The Surrounding Area

Villa Petraia
Villa Petraia Villa Petraia' garden
One of the most interesting Medici family villas in the immediate vicinity is Villa Petraia, whose grounds are open daily from 8.40am until 6.35pm.  Its appearance alone allows one to imagine the grandeur of the families who lived here - it initially belonged to the Medici family, followed by the Great Dukes of the Lorena family before it became home to the Savoy royal family, who lived there when Florence was briefly the capital of Italy. 
Paintings frescoes, furniture, tapestries, statues and musical instruments are among the precious artefacts which can be seen today.  Of particular artistic interest is the courtyard decorated with frescoes by Cosimo Daddi, Gianbologna’s statue of Florence (or Venus), and the bronzes by Ammannati which represent Hercules and Antaeus.  The grounds are a splendid example of an Italian formal garden, and from here you can relax and take in the panoramic views of Florence.
Going down Via della Petraia you come to a widening in the road in front of  Villa Corsini, which today is home to works of art; a plaque remembers the visit of Robert Dudley, who rebuilt the  port of Livorno for Ferdinand II. The small villa and tower opposite was where Carlo Lorenzini, also known as "Collodi", wrote a large part of his book, Pinocchio, while staying with his brother.

Villa Castello
Villa Castello
Another equally important villa is the Medici family Villa of Castello, also known as Villa dell’Olmo or Villa Reale.  Today it is home to the Crusca Academy, which was founded for the study of the Italian language in its purest and most traditional form, as used by Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio.  The Villa is important for the history of art because Lorenzo, known as "the Younger" who bought the estate in 1477, commissioned Botticelli to carry out the famous masterpieces that today are proudly shown in the Uffizi Gallery - the Primavera and the Birth of Venus.  Cosimo was particularly fond of the villa and he commissioned Vasari to restore and enlarge it.  Tribolo was called in from Bologna in 1537 to design and landscape the gardens, and it is here that the Italian formal garden was born, long before the creation of the magnificent gardens of Boboli and Petraia, and for this reason it  should really be called the Medici garden.
The Grotto of Animals is particularly worth a visit, being made up of two chambers with two basins, one of white marble and the other of peach Seravezzan marble,  surmounted by groups of sculptured animals.   The famous Etruscan Chimera which is today in the Archaeological Museum was kept at the villa for a period.

Villa Corsini
Villa Corsini Villa Corsini's garden
Remaining in the Castello area near Villa Petraia you can also visit Villa Corsini.  The villa and its splendid walled garden divided into geometric flowerbeds, with its wooded groves and the fountain of the statue of the River sculpted by Tribolo - which was mentioned by Vasari -  is one of the most important examples of Baroque architecture in Florence.  The Villa as we see it today is the work of Antonio Maria Ferri who was involved in renovating the original 16th century building after it was bought by the Corsini family in 1697.  In the 1960s the Villa was donated to the State, who use it to house some of the Archaeological Museum’s most important collections, which have been closed to the public for over fifty years.