Poggio a Caiano
History and museums
Poggio a Caiano is a town and comune in the province of Prato, Tuscany region Italy. The town lies 9 kilometres (6 mi) south of the provincial capital of Prato.
Poggio a Caiano has two sister cities:
In 1473, a ruined fortified house at Poggio a Caiano, called the Ambra, and land and a mill owned by Giovanni Rucellai, were bought by Lorenzo de' Medici. Initially, only agricultural improvements were carried out; then in 1485, work started began on the villa itself, to designs by Giuliano da Sangallo, who created a large fortified, quadrangular country house built around a central courtyard. A large central hall gave access to rooms with windows overlooking the surrounding countryside; at the time, this design was innovative.
On Lorenzo’s death in 1492, the villa was still largely unfinished; however, work resumed under Lorenzo’s second son, Giovanni, who became pope as Leo X. The central hall is named after this first Medici pope.
In the following century, the villa was used by successive Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany. In 1587, Francis, the second Grand Duke, and Bianca Capello died there within a day of one another, after short illnesses; raising the still unsolved question of their poisoning by Francis’s brother Ferdinand, who became the third Grand Duke. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the architects Giuseppe and Giovan Battista Ruggeri and Antonio Maria Ferri extended the villa. Major improvements to the gardens were also carried out after it came into the ownership of Maria Luisa of Spain, Queen of Etruria. Following the Risorgimento, the villa was refurbished and used by Vittorio Emanuele II of Italy. The villa was donated to the Italian state in 1919. After a long period of neglect it became a national museum in 1984 and since that date has undergone restoration. It is now open to the public.
The main attractions of the villa are the Pontormo frescoes depicting Vertumnus and Pomona in the main salon. Most of the interior has lost its original furnishings, but these are being recreated to return the villa to the state described in a 1911 inventory, when it was a residence of the Savoyard. The formal gardens, now somewhat wild, slope down to the River Ombrone at the rear of the villa.
The villa features in the 1965 John Schlesinger film 'Darling'.