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.

Florence By Night

Florence Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore
Florence Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore

An evening in Florence is extremely magical. Everything comes alive, from the medieval architecture to the roving bands of locals and tourists alike. You are never far from eye-catching structures that soar skyward into the dark abyss. Charming cafes and trattorias full of chatting people line the winding cobbled streets. Merry-making is in the air.

Music on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge
Music on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge – ┬áToss in a coin or buy a CD

The Ponte Vecchio, or ‘old bridge,’ was once lined with butcher shops. This is no longer the case, thank goodness. Today it is bedecked with lovely jewelry shops. You need not wander far before you hear the beat and rhythm of a nearby local band, wholeheartedly doing their best to entertain you.

Ponte Vecchio from the bank of the Arno River
Ponte Vecchio with its many shops from the bank of the Arno River

Giorgio Vasari, early sixteenth century architect, was commissioned by the Medici to build a corridor that ran from the Uffizi Gallery to the Medici Palace on the opposite side of the Arno River. Here you can see the corridor continue over the top of the shops with its neat line of square windows.

The Palazzo Vecchio, the old city hall, stands proudly in the piazza
The Palazzo Vecchio, or “old palace,” still operates as the city hall

Medieval and dauntless stands the Palazzo Vecchio, an important landmark of Florence since 1322. Constructed by Florentine architect Arnolfo di Cambio, the impressive Romanesque-style crenelated fortress is rock-solid. A huge bell at the top of the tower was used to call the citizens to meetings or warn them of fire, flood or enemy attack.

To the right you can see the looming arches of the outdoor “sculpture museum,” called the Loggia dei Lanzi.

Notice below the magnificent display of light and shadow on these figures in the Loggia. They appear very dramatic, especially at night.

Statue in the Loggia dei Lanzi,
Statue in the Loggia dei Lanzi– The Rape of Polyxena by Pio Fedi

Across from the Palazzo Vecchio on the Piazza della Signoria is the Loggia dei Lanzi, built in 1382 and designed by Orcangna. It was named after the Lancers, the bodyguards of Cosimo I who took up lodging on this spot. The Loggia is actually an outdoor museum, with twisting and grasping statues that appear especially spectacular at night-time.

Rape of the Sabine Women
Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna
Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus
Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus was discovered in Rome and has gone through some restoration
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Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli stands in front of the Palazzo Vecchio
Perseus with the head of Medussa
Perseus with the head of Medussa by Benvenuto Cellini
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The famous Uffizi Gallery

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Cosimo I de’ Medici hired architect Giorgio Vasari to build offices for the Florentine magistrates in 1560. Later, after the fall of the ruling Medici’s, it became a museum officially open to the public in 1765. Today it houses many famous paintings by the masters. Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio lead the parade.

Florence by night is an entirely different world. It is a world of artistic appeal to the senses, of mystery and intrigue. A world revealing shades of a former time.