greeks thousands of years ago. The Romans, eager to adopt their methods, continued to develop vine-growing into a wine that became world renown.

vineyard men

Classico- wine that is grown in the original heart of the zone.

Regions of Italy
Regions of Italy

Let me introduce you to the main wines that have stood the test of a very, very long time in the Roman Empire.

Falernian, wine of the gods.

greco grapesFalerno

“It is the only wine that takes flight when a flame is applied to it.”   Pliny, Roman historian

Falernian, the greatest wine of all times favored by the emperors and popes… Known to mature with age and increase in value, it was grown just north of Naples near the ocean in the region of Campania. After the fall of the Roman empire in the 4th century, Falernian fell out of favor.  Now known as Falerno, it experienced a revival 50 years ago in which the grapes that were used by the Romans were re-discovered through long research. The red, they found, is the Aglianico vine, and the white is believed to be Greco di Tufo.

Pompeiians hoop it up...they loved their Falernian wine!
Pompeiians whoop it up…they loved their Falernian wine! (ancient fresco found in ruins of Pompeii.)
Greco di Tufo
Greco di Tufo- has a good nose

Greco di Tufo, historically a sweet wine, is the oldest white grape variety in Campania. Grown on volcanic soil, it is a clean refreshing wine that needs to be consumed young. Today it is vinified completely dry and paired with sea foods and salads.

 

Soave Classico
Soave Classico for two
Soave is a dry white wine with a light gold color. Grown around Verona in the Veneto region, it is crisp and clean, with an alcohol content of 12%
Valpolicella

ValpolicellaBright red and refined, with smooth fruity notes, this wine is grown in the Veneto, near Verona. Established in the 5th century BC. , it remains a light fragrant table wine.

Orvietto Classico label
Orvietto Classico label

Orvietto is grown in the vineyards around the ancient hilltop town of Orvietto, in the Umbrian region. This wine is a straw-yellow color and delicately flavored. Established by the Etruscans in the 5th century BC, it was the favored wine of the papacy in medieval times!

Chianti Classico with Rooster seal
Chianti Classico with Rooster seal

Ahhhh, Chianti! I love Chianti. Originating with the Etruscans, it is grown in Tuscany between Florence and Siena. It is a glorious red wine with floral notes. The rooster seal on every bottle of Chianti Classico means that the company is a member of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. This enables them to protect, oversee and maintain the prices of the Chianti Classico.

Verdiccio dei Castelli di Jesi grapes
Verdiccio dei Castelli di Jesi grapes

Verdiccio dei Castelli di Jesi is a medium bodied dry white wine. Because the grapes are green, the wine is straw-colored with green shades. It is flowery and harmonic. Verdiccio dei Castelli di Jesi is grown in the Marche region of central Italy by the Adriatic coastline.

Bar in Pompeii....Wine, Anyone?
Bar in Pompeii….Vino, Anyone?

The best wines in antiquity were kept in amphorae or glass bottles. They were corked, but lead was used as an extra sealant. Clay, metal or glass cups were used to drink the wine. The Romans kept certain of their finest wines for a very long time. Horace wrote of drinking a vintage that was twice his age. However, most wines were drunk young.

The Greeks and their wine
The Greeks and their wine, they preferred to drink out of shallow bowls.
Ancient Bar in Pompeii
Ancient Bar in Pompeii-notice the celebration happening on the back wall.
Pompeii's Mt. Vesuvius
Pompeii’s Mt. Vesuvius-bad for Pompeii but good for the soil!

Today, each time I enjoy a glass of wine, whether I am in Italy or home, I can’t help but think of the Greeks and Romans. And so I toast to them for giving us one of their many gifts, the gift of wine!

Rome, Trastevere, Forum, Museo Guillia 347
Join me for a glass of Falerno?

*http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/wine/wine.html

*Roman Empire, Nigel Rodgers, 2008 by Anness Publishing Ltd. pgs. 486-487

*http://www.intowine.com/campagnas-white-wines-primer-greco-fiano-and-falanghina