As a disclaimer: These photos were taken during a visit in January 2016, so this post may not be representative of this site today.
If you look at a map of Florence, most famous attractions are located north of the Arno – the Duomo, the Palazzo Medici, and the Uffizi are all located on this side of the river. It is still well worth it to cross the river into Oltrarno (literally “beyond the Arno”) and explore what this district has to offer – the Piazzale Michelangelo (still on my list!), La Specola, and the Palazzo Pitti, to name a few. If nothing else, the riverside of Florence is a beauty in itself, so walking alongside the Arno, on whichever side you choose, is definitely a must while in the Tuscan capital.
I briefly mentioned this palazzo here when speaking about the Vasarian Corridor, as it was built as a pathway between the Palazzo Vecchio, seat of government, and the Palazzo Pitti, the home of the later generations of the Medici family (see what I meant when I said that it was difficult to talk about the Renaissance without mentioning the Medici?).
Built in the mid-fifteenth century, the home originally belonged to Luca Pitti, a Florentine banker that was an associate of Cosimo de’ Medici’s, and its construction is generally credited to Luca Fancelli. Work on the building stopped after the death of Cosimo, as Pitti suffered financial losses, and he died in 1472, leaving it unfinished.
The palace was sold in 1549 to Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici, who later became Grand Duke of Tuscany. Vasari (architect of the Uffizi, among other things) set to work on the building and more than doubled its size, also adding the famous corridor that connects it with the Palazzo Vecchio. By this time, the Medici had already left the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi behind and moved into the Palazzo Vecchio (or della Signoria), and for a time used the Palazzo Pitti as a lodge for official guests and as a venue for court functions. It wasn’t until the reign of Francesco I (Eleonora and Cosimo’s son) that the family moved here permanently.
Additions and modifications were further added in subsequent centuries, and the home remained the residence of the Medici until the family’s last Grand Duke died in 1737. It was then occupied by Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici (mentioned here as having donated the Medici’s entire art collection to the Tuscan State), and then the home passed to the new Grand Dukes of Tuscany, the Austrian House of Lorraine, and later to the House of Savoy. The home was then occupied by Napoleon during his control of Italy, and later by Victor Emmanuel II when Florence was named capital after the country’s unification.
The home was donated to the nation in 1919 by Victor Emmanuel III, after which it was split into five separate galleries and a museum.
My visit to this Palazzo was admittedly rushed, as I visited later in the day (having chosen to spend the remaining daylight hours in the Boboli Gardens behind the structure), so that this is definitely due for a revisit!