The term “villeggiare”(vacation) originated in Venice and Florence during the Renaissance to define the period of residence that nobles and wealthy gentlemen had at the country villas during the summer.
The whole family moved to the villa to escape from the heat and miasma of the city where, in the streets of the center and in the adjacent ones, dyers, leather workers and tanners worked, who then poured all the waste from the processing into the Arno. Only the heads of families commuted to Florence, just enough time to handle business and resolve political problems.
The Medici family built magnificent residences far from the city, a real microcosm around which court life revolved: places of pleasure and representation, but also of leisure and culture. In some of them the Medici made great hunting expeditions such as in Trebbio, Cafaggiolo or the villa of Artimino – called “of the hundred chimneys” because it is characterized by numerous chimneys – followed by sumptuous dinners. Others were places of rest and culture such as the villa of Fiesole, where Lorenzo de’ Medici loved to meet with his friends, poets and humanists such as Poliziano and Pico della Mirandola. Without forgetting one of the oldest residences, Villa Carreggi, an economic center for the many agricultural activities that took place there.
Some later became institutional locations such as Villa Castello (once decorated by Botticelli’s La Primavera and The Birth of Venus), now seat of the Accademia della Crusca; or Villa di Poggio Imperiale, a favorite villa for women, starting with Isabella de ‘Medici, up to Maria Luisa di Borbone and Elisa Baciocchi-Buonaparte who renovated it in a neoclassical style, and which now houses a state school.
The 12 Medici Villas and 2 gardens (of Boboli and Pratolino) have become part of the “Heritage of Humanity”
UNESCO writes: “Built in harmony with nature between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, the villas and gardens represent an original system of country buildings dedicated to pleasures, arts and knowledge”.