Following the footsteps of the Medici in Florence

The Medici family through San Lorenzo, San Marco e Palazzo Medici Riccardi.

It’s impossible to understand the complex history and identity of Florence without a good grasp of the Medici dynasty and the spaces that were important to this noble family.

With 14th century roots in banking, they established themselves as key power players in Florence and unparalleled patrons of the arts, responsible for the commissioning of some of Florence’s most iconic buildings, monuments and artworks.
Their legacy lives on in Florence today and there’s even a “stamp” of sorts on the buildings associated with the family or the family’s financing: just look for the famous family crest, distinct for its five red (and one blue) balls against a gold backdrop.  

Here we’ll take you through some of the key locations in Medici history, as well as suggest some tours that will help you make sense of the family tree’s many characters and key players.



San Lorenzo

The Basilica of San Lorenzo is the church most closely associated with the illustrious Medici, its (still-unfinished) facade having been commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici (the Elder) to Brunelleschi (the genius you probably know best for his work on Florence’s trademark dome). 
But the facade itself is only a fraction of the story: today’s visitors will see the Medici connections most prominently in the complex’s Medici Chapels, the adjoining family mausoleum, notable for its unabashed extravagance (particularly in the Chapel of the Princes, decorated floor to ceiling with elaborate marble and stones including the notoriously expensive lapis lazuli).

Michelangelo fans (and who isn’t?) will want to make a stop in the nearby New Sacristy, the burial site of Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano, as well as Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino and Giuliano, Duke of Nemours. The tombs feature Michelangelo’s allegorical depictions of Day, Night, Dawn and Dusk, and showcase his prowess as a sculptor. 


San Marco

This magnificent church, museum and former convent in the northern part of Florence’s historic center is relatively undervisited, yet crucial to Medici history and home to numerous masterworks (including a famous fresco cycle by Fra Angelico). 

Just recently, the last Dominican friars moved out, joining their brothers at Santa Maria Novella, which means the space no longer functions as a convent, but its history and architecture remain.
Cosimo de’ Medici financed the 15th century Renaissance restyling of the convent, which he entrusted to Michelozzo, one of the most important architects of the era. Cosimo himself even carved out his own space within the complex, a cell that he reserved as a sort of “getaway”, and amusingly larger than the friars’ respective rooms (this is a Medici man we’re talking about, after all). 

If you’re interested in diving further into this key Florentine space a specialized guided to visit San Marco matches perfectly. 


Palazzo Medici Riccardi

Palazzo Medici Riccardi is a sprawling Renaissance structure in the very heart of the city, and yet few tourists tend to visit, except perhaps to stroll through the open courtyard. 
An early residence of the Medici family, one of its most striking elements is the colorful Chapel of the Magi, which contains a bold fresco cycle by Benozzo Gozzoli. Depicted in the paintings are the processions of the three Wise Men to the birth of Jesus, yet Gozzoli made many of the figures in the likeness of specific Medici family members, and the landscape distinctly and richly Tuscan. 


Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti has became the residence of the Medici, and therefore of the city government, by decision of Cosimo I (since then Palazzo della Signoria took the name of Palazzo Vecchio). That’s a wonderful building with its rooms that are real treasure chests full of art and decorations. Today it is a museum complex with the monumental Boboli Gardens, which for decades has been the family's garden.


Discover the Medici family through some real experiences


This trinity of top Medici monuments is a good starting point for curious visitors, but observant travelers will catch their traces everywhere they turn. 
To go further in depth and visit additional Medici-centric spaces, try a tour like the Medici Mile or the Florence Walk and Talk : In the Medici Footsteps itinerary. 

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