Villa Demidoff, an amazing Medici Villa
Via Fiorentina, 276
Pratolino, Vaglia (FI)
Tel. 055 290832 (from Monday to Saturday) (call for confirmation on opening hours)
From the 25th of April until the 31st of October: every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and public holiday 10am-8pm (in October closing time 7pm)
Closed from November to March
A bit of history
Villa Demidoff is the modern denomination for the ancient Paggeria Medicea of Pratolino. Located on the hills around Florence, on the streets of Via Bolognese towards Mugello, Villa Pratolino was bought from Francesco I de Medici in 1568.
It was told that the Villa had been bought by Francesco to make it a fairy place as a present for his second wife Bianca Cappello. The construction works of the villa and the changing of this bitter land in a magic place, were assigned to Bernardo Buontalenti. He created this wonderful villa, today lost, immersed in the amusement park where there were water games, a labyrinth, fountains and caves, beautiful gardens and many trees of great value. A little Versailles in Florence, theater of delicacies, magnificence and commodities.
The Pratolino park was the biggest garden park of the Medici properties, as the detailed illustration of Giusto Utens at Museo Firenze Com'era is showing us. Yet, it was a big Italian garden with almost 20 ectars, which you entered from north passing in front of the majestic Jupiter Fountain. Inside the park there were big stables used also by the traveller who were going through Via Bolognese.
At the sudden death of Francesco and Bianca, the park and the villa were abandoned from the other Medici and they went down into ruination. It was just with the Grand duke Ferdinando III di Lorena that the park was brought back into life. The medici villa was detroyed and the park transformed in a romantic garden, typical from that age that was mixing up garden and landscape.
In 1872 the park was sold to the Russian Prince Paolo II Demidoff who renovated the building inside the property, extending the villa which is taking its name from himself, renovated the park as well as we see it today. After almost 100 years, in 1981, the property was bought by the l'Amministrazione Provinciale di Firenze and it became a public park.
Pratolino Park today
Pratolino park is nowadays one of the most beautiful in the Florence neighbourhood. Despite the ancient park of the Medici family hasn´t brough us many witnesses, we still can imagine its charm and wonder.
Among the witness from the past, there is the majestic and very beautiful statue of Colosso dell'Appennino of Giambologna (1579-80). Appennino is a masonry statue that had inside wonderful caves with decorations, frescoes and water games, who got nowadays lost. The gorgeus Cappella del Buontalenti with an hexagonal floor plant with esternal eave where the last Demidoff is buried. Then the Grotta di Cupido of Buontalenti and the Fonte del Mugnone with the statue of Giambologna.
And again the suggestive Fontana di Giove, which was originally the access to the park, the Peschiera della Maschera which was used as pool and was equipped for hot baths, Grande Voliera. These monuments and areas of the park, together with the neoclassic Casino di Montili are accessible just with guided tours, because they are being renovated. Visits can be booked directly calling the park.
The park is also a very important natural reserve, both for the flora and the local wildlife. Inside, there are many secolar plants like oak trees, English oaks, rnie, cedars and horse-chestnut trees and it is not hard meeting deers, folks and jackrabbits. Nowadays the park is open to public in the weekend and just some areas are visitable. Yet, the park is still in renovation in order to go back to the Medici splendor. At the moment, just the central part of the park is freely visitable, while the areas are accessible only with free guided tours, which need to be booked calling the park. The guided tour can take place also during the week with no extra costs.
How to get there
You can easily reach Pratolino and its park from Florence (just 11km from Florence city centre) by car or by bus.
By car, take Via Bolognese, or SS65, from Piazza della Libertá. The way you need to go before arriving at Pratolino is through Lastra, Trespiano, Pian di S. Bartolo e Montorsoli. At you arrival you will immediately find park space on your left and the entrance of the oark is right in front of the parking, on the opposite side of the street.
By bus, take the bus ATAF #25A from Piazza San Marco - be careful to take the right one, the one with no A at the end is stopping at Pian di S. Bartolo. The bus stop in Pratolino is right after the park entrance in the middle of the village, you just need few minutes walking to come back at the entrance of the park. You can reach the park also with the bus SITA leaving from Florence-Piazza Stazione or CAP leaving from Florence-Via Nazionale